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Book description

This book is a history of firearms across the world from the 1100s up to the 1700s, from 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, 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 with which firearms were incompatible. 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 consequences that are still with us today.


"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

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