Thursday, March 15, 2012

Gunpowder

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Origins of Gunpowder





The origins of gunpowder are shrouded in mystery. The confusion surrounding the appearance of the earliest firearms has caused considerable debate amongst historians of the subject. The difficulty arises due to the fact that gunpowder before its inception, and to some extent even after it, was not clearly differentiated from its attendant technologies; compounds holding very similar properties and serving analogous purposes. The use of incendiaries in war has been quite common since the earliest times. Since these weapons involved the use of fire, similar to gunpowder weapons, naturally it took time before people could discern between the distinct technologies. Therefore, to get to the root of the debate regarding the origins of gunpowder it is essential to delve deeper into the past and examine its predecessor incendiary devices, both military and non-military, which must have led to the development of gunpowder.


The first recorded use of incendiaries in warfare is around the ninth B.C. and is attributed to the Assyrian siege subjects. The enemies of Assyria used materials like torches, lighted tow, burning pitch and fire-pots in defense of their fortifications. These inflammables were thrown manually by the defenders onto the advancing Assyrian troops and wooden siege engines (Cowper, 177, p. 80). Records also indicate that all modern races which have used the bow appear to have used incendiary arrows. The earliest mention of this practice in war is by the Persians, under Xerxes, in the capture of Athens (480 B.C.). The first use of inflammable arrows by the Greeks is believed to be in the Peloponnesian war (4 B.C.), although the practice did not become common until after the death of Alexander the Great ( B.C.) (Partington, 1, p. 1). The earliest use of incendiaries by the Arabs is around A.D. 60; when the Muslim army, under the Prophet Mohammed, besieged the town of Taif and the defenders flung red-hot balls of clay at the attackers. Incendiary arrows were also used by Arabs in the first Muslim invasion of India (A.D. 71). Most probably the Arabs acquired incendiary devices either from the Greeks or the Persians (Partington, 1, p. 18). Although the records of distant Chinese history are sketchy at best, historians suggest that the Chinese had been using similar incendiary weapons for at least as long, if not longer, than the other civilizations. In a culture like the Chinese, where literary records were considered more important than the practical, the lack of mention of military prowess is expected. This is, perhaps, best emphasized by the fact that the people of China had been using incendiary devices, in the form of fireworks, for cultural and religious reasons before any other civilization in the world (Needham, 185). Since most structures and war engines in antiquity were created from wood, it was only natural that weapons involving the use of fire became quite popular; especially in siege warfare where incendiary weapons could be destructive against the wooden fortifications. By the start of the first century the employment in battle of weapons like the incendiary arrows, which had their heads wrapped in tow soaked in an inflammable liquid, and fire-pots to pour burning mixtures of sulphur and pitch on soldiers and siege-engines had become standard tactics in warfare. The use of incendiaries of this type continued for many centuries and the practice is believed to have gained almost universal appeal.


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It was around the end of the 7th century that a more potent and revolutionary incendiary weapon was developed. This weapon was called the Greek Fire and its first use is attributed to the Byzantines of Constantinople. The invention is widely accredited to a Greek engineer by the name of Callinicus, who fled his homeland of Heliopolis in Syria and arrived in Constantinople in the time of Constantine IV (A.D. 668-685) (Partington 1, p. 1). While some historians hold the opinion that Callinicus brought the secret of the invention with him (Archer, 00, p. 1), others reflect that if this was the case then the Arabs would at least have been familiar with the technology; the panic that spread through the ranks of the Arab military when they first became victims of this weapon suggests that this wasnt the case. The point of view of the latter historians is that Greek Fire might actually have been a product of the works of the Constantinople chemists, who had inherited the discoveries of the Alexandrian chemical school. In their opinion the association of Callinicus with Greek Fire could have been a mistake since there was a prevalent misconception that people from foreign lands alone could come up with new innovations (Partington, 1, p. 1).


