Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Greatest innovations: the Eurepean military renaissance.

FOUR military innovations in early modern Europe facilitated the rise of the West. After 1430, the development of heavy bronze gunpowder artillery made possible the destruction of almost all fortifications of traditional vertical design, while a century later the creation of fortresses of geometrical design restored the advantage in siege warfare to their defenders. Around 1510, naval architects began to place heavy artillery aboard full-rigged sailing vessels, creating floating fortresses that proved incomparably superior to any non-Western fighting ships. Finally, in the 1590s, the invention of infantry volley fire (one rank of infantry firing in unison and then reloading while other ranks fired in turn) permitted the defeat of far larger enemy forces, whether mounted or on foot, in the field. These four developments had by 1775 allowed relatively small groups of Europeans to conquer most of the Americas, Siberia, and the Philippines, and parts of South Asia-over one-third of the world's land surface-and to dominate the world's oceans.

The Limits to Revolutions in Military Affairs: Maurice of Nassau, the Battle of Nieuwpoort
(1600), and the Legacy
Author(s): Geoffrey Parker
Source: The Journal of Military History, Vol. 71, No. 2 (Apr., 2007), pp. 331-372
Stable URL:

The guns on ships are particularly of interest because they allowed to protect trade routes essential to the development of major European industrial powers. The shipbuilding also had to change to accommodate heavier loads.

Volley fire is a good example of solving the dilemma: you want to reload your gun, to have it ready to fire, and you don't want to reload it, because during reloading it makes you vulnerable to enemy's charge.

tags: problem, greatest, innovation, solution, dilemma, course, example, strategy

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