Q: I was reading somewhere that how do you determine which European country introduced guns and gun powder to Japan in about 1543? It seems like a pretty bold claim. Thank you. Also, do you know when the English came over after the Japanese invasion of 1543? The timing is important, as Japan didn’t start making guns until the English left the country. The second question is when the Europeans started to use guns against each other during the Renaissance?
A: Although there is considerable debate as to when gunpowder actually was invented by the Europeans, the most likely scenario is that it was used by the Chinese as an agricultural product long before the introduction of firearms by the Europeans. For example, the Chinese invented the carbonized bamboo shoot that was used to make gunpowder. Similarly, bamboo shoots were used in Japan, Korea, and China before the Europeans invented gunpowder. Therefore, depending on who invented what, one might say that the Asians invented gunpowder while the Europeans learned how to make it from the Asians. We will never know the full history of gunpowder between the East and the West, but we do know that firearms increased in popularity throughout Europe following the discovery of gunpowder by Christopher Columbus in 1493.
Europeans loved firearms because they could be used for defense against enemy attacks as well as for hunting. Rifles, which are short rifles, were invented by the French. These rifles would fire a bullet (the French called them “rifles” and not “shot guns” or “pistols”) with a much greater kick than the British rifle and could be fired more rapidly. Improvements in gunpowder technology eventually resulted in repeating rifles that could fire a shot (and a fresh bullet) multiple times. After a particularly hard day of hunting, the soldiers of the British army would bring their rifles back to the town of Salisbury to enjoy dinner and rest. This was known as “shooting salves”.
Guns, like most other technologies of the time, were developed first in Asia and then were taken over by the Europeans. The Japanese invented gunpowder long before the Europeans did. The Chinese built very large gunpowder manufacturing factories where gunpowder was produced, much to the dismay of the British. In fact, during World War I, the English navy severely limited the number of guns that could be used due to fear of gunpowder being used against them. Only six pounds of gunpowder could be carried at any given time, according to the official historical records. One explanation for this seemingly strict gunpowder restriction may have been that the gunpowder needed to be stored very dry, out of the hands of the enemy, lest it explode prematurely.
During the fourteenth century, gunpowder exploded in Western Europe, resulting in the Black Death. Many people died in this plague, including many soldiers who lost their lives on the battlefield. After the Black Death, gunpowder slowly became less of a military issue, as firearms developed in other parts of Europe, including Spain, and Portugal. In fact, until the nineteenth century, gunpowder was the only weapon that could be used against an enemy on foot, as they were unable to shoot bullets through the air, as they had been unable to make bullets using powder. This change, however, caused gunpowder to become even more volatile, and the explosion that finally killed off the last gunslingers in Western Europe could be considered to be the start of the age of war.
Gunpowder, in its modern form, is made from coagulated sulfur, which is made by reacting sulfur with ammonia to form a solution. This gunpowder can be mixed with a binder, or powder, to make a hard yet brittle bullet. Today, gunpowder is rarely used in combat situations, as more explosive devices are used for just such situations.