Although the chemical composition of “Greek Fire has been a topic of debate amongst historians of the subject, it is generally accepted that it was a petroleum based substance containing a mixture of pitch, resin and sulphur. This information fits well with the theory that Greek Fire was developed in Constantinople because the required knowledge of distillation was present in those parts in that time. Records indicate that Stephanos, a famous alchemist from Constantinople who lived in the seventh century, knew the techniques of distilling natural petroleum seepages to give lower boiling-point fractions (Partington, 1, p. 1). It must have been these rectified components of petroleum, much like our present day petrol, which were used as a basis for the Greek Fire mixture.


From its inception Greek Fire was mainly employed in naval warfare where it could be used to set enemy ships on fire. The characteristics of Greek Fire that made it a revolutionary agent of destruction and separated it from the other numerous incendiary weapons of the time were it was liquid in nature, it could burn in water, it was sprayed from tubes or siphons and a loud boom accompanied the propulsion of the liquid. Most historians regard the heating and propulsion mechanism associated with the weapon as important as the incendiary mixture itself. It is believed that the chemical substance (i.e. the incendiary mixture) was heated and pressurized in closed containers below deck and was then passed through pipes with a valve that released the jet of liquid. As the liquid left the nozzle a torch ignited the mixture and the elevation and distance of the spray could be controlled by turning the nozzle in the appropriate direction (Archer, 00, p. 1). Historical accounts suggest that although the chemical composition of Greek Fire was probably an invention of the Byzantine chemists, Callinicus might well have developed the projection system that made the weapon so effective and revolutionary. This important contribution could be one reason why the invention is generally accredited to his name.


Greek Fire was indeed a marvel of chemical engineering and its success in battle was not less than spectacular. It was first used by the Byzantines of Constantinople, under the command of Constantine IV, against an Arab invading force led by Yazid, son of Khalifa Muawiya, around the period A.D. 674-80 (Partington, 1, p. 1). The Arabs were utterly dismayed to be at the receiving end of this mysterious incendiary, which burnt fiercely and clung to anything combustible - wood, sail, clothing - and would not be extinguished by water. However, they did benefit from this experience and with abundant supplies of petroleum in their own country aiding their plight, by the time of the Crusades (107-170), the Muslim army was equipped with their own version of Greek Fire. The Arabs, or Saracens as the Crusaders called them, employed special naphtha troops in their forces; who wore fireproof clothing and used incendiary weapons (Partington, 1, p. ). After suffering extensively from its use in the siege of Constantinople, now the Muslims used the same Greek Fire on their own enemies.


The result was a monumental success; the Crusaders were terrified of this prodigious fire that would fly at them through the air, hissing fiercely, in the shape of a long spear. Accounts of the time suggest that many of the victims of Greek Fire would throw themselves on the ground and would beg the Lord for mercy rather than attempt to defend themselves, some in their panic would even jump overboard and drown rather than risk being touched by, what in their opinion was the demonic fire (Cowper, 177, p. 81). The use of Greek Fire after the Third Crusade receives almost no mention in accounts of the time which has led some historians to jump to the conclusion that the secret of the weapon was lost with the death of the close family descendants of Callinicus. Some even propose the view that this loss of technology might ultimately have played a part in the downfall of the Byzantine Empire (Archer, 00, p. 1). It might be true that the composition of Greek Fire was a closely guarded secret in the time of Constantine IV; there was even a rumor propagated that the secret had been delivered as a gift to the emperor by an angel (Volkman, 00, p. 54). However, it is highly unlikely that the recipe for such a device could be lost to the world; there were in those times equally competent chemists in Muslim lands who had no less ability in devising a weapon of such nature. Also, there is evidence that suggests that Greek Fire was used in the Fifth Crusade, and more importantly, by both sides (Partington, 1, p. 5). The more probable reason as to why Greek Fire receives little mention after the Third Crusade is because the Christian armies had also learnt the secret of the weapon and thus it became less of a factor in battle.


