During the eighteenth century Europe increased its ability to win wars. Through advances in weaponry and fighting formations, they were able to dominant adversaries with an almost unfair edge. Technology and military strategy both played a significant part in placing European countries at the front of world powers, but it was the ability to integrate and leverage the governments’ economic resources, that separated them from most of the world, when it came to battlefield superiority.
A Well Oiled Machine
Europe’s economy saw a major boost in the eighteenth century, due to a focus on manufacturing of exportable goods. Mercantilism, a theory that encourages a society to export more than import, was promoted by economists. Military weaponry became a major product of this shift in focus. The private companies that supplied the government with these goods benefitted from the steady demand as the government saw improvements in quality and innovation, due to the competitive market.
The European governments, at this time, began to provision most of the military supplies and services; this brought more consistency and better organization. As the British Parliament gained sovereign power in England because of The Glorious Revolution of 16881, the government controlled even more of the military, and the cost to the states increased to sustain it. Surely faced with a government and military growing too large to be supported solely on its fixed tax revenue, Britain devises a new method of raising capital to finance military growth. The eighteenth century saw the beginning of governments borrowing against future tax revenues, a term we now call Sinking Funds. This gave Britain almost unlimited capital to steadily improve and grow the military in many areas. Effectively they had a blank check to expand the military beyond anything seen in the world at that time, other than China.
Weapons Technology Improves
While the military was stimulating the economy, the weapons technology directly benefited from the central control and effectiveness of the governments influence. Several improvements are made during the century that give the European states, especially Britain and France, the battlefield advantage that cannot be challenged. The bayonet was introduced to war, by the French, in the late seventeenth century. Initially it plugged down the end of the musket, preventing the musket from firing, but still giving the soldier an alternative weapon for close battles. The bayonet was later improved, allowing the musket to fire with the bayonet in place. It became a common weapon across Europe in a relatively short period of time.
Another advance in technology, which was probably even more significant, was the flintlock. The flintlock replaced the matchlock for lighting the firearm charges. The matchlock was a mechanism, that required conditions to be dry and windless. The flintlock, an invention...