Warfare: Weaponry


Figure 1.--.

Mastery of technology throughout history has played a critical role in determining military success. This began in the stone age with flint napping and other technologies. Mastery of metals, first bronze revolutionized warfare. Broze weapons were, however, expensive. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. Relativey low melting points made them easy to work with, but bioth are relativeky rare metals. This limited the size of ancient armies and it meant that small military aristocracies controlled peasant masses after the Agriculturl Revolution. The chariot became the central weapon of the ancient battlefield. The horse was not yet critical because without stirups, it could not be used to its full potential. A major step forwad was the development of iron technology. Iron has a much higher melting point than copper and tin, requiring advaced technology. Iron is, however, a much more common metal and producing iron weaponry was less expensive making it possible to equip larger armies. And steel technology soon developed. This mean some consideration had to be given to the wider population. The long spears of the Greek Hopelites and short swords of the Roman Legions cut a swath through ancient battlefields. Medieval knights armored themselves which again limited the size of armies. The English long bow began the democrazation of armies. English yeoman bowmen decimated the French aristiocracy. It is no accudet that it would be in England that democracy would reappear in Europe. Medieval nobels retreated behind castle walls to protect their fiefdoms. They were first attacked by seige towers and catapults. The Fedal system began to decline once gunpowder made cannons possible, castles no longer protected small fiefdoms. Gunpowder was invented by the Chinese, but they for some reason never developed its miitary power. With gunpowder and steel, modern weapon systems begin to develop. We have begin to develop sections on some of the conventional weaponry used in secific wars, including the Civil War, World War I, and World War II. CBW is not new to warfare. These weapons had been used such ancient times. Rotten or diseased carcases were catapulted into besieged cities. Some times it was inadvertent, such as the spread of disease by Europeans in the Americas. CW was developed by the Germans and first used in World War I. The World War I chemical agents, however, rather primitive. The Germans in the inter-War period began developing much more deadly nerve agents. Biological and chemical weapons, often refrred to as Weaons of Mass Destruction (WMD). WMDs became a huge issue during World War II, although usage was limited. The Japanese also had an active program and actually used both biological and chemical agents in china, primarily in China. BW was not used. Thus CBW terrified the public before World War II, but were not given much attention in the public mind during the Cold War.

Materials

Mastery of technology throughout history has played a critical role in determining military success. This began in the stone age with flint napping and other technologies. Mastery of metals, first bronze revolutionized warfare. Broze weapons were, however, expensive. Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin. Relativey low melting points made them easy to work with, but bioth are relatively rare metals. This limited the size of ancient armies and it meant that small military aristocracies controlled peasant masses after the Agriculturl Revolution. The chariot became the central weapon of the ancient battlefield. A major step forwad was the development of iron technology. Iron has a much higher meting point than copper and tin, requiring advaced technology. Iron is, however, a uch more common metal and producing iron weaponry was less expensive making it possible to equip much larger armies. And steel technology soon developed. This mean some consideration had to be given to the wider population.

Specific Weapons

One of the unique characteristics of man is building tools. Some other amimaks use tools, but only to a limited extent. Man on the other hand excelled as a tool maker and even befor anatimically modern man appeared, humanoids were making tools. And among the early tools were weapons. Weapons are thus as old as humanity. The development and manufacture of weapons has played a major role in human history. Societies that failed to keep up with weapons technology wre doomed to extinction. Many of the great civilizations abnd empires are assiciated with advanced weapons technology.

Hand weapons

The first hand weapon was presumably a rock. At some pointin the Stone Age, someone came up with the idea of attaching a stout piece of wood to the rock and the club was born. During the Medieval era, metal replaced the rock and spikes were added. Another stone age weapon was the spear which began as a stick with a sharpened tip. At first the sharpened tip was fire hardened. Then flint tips which could be hardened were added. With the advebt of metal, metal lips were added. The long spears of the Greek Hopelites and short gladus swords of the Roman Legions cut a swath through ancient battlefields. These weapons were ieally suited to the formations and tactics of Greek and Roman units. A related weapon, the pike, became a standard of the medieval battlefield. They were used until the musket became increasingly effective and the bayonet appeared on the musket (18th century).

Animals

The horse was the animal of primary military importance. Horses appeared in Paleolithic cave art along withb other animals (about 30,000 BC). Thecdepictions suggest that they are wild animakls and at first hunted fir meat like other wild animals. How and when horses were domesticated is a matter of histirical debate. The general consensus is that horses were domesticated in the Eurasian Steppes (about 4000-3500 BC). The horse was not yet critical in warfare because until the invention of strirups, they could not be used as an effective weapons platform. The first step was the chariot which played a huge role in ancient battlefields. We are bot sure when the chariot was invented, but burials have been found (about 2000 BC). It was a deadly mobile weaoons platform. Alexander developed a defense against massed chriot assaults--the ?????. Much later striups were invented which made for modern calvalry.

Armor

Medieval European knights armored themselves. This nd hoiees werevery expensive. This acted to sihnificntly limited the size of of armies. It also affeced mobility.