It would be fair to say that Greek Fire was the forefather of later day incendiary and explosive devices; it paved the way for future developments that ultimately led to the invention of gunpowder. The panic it generated and the fear it instilled was reminiscent of the early days of gunpowder use itself. There are researchers who have claimed that Greek Fire could be termed as a prototype of gunpowder; these people suggest that it was explosive in nature rather than being just an inflammable agent (Cowper, 177, p. 8). However, the belief in its detonative quality implies that it must have constituted of potassium nitrate, or saltpeter, as the naturally occurring form of it is known, and there is strong evidence that the purified form of saltpeter was not known before the middle of the 1th century. Although saltpeter, in its crude form, exists in many places in Asia, Africa and Europe, its nitrate content is very low and there are so many dissolved calcium and magnesium salts in the compound that without purification it is useless for making gunpowder (Partington, 1, p. 14). Thus, the purification of saltpeter and the development of gunpowder are intricately connected to each other; to an extent that early gunners called saltpeter the soul of the powder (Archer, 00, p. 1). It is the presence of saltpeter in the formula that gives gunpowder its remarkable explosive properties, and thus distinguishes it from all other known incendiary devices of the time.


To trace the history of saltpeter is to embark on a journey as treacherous as the ordeal of discovering the origins of gunpowder itself. Once a person appreciates the importance of the former to the latter, it is fathomable that after the discovery of the first, the second would follow soon after. However, history suggests that this has not been the case. The earliest known source of saltpeter was probably India; a country endowed with vast masses of nitrate rich soils, especially around the plains of Bengal (Partington, 1, p. 14). However, the history of the land hardly lends itself to a thorough analysis pertaining to use of early firearms and incendiaries. There is a serious lack of scientific literature from the region, and the few works that exist of that time are too contaminated with myths and fables to provide conclusive evidence that the explosive properties of saltpeter were known to the natives. The Hindus, like the Chinese, had been using incendiaries in the form of fireworks since the earliest times, but the mention of saltpeter in their recipes is at best vague. The fact that a very limited amount of incendiaries were employed in defense during the Muslim invasions of India has led many historians to infer that the Hindus did not realize the explosive potential of saltpeter till a much later date, and therefore did not play a significant part in the invention of gunpowder (Partington, 1, p. 15). The lack of sources on the subject makes it almost impossible to refute or prove that claim. Therefore, to continue our attempt to gain insight on the origins of saltpeter, we will shift our focus to neighboring China; another country with abundant natural deposits of the compound.


The Chinese have a strong claim of being the first to realize the explosive potential of saltpeter; it is believed that they knew of this secret before it had been uncovered in Europe or in Arab lands. Experts on the subject suggest that the invention arose out of the obscure works of the Taoist alchemists who were, ironically, searching for elixirs of life and material immortality. Although, a lot of the information before the tenth century is vague and littered with frivolous detail, recent records prove that the structure of medieval Chinese alchemy was both unexpectedly complex and sophisticated (Needham, 185, p. ). Saltpeter might have been known as early as A.D. 00 to the Taoist alchemist Ko Hung (A.D. 65-17), and there is reason to believe that during the Sung dynasty (A.D. 60-17) it was used in both pyrotechnic displays and in military devices (Partington, 1, p. 87). Chinese had been experimenting with fireworks since archaic times, the purpose of the exercise was mostly religious; they believed that shooting in the sky would chase away the demons (Van Creveld, 11, p. 8). Some of the rockets used for this purpose might have constituted of saltpeter amongst other ingredients, but the compound was in its crude form and contained a low percentage of nitrate compared to modern gunpowder; such a mixture would burn fiercely rather than explode. Around A.D. 1044 the Chinese started making simple bombs that had all the vital ingredients of todays gunpowder - saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal - along with other materials such as vegetable oil and arsenic compounds (Partington, 1, p. 87). However, since the saltpeter was still not refined, these weapons did not have the explosive effect of true gunpowder. All such bombs were meant to be lobbed at the enemy since the concept of using the mixture for methods of propulsion did not exist. There was a gradual increase in the detonative nature of these bombs as time progressed. The phi li phao (thunderclap bombs) were replaced by chen thien lei (thundercrash bombs, used around 1); the latter being higher in nitrate content and therefore more explosive (Needham, 185, p. 6). By A.D. 110 the Chinese developed another weapon, huo chhian (fire-lance), which was essentially a tube filled with a composition resembling gunpowder, albeit low in nitrate, held at the end of a long spear; something approximating the modern flame-thrower. The tubes were initially made of hardened paper, which was eventually replaced by bamboo (Needham, 185, p. ). This shift from the spherical shape of incendiary weapons to the cylindrical was a big jump in the direction of developing propellant weapons using the force of gunpowder, hence the fire-lance might well be called a prototype of a gun. The effort behind the development of such firearms by the Chinese was most probably inspired by the threat of a Mongol invasion.


