Essay 1- Gunpowder
Essay 1- Gunpowder
The development of gunpowder has been one of the turning points in the history of warfare and civilizations. Gunpowder literally became the great leveler, causing a revolution in military affairs and changing the world order in favor of industrialized nations. The thesis of this paper is that gunpowder enabled technologically advanced nations to gain control over the world.
Gunpowder was invented mistakenly during the quest for immortality. Experimenting with life-lengthening elixirs around AD 850, Chinese alchemists, while experimenting with saltpeter, considered mixing it with sulphur and charcoal. The resultant mixture was explosive, and signaled the birth of gunpowder (Whipps, 2008).
For more than 400 years, the Chinese refined gunpowder and the weapons to fire it with, learning the right combinations to make it burn and explode. They also experimented with different materials to use with the powder. Initially, they began with bamboo, but finally settled onto metal rods, which would ultimately become the prototypes for guns and cannons.
The second big event in the history of gunpowder was its transshipment from China to Europe. The marauding Mongols recognized the effectiveness of gunpowder, and used it in their battles. As Mongol influence travelled westward, gunpowder travelled to the west, eventually landing in Europe (Orleans, 2006).
The third important milestone in the history of gunpowder till the renaissance occurred in the mid-15th century, when it was inserted into the barrel of a handgun that was essentially a cannon shrunk down to portable size. With this innovation, gunpowder was added to the arsenal of the individual soldier, giving rise to a new class of soldier- the infantry soldier, thus giving birth to the modern army (Whipps, 2008).
Political Influence in the Development of Gunpowder
The movement of gunpowder to Europe from Asia came about primarily due to the emerging politics of the time. By the last decades of the thirteenth century, the crusades came into being as an effort by the Christian countries to thwart the influence of the rising Muslim powers. England, under its King Edward I, had a primary role in fashioning a military alliance with the Mongols to gain from their superior military machinery. As part of this alliance, William of Rubruck, an ambassador to the Mongols in 1254-55, was the likely intermediary who transferred the knowledge of gunpowder from the Mongols to the Europeans. William was a personal friend of Roger Bacon, and it is likely that the knowledge of gunpowder passed through William of Rubruck to Roger Bacon, who finally enhanced the development of gunpowder in Europe (Norris, 2003).
Effect of Development of Gunpowder on Europe
The development of gunpowder changed the way wars were fought in Europe. Personal protection in the form of armor plating and chain mail were rendered redundant in the face of cannons and rifles. Tactics of fighting battles changed. European countries, forever in a bid to fight crusades and expand Christianity, had gained the scientific temper during the age of the renaissance. This scientific spirit led to the development of gunpowder at a pace faster than anywhere else in the world. With this new innovation, when European countries moved beyond Europe for raw materials to fuel their industries, they found little opposition to their armies. Thus, technological growth combined with the development of gunpowder in Europe to sow the seeds of global domination by European countries (Hoffman, 2015).
Effect of Development of Gunpowder on USA
The Americas were isolated from the world in the middle ages. Gunpowder technology did not reach the Americas till the Spanish brought it to its shores. With a monopoly on tobacco and gunpowder technology, Spain was able to colonize the Southwest USA and South America. Thus, gunpowder began its foray in the Americas with the process of colonization by the Spanish (Digital History, n.d.). When the British subsequently colonized the USA, it was primarily due to superior arms propelled by gunpowder. Subsequently, Abraham Lincoln won the American Civil War because of superior knowledge of and access to gunpowder (Barnum, 2010).
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Orleans, V. (2006). Invention of gunpowder changed war tactics, political landscapes, world history. Retrieved February 12, 2016, from http://calstate.fullerton.edu/news/inside/2006/gunpower.html
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