Wednesday, 14 February 2007

8:4 How do weapons change warfare?

Another difference between ‘unlimited’ or feuding warfare and limited but total war is technological and organizational. Feuding wars are fought seasonally, part time, by an amateur sub-set of the male population. Civilizational wars tend to be fought all the year round (except when the climate prevents this), often by professional (conscript or mercenary) armies. The amount of training, the nature of the discipline and the internal hierarchies differ.

Furthermore, over time the weapons began to change. Most wars in history have been fought with simple weapons, bows spears, swords. Yet in due course the evolution of state systems led to the development of a new order of weapons. Then the scene changed.

Gunpowder weapons transformed warfare in western Europe from the fourteenth century. Through a strange quirk, in the country which had invented them many centuries earlier, namely China, they were in effect soon banned or not used. Indeed, four-fifths of the great civilizations on the earth up to the eighteenth century, the Islamic States, China and Japan, all banned the use of gunpowder weapons. Only in western Europe did cannon and small-arms using gunpowder develop. It was partly this divergence which finally gave Europe the destructive advantage with which it colonized almost all of the planet between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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