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Category: History

A History of Biological and Chemical Warfare

September 5, 2021

Welcome to the show- 0

Hello! Welcome to The Poisons and Pestilence Podcast! 


September 10, 2021

1: Shoot that Poison Arrow

The first episode covers the pre-history of poison arrows- check out the show notes here:



September 17, 2021

2: Hittite me Plaguey one more time

In Episode 2, we continue our discussion of pre-historic biological warfare

Check out the show notes for this episode here




October 1, 2021

3: I don‘t love you Hellebore

In Episode 3, we examine the history of biological and chemical warfare from 1000BC to 1AD


You can check out sources and show notes at:




November 5, 2021

4: Fire in the hole

This episode we're going to be looking at the time- period between roughly 1 AD and 500AD.  As we continue our trundle through the history of chemical and biological weapons and warfare


You can check out the show notes here: 



November 25, 2021

5 Bonus Episode: ‘Clouds over Gas Lane‘ with Mike Kenner

Welcome to the first-ever bonus episode of the poisons and pestilence podcast!  

This episode is the first in a two-part special on large area biological weapon simulant trials, carried out in the UK during the Cold War. In this episode, we focus on work carried out by scientists from Porton Down up until the mid -1960’s- which involved the spread of zinc cadmium sulphide over vast swathes of the UK. In part two of this special, we will take a deeper dive into the ‘Lyme Bay Trials’ which involved the use of bacteria, including E.coli in open-air trials over populated areas during the 1960s and 1970s. In the second show, we will also examine the political fall-out of experiments these experiments, when they started coming to broader public attention in the 1990s.


Further resources

Mike Kenner YouTube channel  https://www.youtube.com/user/experimentsrus

Rob Evans (2000) ‘Gassed’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gassed-Behind-Scenes-Porton-Down/dp/1842320718

Brian Balmer ( 2001) Britain and Biological Warfare https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Britain_and_Biological_Warfare/GGWJDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=brian+balmer&printsec=frontcover

Brian Balmer (2016) Secrecy and Science  https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Secrecy_and_Science/KrreCwAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=Brian+balmer+2016&pg=PT3&printsec=frontcover

Peter Hammond and Gordon Carter ( 2000) From Biological Warfare to Healthcare https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/From_Biological_Warfare_to_Healthcare/UTwGDAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=porton+down+history+carter&printsec=frontcover

January 2, 2022

6 Bonus Episode: ’The Monks of Moonfleet’ with Mike Kenner

You can check out the Declassified MOD film on the Lyme Bay Trials here (a clip of this appears in the show audio) : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OTwQJ1ASyws&t=302s 


You can also check out various documentaries and excerpts of  press coverage of the Zinc Cadmium and Lyme Bay Trials produced when these issues first hit the headlines over at https://www.youtube.com/user/experimentsrus/featured 


Professor Brian G. Spratt FRS, Wellcome Trust Centre for the Epidemiology
of Infectious Disease, University of Oxford.



Zinc Cadmium Sulphide Dispersion Trials
Report by the Academy of Medical Sciences to the Chief Scientific Adviser, Ministry of Defence on the Zinc Cadmium Sulphide dispersion trials undertaken in the United Kingdom between 1953 and 1964.
December 1999 



For a recent historical appraisal of these issues, other open-air trials in the UK- as well as public and technical/ expert discourse on these matters see also: 

Ulf Schmidt ( 2015)  Secret Science, Chapter 7. 


February 19, 2022

7: If you buboe me by now

Hello! And welcome to episode 7 of the poisons and pestilence podcast- If you buboe me by now.

Now I had a great time putting together the last two specials- and I hope you enjoyed them. However, it is high time we returned to our trundle through the history of biological and chemical warfare.

As you will recall, in earlier episodes, we have been covering some pretty vast time periods. But we are not beginning to become a little more granular in the storytelling.

 In this episode, we cover a mere eight centuries- from around the fall of the Roman Empire ( around the 5th Century ) to the black death of the mid-14th century.  


You can find the show notes here:  https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1wIibQJYobwyhFNC-OhjnLYkOwVizIjuJ?usp=sharing

April 4, 2022

8 Bonus Episode: ’Survive to Fight’ with Gareth Davies

In this episode, we look at transitions in Chemical and Biological defence in the British army between the tail end of the Cold War and the Gulf War. We talk about noddy suits- and I didn't make a joke about being cold once. Be sure to say hello to Gareth on Twitter ( especially if you like tanks) 


I do not own the media clips, they can be found here:


Icon image lifted from NBC field manual (1983) Crown Copyright- https://collection.nam.ac.uk/detail.php?acc=2005-04-25-5



May 3, 2022

Season 2 Teaser

Won't be long until we are back looking at poison arrows, toxic smoke, water poisoning and the laws of war from the 13th to the 18th century.  Drop me a line if you have ideas for the show!