Cover image for Firearms : a global history to 1700
Firearms : a global history to 1700
Chase, Kenneth Warren.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xvii, 290 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


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UD390 .C43 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Kenneth Chase traces the history of firearms from their invention in China in the 1100s to the 1700s, when European firearms had become clearly superior. In Firearms, Chase asks why it was the Europeans who perfected firearms, not the Chinese, and answers this question by looking at how firearms were used throughout the world. Early firearms were restricted to infantry and siege warfare, limiting their use outside of Europe and Japan. Steppe and desert nomads imposed a different style of warfare on the Middle East, India, and China--a style incompatible with firearms. By the time that better firearms allowed these regions to turn the tables on the nomads, Japan's self-imposed isolation left Europe with no rival in firearms design, production, or use, with lasting consequences. After earning his doctorate from Harvard in the area of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and traveling extensively in Asia, Kenneth Chase pursued a career in the law. His interest in history endures unabated, however, and after nine years of research on firearms, he is now working on a history of international trade in the Indian Ocean region in the 1300s and 1400s.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Although firearms were invented in China and avidly taken up by the Ottoman Empire and other states, by 1700, European guns were the best in the world. This salient aspect of Western military superiority-perhaps the most important development in modern history-receives an insightful new analysis in this cogent study. Chase, a lawyer with a Ph.D. in East Asian languages and civilizations, considers, and rejects, arguments for Europe's exceptional technological, cultural or political advantages, focusing instead on specific military constraints faced by Old World civilizations in the early modern era. Non-European states, he argues, were preoccupied with raising cavalry forces to defend against fast-moving mounted steppe nomads, a context in which early firearms-heavy, slow-firing, inaccurate and unmanageable on horseback-were all but useless. In Western Europe, by contrast, battles revolved around walled fortresses (which were stable enough platforms to make use of primitive cannon and handguns), and were fought by infantrymen (who were big and slow enough targets to be hit by them). The greater utility of guns in Europe, the author contends, favored their widespread adoption and rapid improvement, which in turn stimulated revolutionary innovations in military organization and drill in European armies. Chase weaves a wealth of information on firearms technology into a lucid description of the interplay of geographical, logistic and economic factors in the warfare of the period, paying special attention to oft-neglected developments in Asia. His immersion in the details enlivens rather than bogs down his arguments, and the result is a well-written and compelling reinterpretation of a watershed in military history. B&w illustrations, maps. (July) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Table of Contents

The Oikoumene
The Steppe
The Desert
China to 1500: The invention of firearms
The rise of the Ming
The Ming military
The Hongwu campaigns
The Yongle campaigns
The South Seas
Europe: The introduction of firearms
Sieges and battles
Guns and horses
Guns and ships
Guns and bows
Eastern Europe
The Americas
Western Islamdom: Turkey
The Ottoman military
The Balkans
The Mediterranean
Ottoman success
The Mamluk military
Mamluk warfare
Marj Dabiq
Mamluk failure
The Maghrib
Sub-Saharan Africa
Eastern Islamdom: Iran
The Safavid military
Safavid success or failure?
The Afghans
The Mughals
The Portuguese
Southeast Asia
China from 1500: Foreign firearms
New Chinese firearms
Institutional change
Japanese pirates
The Great Wall
The fall of the Ming
The Qing dynasty
Korea and Japan: Korea
The first invasion of Korea
The Korean response
The second invasion of Korea
The Tokugawa
Conclusion: Firearms after 1700
The world after 1700
Wagons and pikes
Firearms and nomads