UNH Speakers Bureau
Chemical Warfare and World War I
Chemical weapons are taboo weapons today, but that has not always been the case. Poison gas was outlawed in 1899 and 1907 in the Hague Conventions before it was ever used it in war, yet the Germans introduced it to the battlefield at Ypres in 1915. The British, who were one of the first victims, reacted with shock. Later they became one of the leading practitioners of chemical warfare. Each segment of British society--from politicians and the military to physicians and the general public--reacted differently to the adoption of chemical warfare depending on its experience, ranging from fear to endorsement. It becomes clear from the wartime and interwar experiences that it was not inevitable that gas would be banned again--or that it will stay that way.