Projectiles

The first projectiles were stones that could be thrown. This limited the range to arm strength. The sling derives its usefulness by extending the length of a human arm. With akling, stones to be thrown farther than they could be by hand. We are not yet sure when this occurred, surely because of the basic technology involved, at a very early point. The sling was probably invented during the Upper Paleolithic (late-stibe age). Is it at this time that sevral important technologies appeared, including the atlatl and the bow and arrow. The sling became common all over the world, except Australia. It is not clear whether this occurred because of cultural diffusion or independent invention. The sling is, however, difficult to date because all elements are biodegradeable. It is likely that the sling was in use by at least 60,000 BC. Given the simplicity, it could have been earlier. Major armies in the ancient wirkd all had slingers. Most were nameless. The most famous was of course David who slew the giant Goliath. The bow and arrow was another early projectile weapon. It was a gane changing weapon because it allowed men to kill at a distance. is perhaps the longest serving weapn in the history of warfare. There is evidence of bows and arrows dating from about 60,000 BC. Over time there were modifications , but the same basic weapon continued to be used through most of the medieval period. Related weapons included the Roman baklista and mechanical crossbow. The English long bow began the democratazation of armies. English yeoman bowmen decimated the French aristiocracy. It is no accudet that it would be in England that democracy would reappear in Europe. Only when gunpowder appeared from China and both small arms and artillery began to appear did the bow and arrow and its refinement the cross bow pass from military use, at least with modern armies (14th century AD).

Walls and Castles

Medieval nobels retreated behind castle walls to priotect their fiefdoms. Castles were an important support for feudalism. hey enabled a medievel ord to secure his fiefdom. They were first attacked by seige towers and catapults. These same weapons which appeared in ancientt weapon systems thazt could breach castle walls. But it took a substantial assault force such as a strong king could mister and could takes months if not years. And was very expensive. Thus castles were very effective defensive edifices. The walls of Connstaniople kept the city safe fir a millenium--virtilly the entire spve of themedievl era. They could effective secure whole areas like King Edward's conquest of Wales.

Fire Arms


Artillery

The Feudal system began to decline once gunpowder made cannons possible. Cannons could destroy massonary structures. Castle walls could be dismanteled in very short periods. No longer castkes could protect small fiefdoms. Gunpowder was invented by the Chinese, but they for some reason never developed its miitary power. It was cannons that finally breched Constaniople's walls (1452). With gunpowder and eventually steel, modern weapon systems began to develop. The Ottoman Empire shocked Christian Europe when their cannons breeched the massive walls of Contaninople. Little noticed at the time that it was not Ottoman technology, the Ottomans had secured the assistance of Hungarian aqrms smihs. Already the technological blance had shifted to Europe. For a time the rich an d powerful Ottomans could buy the technology they needed, but their inavility to generate technology would eventually lead to their decline in the modern era. Ofter time mostly Europeansd steasily imprived the relability, accuracy, and power of artillery. This occurred in both naval and land warfare. Iy was obsevable at sea at both Lepanto and the defeat of the Spanish Armada. A major limitation in early artillery was the metal used for the barrels. The first artillery tubes used bronze. Cast iron was an improvement but still could withstand the pressures required for high velocity rounds. Artillery played a major role in the American Civil War (1861-65). Federa artiliarists achieved improved results with both rifing and wrought iron barrels. The major step in creating modern artillery was finlly taken with the use of steel barrels during the Franco Prussian War (1870-71). They were the first steel barrels. They dramatically increased the velocity, range, accuracy and durability of artillery. Overnight the steel barrels made most other artillery in the world obsolete. The rifling in the new steel barrels lasted much longer, making the steel barrel guns much more accurate compared to the older bronze and cast iron. More improvements followed in World War I and World War II, but nothing cimpared with the adoption of the steel barrel.

Specific Wars

We have begin to develop sections on some of the conventional weaponry used in secific wars, including the Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Cold War.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

Weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) are chemical, biologocal and nuclear weapons. Chemical and biological warfare (CBW)is not new to warfare, nuclear weapons of course are. WMDs are capable of killing huge numbers of people, but this is not the key destinguishing characteristics. Military forces like the Huns and Mongols proved themselves capable of mass killing. It is the speed by which this is accomplished that destinguish WMDs. These weapons had been used such ancient times. Rotten or diseased carcases were catapulted into besieged coties. Some times it was inadvertent, such as the spread of disease by Europeans in the Americas. CW was developed by the Germans and first used in World War I. The World War I chemical agents, however, rather primitive. The Germans in the inter-War period began developing much more deasly nerve agents. Biological and chemical weapons, often refrred to as Weaons of Mass Destruction (WMD). became a huge issue during World War II, although usage was limited. The Japanese also had an active program and actually used both biological and chemical agents in china, primarily in China. BW was not used. A whole new category of WMDs were developed during World War II--nuclear weapons. Thus CBW terrified the public before Wotld War II, but were not given much attention in the public mind during the Cold War. It was nuclear weapons that preocupied the public mind.








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Created: 7:19 PM 6/14/2013
Last updated: 11:11 PM 12/31/2015