From the above discussion we can conclude that the Chinese were probably the first to realize the explosive potential of saltpeter. They went as far as to invent a mixture that had all the ingredients of modern day gunpowder, and in the process developed the first cylindrical device for projecting incendiaries. However, they never succeeded in purifying the saltpeter to remove its naturally occurring impurities; therefore they did not manage to harness the full explosive capability of the compound. The performance of Chinese weapons was certainly hampered by this fact, and it could be one reason why they never came up with a very effective propellant device; something that would use the explosive power of the powder to fire projectiles instead of being thrown itself like the traditional bombs and grenades. To their credit, the Chinese were the pioneers in putting together the ingredients of gunpowder and using it for weapons and pyrotechnic displays. It can be argued that they were facilitated by abundant supplies of saltpeter in their country, relatively rich in nitrate compared to the deposits occurring in other parts of the world, however, when you take into account the fact that before the 1th century almost all of Europe and the Arab lands were virtually ignorant of the explosive potential of saltpeter, it was no small achievement for a culture that, according to the experts (Needham, 185), traditionally kept the military under the subservient command of the civil bureaucracy.


Now that we have traced the history of gunpowder origins to a point where we are very near the modern day composition of the powder, we can begin to anticipate the final metamorphosis that resulted in an invention that had far reaching repercussions all around the world. This requires that we shift our attention to the Arab world. Records of the time suggest that saltpeter was probably unknown to the Arabs around the first quarter of the 1th century. The Liber Ignium, or the Book of Fire, one of the most famous texts in the history of incendiaries and gunpowder, mentions saltpeter in a recipe dated A.D. 150. Although, identifying the author of the book has been a matter of great controversy, the numerous Greek references in the text suggest, to most historians, Arabic sources (Partington, 1, p. 4). To their credit, the Arabs had preserved a vast amount of old Greek scientific knowledge in their libraries that had otherwise been lost to the world. Amongst the knowledge that the Arabs inherited from the Greek, probably by way of Syria, was the work of the Alexandrian alchemists, which provided a strong foundation for future Muslim endeavors in chemistry. The knowledge of saltpeter probably permeated to the Arab world through the Mongols, who in turn must have learnt it from China in their various incursions into that territory. Some Arab texts also refer to saltpeter as snow from China, which further strengthens this fact (Archer, 00, p. 1). Therefore, one can believe, without too many pinches of salt that the Arabs came to know of saltpeter, which they called barud, around the middle of the 1th century.


There were in those days many Muslim scientists of great competence. Hasan al-Rammah, a Syrian chemist, gave the first comprehensive account of the purification process for crude saltpeter in the last quarter of the 1th century. Hasan al-Rammahs work contained numerous recipes for fireworks and incendiary weapons and referred extensively to Chinese materials, which again emphasizes the fact that the knowledge of saltpeter came to the Arabs from Chinese sources (Partington, 1, p. 00). However, while the latter introduced the crude form of saltpeter in pyrotechnics and incendiaries, it was the Arabs who extended this borrowed knowledge, and, by successfully refining saltpeter, increased the explosive power of gunpowder by a substantial degree. The fertile minds of the time could now begin to grasp the concept of using gunpowder in devising propellant weapons; a brainchild that must have been catalyzed by the development of the improved form of the powder, which had a markedly greater detonative strength than anything previously known. This revolutionary change was only possible once the technique for refining saltpeter was developed, thus Hasan Al-Ramahs work was of great significance; true gunpowder was now born.


