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Gunpowder and technology

Discussion in 'World Building' started by NerdyCavegirl, Mar 4, 2016.

  1. NerdyCavegirl

    NerdyCavegirl Sage

    If gunpowder hadn't been used until about 1750, how would this had affected technological development in other areas? And how exactly could gunpowder have been unused that long when all the ingredients were available?
  2. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

    Gunpowder is hardly a naturally occurring compound - producing the stuff is slightly more complicated than just dumping the ingredients in a pot. Wouldn't be that much of a stretch that people simply hadn't stumbled over it. The initial invention of gunpowder was the result of an attempt at designing an immortality serum of all things.

    As for technological invention in other areas, I think most technology would have advanced largely unabated, and in place of gunpowder, classical siege and tension weapons would have continued refinement, and personal armor would be less inclined to go out of style. Fortresses would have also maintained their traditional style - their change after the Renaissance was a result of adapting to cannon.
  3. indonesiancat

    indonesiancat Dreamer

    Hmm... Well, the major change would off course be the lack of the cannon. Cannons were rare for very long, but they were still quite powerful weapons. Which in turn would change alot of the formations in the medieval armies. At the time the rifle and cannon became a bigger part off warfare, the heavy cavalry charge and need off arming knights were sort off being replaced, as halberdiers and pikemen were becoming quite capable horsekillers. So in all likelyhood, the european armies would start favouring the use off very heavily armed footmen with polearms off different sorts, with lightly armored cavalry running skirmishes with crossbows or bows.

    As for the middle east, I think they would stick to their guns ( in a non-literar way ) in terms off battle. The lack off extremely heavy cavalry - the mamluks, really didn't force the demand for heavy infantry units with polearms.
  4. Jerseydevil

    Jerseydevil Minstrel

    I actually wrote my Masters dissertation on this subject, so I might be able to help out a bit.
    The reason knights in armor went out of style is due to gunpowder weapons. Starting in the early 1500s, more and more troops were equipped with gunpowder weapons. This meant that armies could be made larger and more effective, since firearms were easy to train a complete novice in a relatively short period of time with little expense. What is more practical, a single warrior, trained since the age of seven, equipped with armor and specially bred and trained horses that cost as much as a small castle, or about two dozen or so guys with firelocks, trained for a few weeks, for a fraction of the price? The latter was obviously more appealing, and so armies grew. When the bayonet was added in the early 1700s, equipment could be standardized even further, which allowed even larger armies (there was no need to divide the army between firearms and pikes or halberds to protect them while they reloaded).
    There is a theory that this caused a shift in government styles. Because the military grew in size, there had to be a more effective administration to manage it, including feeding, equipping (gunpowder weapons were issued, rather than Medieval soldiers, who brought their own equipment from home) and training. Because of this, power became more centralized in the hands of the monarch rather than dispersed in feudal lords. The reign of Louis XIV is a perfect demonstration of this, as his reign was administered by an army of bureaucrats, something that had not happened in Europe before. There is a great deal of debate on this, but the theory is out there. Just something to think about.

    Architecture changed as well. A castle from the Middle Ages was made up of tall, thin walls that were designed to be difficult to climb over. A cannon could reduce such a structure to rubble with a few well placed shots. Instead, fortresses and city walls were made shorter with a lower center of gravity, thicker, and angled upwards to deflect cannonballs. Also most early castles were simple rings, squares of D shaped. Newer fortifications were made into multi-pronged star patterns with interlocking fields of fire mutually supporting each other. This whole new set up was monstrously expensive, which further required a more centralized government to collect the taxes and other resources.

    As far as gunpowder itself, though the ingredients are common, they have to be combined in exact proportions (yes, I know the formula, no I'm not giving the recipe for explosives over the internet) or you will get a useless powder. Without it, military operations would probably remain the same as in the Late Middle Ages, though there was a bit of a push for more disciplined formations of pikemen, as seen by the Swiss. Beyond that is speculation and alternative history that can go in any direction.

    Also, this new type of warfare required more scientific thinking, leading to the birth of the combat engineer. Engineers had to know trigonometry and other math, physics, chemistry and other similar sciences (cannons are more complex than "point it at the enemy and fire"). They would then transfer their skills in peace time to building roads and bridges, architecture, and other civic works. The famous fountains of Versailles, were built and maintained by army engineers.
    I'm happy to explain or clarify anything. As a suggestion, take a look at the book The Military Revoultion: Military Innovation and the rise of the West 1500-1800 by Geofferey Parker, which is considered thew foremost work on the subject, as well as Giant of the Grand Siecle: The French Army 1610-1715 by John A. Lynn, which is about the army of Louis XIV.

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