A Study Of Warfare In Europe Between 1300 And 1500

4646 words - 19 pages

Since the introduction of gunpowder into Europe, it has gone on to dominate warfare into the twentieth century. With the development of the first European guns in the fourteenth century, armies were given use of a weapon which was to radically alter most of the ways of making war which had been established during the Middle Ages, and changes began to be seen within only a few years. It is, however, questionable whether the nature of these early changes constituted a revolution in the methods of war, and even more so whether guns had by 1500 made a great deal of impact on the character of war as it had existed in 1300. In assessing whether a revolution had taken place (or at least whether one was in the process of happening) by 1500, it is necessary to examine three areas: the effectiveness of guns during the period; the extent of their use in conflicts; and finally the changes which resulted from the employment of the new weapons in war.The first reliable sources which assert the existence of guns appeared in the 1320s, and from the late 1330s the number of references to them rose dramatically. The early guns were of large calibre and used almost exclusively for sieges, although as early as Crécy in 1346, the English "fired off some cannons which they had brought to the battle to frighten the Genoese." Guns were made in one of two ways. Firstly, there were cast metal guns, usually of bronze, which were made at the foundry. These were usually the better weapons because they were made of a single piece of metal and therefore were less likely to burst apart on firing. The second method was arranging wrought iron strips into tubes which were then bound together with iron hoops in much the same way as barrels were made. The advantage of these guns was that iron was a much cheaper metal than bronze (but could not be cast), but being made of many pieces faults were more likely to develop, causing either the release of explosive pressure through the sides of the barrel and therefore a reduction in the power of the shot, or even the complete bursting of the gun. This structural weakness was compounded by the inclusion of a detachable breech (such guns were far easier to build) which often detached itself on the discharging of the weapon. Despite their lack of quality, however, iron guns were the more numerous due to their comparative cheapness, although smaller guns tended to be made chiefly from bronze both because of the difficulties of constructing small guns from iron strips, and because they required less metal than the great bombards. The sizes and types multiplied from their modest beginnings until there were guns ranging in size and type from great bombards used for reducing entire cities, to handguns used as anti-personnel weapons.The early role played by artillery was in sieges, where its effectiveness was soon widely appreciated. "Broadly speaking, the use of guns meant that sieges could be brought to a conclusion much more quickly."...

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