Synopses & Reviews
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.
"The gun (cannon, musket, rifle, machinegun, etc.) has been the prime tool of war for most of a thousand years. The Chinese invented it, but it was the Europeans who refined it and made it an instrument of world hegemony. That mysterious migration of technology and obsession from east to west is the subject of Kenneth Chase's insightful book, along with what firearms did to and for Turks, Mughals, Japanese, and all the rest of us."
- Alfred W. Crosby, Professor Emeritus, University of Texas, Austin
"Kenneth Chase's book is indeed a delight and a great achievement. His central claim is that each of the major agrarian governments of Eurasia used gunpowder weapons in a rational way, and that difference depended on geographical circumstances, not on cultural traditions or soldiers' stubborn affection for horses. The breadth of information and the precision of his interpretation are exhilarating. Chase unites extraordinary learning with even more extraordinary wisdom and presents them to us in easy, graceful prose."
- William H. McNeill, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, author of The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force and Society Since A.D. 1000(1982)
"The particular value of this wide-ranging and well-written work on a crucial period in military history is its author's strong grasp of the situation in East Asia. It is unusual to have such a specialist write more widely on the topic, and this gives Chase a distinctive voice. His particular concern is the relationship of nomads to firearms and he carefully links this to the respective success and failure of individual military systems. Chase's book will play a major role in the discussion of early-modern military history."
- Jeremy Black, Professor in History, Exeter University
"A tour de force of scholarship that should become a fundamental text and resource for all interested in world and Asian history."
- Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
"Few works on military history do what Chase manages to do here, develop a specific theory in its widest possible context."
- Technology and Culture, Robert Smith
"As a whole, this book is a remarkable tour de force and should become required reading for students of military history.
- Sixteenth Century Journal, James R. Smither, Grand Valley State University
"The comparative breadth of the analysis is commendable." - Jonathan Grant, Florida State University
This book asks why Europeans perfected firearms when the Chinese had invented them by looking at how firearms were used throughout the world.
This book is a history of firearms across the world from the 1100s up to the 1700s, from the time of their invention in China to the time when European firearms had become clearly superior. It asks why it was the Europeans who perfected firearms when it was the Chinese who had invented them, but it answers this question by looking at how firearms were used throughout the world.
About the Author
Kenneth W. Chase is an attorney at the law firm of Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen and Hamilton. He received his Ph.D. in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and his J.D. from Stanford Law School.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Oikoumene; The Steppe; The Desert; Logistics; Cavalry; Firearms; China to 1500: The invention of firearms; The rise of the Ming; The Ming military; The Hongwu campaigns; The Yongle campaigns; Vietnam; The South Seas; Tumu; Europe: The introduction of firearms; Sieges and battles; Geography; 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; Egypt; The Mamluk military; Mamluk warfare; Marj Dabiq; Mamluk failure; The Maghrib; Sub-Saharan Africa; Eastern Islamdom: Iran; The Safavid military; Azarbayjan; Khurasan; Safavid success or failure?; India; The Afghans; The Mughals; The Portuguese; Southeast Asia; China From 1500: Foreign firearms; New Chinese firearms; Institutional change; Japanese pirates; The Great Wall; Wagons; The fall of the Ming; The Qing dynasty; Korea and Japan: Korea; Japan; Tanegashima; Nobunaga; Unification; 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.