Gunpowder: The History and Legacy of the Explosive that Modernized Warfare

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Sinopsis

The crucial importance of education in China, a prized virtue instilled in the population among all classes by beloved teacher and philosopher Confucius in the 6th century BCE, generated an unprecedented and long-lived golden age of literature and art. It also gave rise to a cornucopia of transformative innovations and groundbreaking technology, particularly following the dawn of the Common Era.

In addition to the wheelbarrow, the seismograph, the waterwheel, deep drilling, suspension bridges, and ship rudders, among countless other life-changing contraptions, the Chinese developed what were later dubbed the “Four Great Inventions of China.” One of those was none other than gunpowder, which was developed no later than the 9th century and was being used for military purposes by the 11th century. Its use slowly spread through South Asia and the Middle East before making it to Europe in the late 13th century.

For a time it was a mere curiosity, but its destructive power and military potential would be realized quickly. The first record of a cannon in Europe comes from a manuscript written in 1326, which has an illustration showing an armored man with what looks like a slow match lighting a vase-shaped object. This crude cannon was called a pot de fer in French and vasi in Italian. 

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