Gunpowder, Explosives and the State : A Technological History book cover
1st Edition

Gunpowder, Explosives and the State
A Technological History

Edited By

Brenda J. Buchanan

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ISBN 9780754652595
Published May 28, 2006 by Routledge
449 Pages

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Book Description

Gunpowder studies are still in their infancy despite the long-standing civil and military importance of this explosive since its discovery in China in the mid-ninth century AD. In this second volume by contributors who meet regularly at symposia of the International Committee for the History of Technology (ICOHTEC), the research is again rooted in the investigation of the technology of explosives manufacture, but the fact that the chapters range in scope from the Old World to the New, from sources of raw materials in south-east Asia to the complications of manufacture in the West, shows that the story is more than the simple one of how an intriguing product was made. This volume is the first to develop the implications of the subject, not just in the sense of relating it to changing military technologies, but in that of seeing the securing of gunpowder supplies as fundamental to the power of the state and imperial pretensions.The search for saltpetre, for example, an essential ingredient of gunpowder, became a powerful engine of sea-going European trade from the early seventeenth century. Smaller states like Venice were unable to form these distant connections, and so to sustain a gunpowder army. Stronger states like France and Britain were able to do so, and became even more powerful as the demand for improved explosives fostered national strengths - leading to a development of the sciences, especially chemistry, in the former case, and of manufacturing techniques in the latter.

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Editor's introduction: setting the context. Part 1 Modern Perceptions and Ancient Knowledge: Realities and perceptions in the evolution of black powder making, Robert A. Howard; Gunpowder and its applications in ancient India, Asitesh Bhattacharya; The Indian response to firearms, 1300-1750, Iqtidar Alam Khan; Saltpetre: a commodity of Empire, Brenda J. Buchanan. Part 2 The Production of Saltpetre and Gunpowder in Europe: Venetian gunpowder in the second half of the 16th century: production, storage and use, Walter Panciera; The Barcarena gunpowder factory: its history and technological evolution between the 17th and 20th centuries, António C. Quintela, João Luís Cardoso and José Manuel de Mascarenhas; Saltpetre at the intersection of military and agricultural interests in 18th-century Sweden, Thomas Kaiserfeld; Torsebro powder mills, Sweden: manufacturing and testing the product, Leif MÃ¥rtensson. Part 3 The Overseas Transfer of Technology From Europe: Portuguese overseas gunpowder factories, in particular those of Goa (India) and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), José Manuel de Mascarenhas; Gunpowder manufacture in Cairo from Bonaparte to Muhammad 'Alî : adaptation, innovation and the transfer of technology, 1798-1820, Patrice Bret; Élève des Poudres: E.I. du Pont's multiple transfers of French technology, Darwin H. Stapleton; Unorthodox British technology at the Confederate Gunpowder Works, Augusta, Georgia, 1862-65, William S. Curtis. Part 4 Military Technicalities: Breech-loading guns with removable powder chambers: a long-lived military technology, Kelly DeVries and Robert Douglas Smith; The smelting of iron cannons and consumption of gunpowder in Gipuzkoa in the 16th century, Ignacio M. Carrión Arregui; Rational mechanics as enlightenment engineering: Leonhard Euler and interior ballistics, Brett D. Steele; Pellets, pebbles and prisms: British munitions for larger guns, 1860-85, Seymour H. Mauskopf. Part 5 Modern Developments: Scie

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Brenda J. Buchanan is a Research Fellow in the Department of Social and Policy Sciences, University of Bath, UK.


'Brenda Buchanan has done a sterling job of editing this excellent collection of essays which will appeal to anyone with an interest in explosives.' Classic Arms and Militaria 'This book belongs on the shelf of anyone with an interest in gunpowder providing an outstanding reference of the subject and showing its global importance.' Black Powder 'It is a work of great scholarship...' HBSA Report ’... if one is looking for detailed discussions of the powder making process and its evolution, then this book offers much.’ Journal of Asian History 'While historians of science and technology will read the volume from cover to cover, scholars with different specialties will find specific chapters of particular interest. The book will attract business, economic, and military historians as well as students of government policy, imperialism, and government-business relations. These groups will be impressed by the high standard of scholarship and the rigorous research conducted by the authors.' Australian Economic History Review ’... this collection demonstrates the unappreciated importance of gunpowder in world affairs.’ Chemical Heritage Magazine ’A valuable introduction by the editor, Brenda J. Buchanan, helps to orient the reader... Each of the essays has a full scholarly apparatus, and the volume as a whole is provided with scores of beautiful images and illustrartions, as well as a useful index... In sum, this volume is a welcome addition to the history of technology, early-modern and military history, and the history of industry and science, as well as to the more focused area of gunpowder studies. These essays will be of considerable value to scholars and graduate students in many fields of European, Asian, and US history.’ Technology and Culture