Jul 25, 2013
Dr. Ken Chase is the author of Firearms: A Global History to 1700, which legendary historian William McNeill described as "a great achievement." In Firearms, Ken does much more than summarize how firearms develops; he asks why China was the first to develop gunpowder but failed to turn that early lead into an effective gun. Popular explanations tend to focus on culture and race, but Ken has delved deep into the records of the time and in an engaging narrative reveals that not developing the modern gun was a rational response when you realize the Chinese were fighting the Mongols. Unlike modern firearms, early firearms were slow, heavy, lacked range and were ineffective…especially against fast moving Mongol horsemen. That's because a cannon required not only the horses to carry it, but the horses to carry the food to feed the horses that carried the cannon. Then, of course, more horses were needed to carry food for those horses meaning that all in all 200 horses were required to provide support for a single cannon. Given the incredible speed and range of Mongol warriors, these early firearms were more of a liability than an asset which is precisely why the Chinese never made them a priority. A very different situation existed in Europe. Settled agricultural civilizations fought settled agricultural civilizations. Without the ability to run away and their heavy reliance on stone walls, cities were an ideal target for attack by cannon. Very quickly the cannon became a mainstay of European warfare and the road to transforming the firearm into the essential weapon had been embarked upon.Bryan, Hunter and Ken discuss firearms, history, the challenges of supplying an army and a lot about the mind-blowing military prowess of the Mongols. Mongol impressiveness is a topic that Ken feels very comfortable talking about as he is currently working on a multi-volume edition history of the Mongols that will require him learning to read in several new languages. Given that Ken has kids and his day job is as a high-end corporate lawyer in Hong Kong, it's no wonder that he expects his next book to take a decade to write. Look for it in 2024! In the meantime, you can enjoy hearing about all sorts of awesome Mongol eating habits and military domination.