Gun powder is often referred to as one of the greatest inventions in history. This invention has changed the way wars and politics operate. Gun powder was discovered by China during the Tang dynasty, its original purpose was to be the cause of immortality, but ironically turned out to be one of the deadliest inventions created by man. By the 13th century, the science needed to make gun powder had made its way to Europe by the way of the ancient silk road.
The ancient trade route helped break the monopoly China had previously held on gunpowder. With the help of gunpowder Europe was able to revolutionize its military and politics from 1250 to 1450 CE.
During this period referred to as the gun powder revolution the military size of European countries grew much larger than before as well as seeing a change in military tactics. Along with the military, politics changed in numerous ways, seeking power through a series of taxation and attempts to hold a monopoly over gunpowder.
Gun powder had first made its way to Europe by the 13th Century. This period of history is referred to as the late middle ages. During this time, armies mainly relied upon the strength of their soldiers and their abilities to handle the use of weapons such as swords, shields, and spears. The introduction of the gun powder along with the design of the cannon, changed the importance of the way the military relied upon its numbers and the future technological advances it needed to win battles.
An example where we see a large effect of this is the use of artillery during siege’s, which is the result of gunpowder. In Europe especially because of the fortifications that surrounded large cities it would take month’s for soldiers to break through the city walls. As Black points out, “In the 14th century gunpowder reached Europe, where it quickly adapted to the warfare needs (Black 1).
The warfare needs, Black is referring to is the use of canons in the military. Although Europe fell behind on technology compared to countries in the Middle-East and the East, the resemblance of a church bell often used in cathedrals with similarities to a design of the cannon quickly allowed Europe to produce cannons for military use. Black writes “Europeans created powerful siege cannons that could destroy thick walls quickly and eliminated the necessity of spending months on the siege” (Black 1). While it would preserve soldiers on one side for the other it would be the cause of suffering heavy causalities. Due to extensive damage that is caused by the artillery, it allowed the user the ability to wipe out more soldiers at once than any other weapon in its time while still having distance between the enemy. The next advancement that Europe would seek using gun power would be to incorporate the use of fire arms for its soldiers. The introduction of artillery caused a change in the way soldiers became armored, stepping away from the heavy armor to making soldiers clothing more mobile and lighter for movement across the battlefield. Soldiers, during the middle ages especially, wore heavy armor to help protect from weapons such as swords. Whipps writes, “Furthermore the emergence of the field artillery and handguns made armored knights vulnerable, so armies had to change their military clothing to be mobile and light (Whipps 1).
With the ability to be more mobile and lighter it created a path for new military tactics and strategies never seen before on the battlefield. Landers writes, “The introduction of firearms to land warfare affected all three mobile arms but the infantry most of all, because it radically shifted the relative power of distance and shock weapons in a historically unprecedented manner” (Landers 1). The infantry is considered to be fairly new in Europe at this time, known for its quick ability to move and strike it became a game of chess for generals. Before this time period it was impossible for soldiers to move as swiftly due to the heavy armor they were required to wear. With the increase of mobility that infantry provided, generals would have to devise newer tactics to defeat opponents. Not only did the gunpowder revolution effect the military but it also strengthened the central government because they were the only ones would be able to control large armies financially. With a growing demand for gunpowder the cost of producing and supplying it went up as well. The financial support provided by the government helped to aid military units such as garrisons, which in return increased the number of troops that served. The increase in the size of the army was able to strengthen central government systems. Park said, “The balance of power between central and local authorities was thereby transformed, making whoever controlled the new siege cannon into a sovereign and reducing those who could not afford them to a subjection they had not previously experienced” (Park 1).
When Park says this, he is referring to the nobility being silenced by the central government. While nobility previously would allow for nobles to have an army of their own, the expenses that a large-scale war would cause with the discovery of gun powder would not be able to affordable for the nobles. Due to the fact central governments were able to cover for the expenses of the weapons that came with gun powder such as cannons, they were able to hold an advantage against nobles who previously would have able to have their own private armies. The reason for this is largely because of the governments in Europe taking control of gun powder and finding ways to turn it into a monopoly. The expense of war because of gun powder gave financial power to the central government which had created a series of taxation to keep up with their expenditures that were needed to aid war. In addition to, Europe had perfected the incorporation of gun powder into their military. By 1450 Europe had made the transition from cannons to much more accurate and movable weaponry.
As Gordon writes “Finally, beginning around 1450, gunsmiths began adding trunnions on either side of the barrels, just in front of the center of gravity” (Gordon 1). While the original cannons were much harder to aim, they provided more artillery causing massive destruction to enemy forces. Meanwhile the introduction to this new technology aided by gun powder had now transformed into a killing machine. Gunpower spread quickly became popularized by Europe even though it was originally discovered in China, Europe had found a way to perfect it. Europe during this time not only revolutionized its military on land but also its navy. Before gunpowder, naval battle mainly consisted of ramming and using firing arrows with torches. But with the strength of cannons, not only did it change the weaponry used in naval warfare, but it also made naval battles much more difficult. Kinard writes, “Several precision strikes allowed to make large holes in enemy’s ship and take it down within an hour” (Kinard 1). One of the biggest advantages of having a cannon was the ability to cause more damage than bows and arrows, especially in naval battles. The navy was able to reengineer it’s ships to incorporate cannons aboard, making it not only easier to attack ships but also perform a siege with ease, as before it would take hours of extensive fighting.
Gunpowder is often referred to as one of the greatest inventions in history. This invention has changed the way wars and politics operate. Gunpowder was discovered by China during the Tang dynasty, its original purpose was to be the cause of immortality, but ironically turned to be one of the deadliest inventions created by man. By the 13th century, the science needed to make gunpowder had made its way to Europe by the way of the ancient silk road. The ancient trade route helped break the monopoly China had previously held on gunpowder. With the help of gun powder Europe was able to revolutionize its military and politics from 1250 to 1450 CE. During this period referred to as the gunpowder revolution the military size of European countries grew much larger than before as well as seeing a change in military tactics. Along with the military politics changed in numerous ways, seeking power through a series of taxation and attempts to hold a monopoly over gun powder