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The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History Hardcover – January 12, 2016
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Winner of a 2017 Distinguished Book Award, Society of Military History
"[An] enlightening new history."--Alex Monro, Times Literary Supplement
"The Gunpowder Age is a boldly argued, prodigiously researched and gracefully written work. This book has much to offer general readers, especially those with a passion for military history, as well as specialists."--Wall Street Journal
"An excellent book."--Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution
"A vigorous military history of China."--Kirkus
"In Tonio Andrade's well-researched, balanced and comparative history of military innovation in Asia and the West, he challenges the traditional notion – compellingly set forth by Victor Davis Hanson in Carnage and Culture and Niall Ferguson in Civilization--that Western culture largely explains Western global predominance in the post-medieval world."--South China Morning Post
"Tonio Andrade wipes out the conviction held by many . . . in the field of Chinese history that it was Confucianism that kept China from adopting military technology. . . . Andrade is not the first scholar to make such claims, but he leads us deeper in these directions than any scholar to date. The case he makes here will encourage new publications along those lines and will certainly make teaching more interesting."--Jonathan Mirsky, Times Higher Education
"In this well-constructed new book, each chapter of which reads like an approachably paced lecture, Tonio Andrade sets this entire history on a new footing."--Timothy Brook, Literary Review
"One of the best books I've read in awhile."--Thomas Ricks, Foreign Policy Blog
"[The Gunpowder Age] challenges the traditional historiography and will spark debates among scholars."--Choice
"An important, consistently interesting, accessible, and well-written work. . . . Andrade is much to be congratulated for a stimulating book, one that greatly moves the field along, and one, moreover, that ably makes the case for the need to consider military history as part of the history of China, and Chinese military history as a key element of military history."--Jeremy Black, World History Connected
"Tonio Andrade offers fresh insights into the perennially interesting ‘great divergence' between Europe and Asia."--Pankaj Mishra, BBC History Magazine
"Covering no less than a thousand years of history, marshaling a staggering array of evidence from multiple languages and disciplines, and offering sustained comparative analysis with other parts of the Western world, this is a big book in every sense of the word. . . . Not only does Andrade significantly expand the geographical boundaries of conventional military histories to attend to global patterns, but he also offers a powerful reminder that the study of war offers insight into so much more than battles won and lost. . . . Anyone interested in the long view of the co-evolution of war and society--and what this means for the big questions of world history--would do well to pick up this book."--David Fedman, Journal of Asian Studies
"Brilliant [and] wide ranging. . . . Andrade has offered world historians a work of incomparable value, and he has also charted the path for many research projects to follow."--Wayne E. Lee, Journal of Chinese Military History
"This is a huge and comprehensive undertaking accomplished with steamroller logic and in fascinating detail."--A. O. Blishen, Asian Affairs
From the Back Cover
"China invented gunpowder, guns, and bombs, so how did the West overtake, defeat, and humiliate the Chinese by the nineteenth century? Tackling one of history's biggest unsolved mysteries, The Gunpowder Age is indispensable to debates in world history--and as exciting, dramatic, and engaging as a novel."--Jared Diamond, author of Guns, Germs, and Steel
"This is a marvelous book and one of the most enjoyable works of military history, Chinese history, and East/West comparison that I have read in years. The reader learns many wonderful things, from the impressive history of early gunpowder weapons in China to China's ability to consistently defeat European expeditions in the 1600s. Andrade makes an original and vitally important contribution to debates about these fields and subjects."--Jack Goldstone, author of Why Europe? The Rise of the West in World History, 1500-1850
"At last we have a history of gunpowder that has been reconstructed as it should be, from both ends of the Eurasian continent. With the vigilance of the good historian and the zest of the good storyteller, Tonio Andrade argues brilliantly that the gunpowder age was as much the creation of China as of Europe. Let the controversy begin."--Timothy Brook, author of Mr. Selden's Map of China
"The Gunpowder Age is an important revisionist history that brings together a very impressive amount of new information and interpretation, and will be essential reading, much debated and built on by scholars of the early modern histories of both Europe and China."--John E. Wills, Jr., author of 1688: A Global History, and The World from 1450 to 1700
"Tonio Andrade's engaging book overturns much received wisdom about gunpowder warfare and the West's 'Military Revolution.' Examining the development of gunpowder weapons in China and Europe, he shows that the Chinese consistently experimented with and adopted new weapons to suit their needs, but that their dynamic empire eventually fell victim to its own military successes. This is a must-read for anyone interested in the relationship between war, society, and state in Asia or Europe."--Kenneth M. Swope, author of The Military Collapse of China's Ming Dynasty, 1618–44
"The Gunpowder Age is history that reads like a detective novel, telling a fascinating story that transforms our understanding of the impact of weapons technology."--S.C.M. Paine, author of The Wars for Asia, 1911–1949
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In fact, according to the author, some of the most ardent proponents of cutting edge weapons were part of the very Confucian class historians blame for China's later stagnation. Even when Europeans began producing better muskets and artillery than Chinese models, the latter enthusiastically adopted those weapons when they were reintroduced to China. It was this exchange of gunpowder-based weapons from east to west and back to the east that kept China on par with Europe militarily into the 18th century.
Andradre does highlight key European military advantages during this period: ships and fortresses. While Asian forces fought and often defeated Western forces in land engagements, Europeans held sway on the high seas with their sturdy ships equipped with powerful cannons. On land, despite Asian victories over Western forces, Asians were unable to breach new model fortress designs created by Europeans. On the other hand, China continued to adopt new weapons and keep pace with Western developments even during its humiliation at the hands of European powers and Japan in the 19th century. A shipyard in China during the last decade of that century churned out steam powered ships as advanced as any contemporary European or Japanese vessels. While mismanagement, factionalism, corruption, and lack of a strong central authority share blame for China's military weakness, Andrade adds another, yet very crucial factor...perhaps the most crucial of all: lack of warfare.
China's history is exceedingly bloody. Over its centuries of existence, China was racked with destructive wars often far exceeding in scale the violence afflicting Europe. But during the 18th and 19th centuries, China's pace of warfare slowed, while Europe's pace picked up. The Manchu Dynasty's wars of conquest pacified huge swathes of territory once ruled by menacing nomads. These successful military campaigns imposed a period of peace. This overall peace eroded China's military edge. Without constant wars, there was no need to invent new weapons and lesser need to innovate. Thus, China's parity lapsed, leaving it exposed to the newly industrialized might of Western predation.
Andrade takes this thesis and brings it to light in a brilliant elaboration that consigns China's weakness less to a constricting ideology and more to practical concerns. His explanation shatters long held myths about early modern Chinese military capability and its relation to the West.