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8-08-2015, 16:58

Firearms Revolutionize War

“Gunpowder changed warfare, and in so doing it changed the world,”37 states historian h omas F. Arnold. Nonetheless, the invention of gunpowder weapons and their introduction to the battlei eld did not revolutionize warfare overnight—in fact, this process took a few centuries. One reason for this slow change is that for many years gunpowder was hard to i nd. Moreover, its early formulas did not deliver much explosive power. In addition, the i rst generations of cannons and hand-held guns were crude, overly heavy and bulky, and not very mobile. Steadily, however, inventors and military engineers eliminated these drawbacks, thereby making i rearms immensely more effective. h e ultimate result was nothing less than world-altering. It became clear to all that gunpowder weapons “were simply too powerful for ancestral ways of war based on horses and lances, castles and catapults,”38 in Arnold’s words. At the same time, as the old ways of war were discarded, political and social customs based on building, maintaining, and capturing castles and fortii ed towns changed, too. Individuals and societies with the most power and inl uence were no longer those with the strongest walls and i nest cavalry. Rather they were the ones best able to harness, exploit, and, most important, consistently improve the technology of i rearms. Arnold of ers what he calls a “classic opening scene” for this historic military transformation: “A grimy-faced bombardier [gunner] bends over his big-bellied cannon poised to send a great stone ball smash- ing into a centuries-old castle, an elegant confection of pointy towers and steeply pitched roofs. With that ball, we understand, this gunner is knocking down a way of life—a way of power—as well as reducing a gothic charm to a pile of splintered masonry.”39