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Gunpowder in Warfare - A Brief History

Early Modern warfare is associated with the start of the widespread use of gunpowder and the development of suitable weapons to use the explosive. Gunpowder was first invented in China and then later spread to the Middle East. It then found its way into Eastern Europe following the invasions of the Mongols, who had employed Chinese gunpowder-based weapons to conquer parts of Europe and the Middle East.

Later it arrived into Central and Western Europe following the Crusades, when European forces discovered the substance from the Islamic forces they faced. Prior to the 15th century, gunpowder was used on a limited basis, but its use became the universal in the Early Modern Age, its apex occurring during the Napoleonic Wars from 1792 to 1815. It was brought to the Indian subcontinent by the Middle East as well during the early modern era.

Gunpowder and flame projector tubes were first invented and used in military combat in China before the technology was transmitted elsewhere, with advanced technological innovation during the Chinese Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279). The cannon later arrived in the Muslim world in the 13th century, where the explosive hand cannon was invented. These then reached the Iberian Peninsula, with gunpowder described in Europe by Roger Bacon in 1216 and 1248; however, for a long time European gunpowder weapons were unpredictable, unwieldy and difficult to deploy. As a result, they were mainly used for attacking castles and other defences, a task that was equally well suited to undermining or non-explosive weapons.

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