The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History

Princeton University Press
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The Chinese invented gunpowder and began exploring its military uses as early as the 900s, four centuries before the technology passed to the West. But by the early 1800s, China had fallen so far behind the West in gunpowder warfare that it was easily defeated by Britain in the Opium War of 1839–42. What happened? In The Gunpowder Age, Tonio Andrade offers a compelling new answer, opening a fresh perspective on a key question of world history: why did the countries of western Europe surge to global importance starting in the 1500s while China slipped behind?

Historians have long argued that gunpowder weapons helped Europeans establish global hegemony. Yet the inhabitants of what is today China not only invented guns and bombs but also, as Andrade shows, continued to innovate in gunpowder technology through the early 1700s—much longer than previously thought. Why, then, did China become so vulnerable? Andrade argues that one significant reason is that it was out of practice fighting wars, having enjoyed nearly a century of relative peace, since 1760. Indeed, he demonstrates that China—like Europe—was a powerful military innovator, particularly during times of great warfare, such as the violent century starting after the Opium War, when the Chinese once again quickly modernized their forces. Today, China is simply returning to its old position as one of the world's great military powers.

By showing that China’s military dynamism was deeper, longer lasting, and more quickly recovered than previously understood, The Gunpowder Age challenges long-standing explanations of the so-called Great Divergence between the West and Asia.

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About the author

Tonio Andrade is professor of history at Emory University and the author of Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China's First Great Victory over the West (Princeton) and How Taiwan Became Chinese.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Jan 12, 2016
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Pages
448
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ISBN
9781400874446
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / China
History / Asia / General
History / General
History / Military / General
History / Military / Weapons
History / World
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Built upon a solid foundation of sources, memoirs, and interviews, this study sheds new light on China's efforts in the Vietnam War. Utilizing secondary works in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Western languages, and the author's own familiarity as a former member of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, this examination expands the knowledge of China's relations with the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) during the 1950s and 1960s.

As a communist state bordering Vietnam, China actively facilitated the transformation of Ho Chi Minh's army from a small, loosely organized, poorly equipped guerrilla force in the 1940s into a formidable, well-trained professional army capable of defeating first the French (1946--1954) and then the Americans (1963--1973). Even after the signing of the Geneva Peace Agreement, China continued to aggressively support Vietnam. Between 1955 and 1963, Chinese military aid totaled $106 million and these massive contributions enabled Ho Chi Minh to build up a strong conventional force. After 1964, China increased its aid and provided approximately $20 billion more in military and economic aid to Vietnam.

Western strategists and historians have long speculated about the extent of China's involvement in Vietnam, but it was not until recently that newly available archival materials revealed the true extent of China's influence -- its level of military assistance training, strategic advising, and monetary means during the war. This illuminating study answers questions about China's intention, objective, strategy, and operations of its involvement in the Vietnam Wars.

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The Great Divergence brings new insight to one of the classic questions of history: Why did sustained industrial growth begin in Northwest Europe, despite surprising similarities between advanced areas of Europe and East Asia? As Ken Pomeranz shows, as recently as 1750, parallels between these two parts of the world were very high in life expectancy, consumption, product and factor markets, and the strategies of households. Perhaps most surprisingly, Pomeranz demonstrates that the Chinese and Japanese cores were no worse off ecologically than Western Europe. Core areas throughout the eighteenth-century Old World faced comparable local shortages of land-intensive products, shortages that were only partly resolved by trade.

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“The bard of biological weapons captures the drama of the front lines.”—Richard Danzig, former secretary of the navy

The first major bioterror event in the United States-the anthrax attacks in October 2001-was a clarion call for scientists who work with “hot” agents to find ways of protecting civilian populations against biological weapons. In The Demon in the Freezer, his first nonfiction book since The Hot Zone, a #1 New York Times bestseller, Richard Preston takes us into the heart of Usamriid, the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland, once the headquarters of the U.S. biological weapons program and now the epicenter of national biodefense.

Peter Jahrling, the top scientist at Usamriid, a wry virologist who cut his teeth on Ebola, one of the world’s most lethal emerging viruses, has ORCON security clearance that gives him access to top secret information on bioweapons. His most urgent priority is to develop a drug that will take on smallpox-and win. Eradicated from the planet in 1979 in one of the great triumphs of modern science, the smallpox virus now resides, officially, in only two high-security freezers-at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta and in Siberia, at a Russian virology institute called Vector. But the demon in the freezer has been set loose. It is almost certain that illegal stocks are in the possession of hostile states, including Iraq and North Korea. Jahrling is haunted by the thought that biologists in secret labs are using genetic engineering to create a new superpox virus, a smallpox resistant to all vaccines.

Usamriid went into a state of Delta Alert on September 11 and activated its emergency response teams when the first anthrax letters were opened in New York and Washington, D.C. Preston reports, in unprecedented detail, on the government’ s response to the attacks and takes us into the ongoing FBI investigation. His story is based on interviews with top-level FBI agents and with Dr. Steven Hatfill.

Jahrling is leading a team of scientists doing controversial experiments with live smallpox virus at CDC. Preston takes us into the lab where Jahrling is reawakening smallpox and explains, with cool and devastating precision, what may be at stake if his last bold experiment fails.
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