Before we conclude the debate regarding the origins of gunpowder, we have one last stepping stone to tread, namely Europe. It strikes one as a bit ironic that the region that ultimately had the greatest say in the development and use of gunpowder weapons, might actually have contributed the least, compared to the Chinese and Arabs, in the actual development of the invention. It is not entirely clear if the knowledge of gunpowder in Europe was propagated by way of Chinese sources or else it arrived through Arab countries; both options are equally likely. According to most historians, it was the earliest missionaries to China, who brought back strange contraptions containing mixtures of saltpeter and other chemicals, who sparked interest in the subject of explosive powder in the region. One such device, probably a firework from China, ended up in the hands of Roger Bacon in England around A.D. 148 (Volkman, 00, p. 61). This is roughly around the same time the Arabs got to know about such incendiary devices from the Chinese. Bacon was an eminent scientist of the time who had an excellent understanding of chemistry. He analyzed the powder that made the firework pop so fiercely, and once he had conceived the actual composition of the mixture he experimented extensively with varying proportions of components found in the original powder. His texts are ample proof that he acquired great familiarity with such explosive mixtures, and was knowledgeable of the skill of making gunpowder. However, Bacon suspected potential danger if such a discovery became known to the common man, therefore he wrote his formula for making gunpowder in the form of a cryptogram. Bacon also proposed a technique for refining saltpeter, which further emphasizes his understanding of the properties of gunpowder, but since most of Bacons work is difficult to decipher and the translations are prone to manipulations, there are varying opinions on the genuineness of his claims (Partington, 1, p. 78). Although there are a few historians who take Roger Bacon to be the inventor of gunpowder (Volkman, 00, p. 61), I think that the above discussion, combined with previous examinations, provides us with a basis to reject this viewpoint.


Before we end this discussion, there is one more myth, concerning the invention of gunpowder that needs to be dispelled. Some European historians, mostly northern Protestant writers, have claimed that gunpowder was invented by an obscure German alchemist by the name of Berthold Schwartz. The legend tells of Schwartz, around A.D. 100, witnessing a violent explosion in his home while heating a nitrate rich mixture containing sulphur, this motivated him into investigating the composition of the mixture which eventually resulted in the discovery of gunpowder (Archer, 00, p. 0). Records of the time contain no certain proof that Schwartz even existed (Partington, 1, p. 6). Even if such a figure did exist, we have earlier concluded that gunpowder was known in several parts of the world before the beginning of the 14th century. The aim of the Schwartz story seems to be to bestow the glory of the invention on one single person, or nation. It might be a way for the historian to escape the great complexity and mystery surrounding the origins of gunpowder. The history of gunpowder, as we have shown, is not a simple stroll back in time, but follows a perplexing path riddled with many unknowns.


Chemistry of Gunpowder


The account of the history of gunpowder has, hitherto, eluded a detailed discussion of the actual chemical properties that make gunpowder such a destructive fire agent. Now that we have a clear vision of how the invention came about, the time is ripe to indulge in such a discussion. A scientific analysis will help us understand the chemical nature of gunpowder, and we will be able to better appreciate its revolutionary role in the development of warfare. However, before we describe the chemical reactions that take place during the ignition of the powder, we need to distinguish it from the other firearms and incendiary weapons that have often been confused with its use.


The earliest types of incendiaries used in warfare were mostly mixtures of oils, pitch and sulphur. They were slow burning materials and were mostly used to cover the heads of incendiary arrows. Greek Fire came as a revolution; it was made of distilled petroleum and its lower boiling point meant it burnt much more quickly than the other existing incendiaries of the time. However, it was still only an incendiary and had to be projected by purely mechanical means; this meant that its propulsion speed could not be very fast. Once the shock value of Greek Fire was reduced, its victims must have realized that, provided they keep their wits, they had ample time to dodge a shot from this weapon. The next category of combustible materials was the mixtures made by the Chinese for use in fireworks. Since some of these constituted of saltpeter, it can be said that these fire agents signaled the beginning of the gunpowder era. But since the saltpeter used was low in nitrate, these mixtures went through deflagration, or intense burning, instead of causing an explosion on ignition. Weapons like the thundercrash bombs, used by the Chinese around mid-thirteenth century, make for another category of firearms. The mixtures used in these weapons had a much higher content of nitrate and they contained all the ingredients of true gunpowder (i.e. saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal), in addition to hydrocarbons like arsenic compounds. Such mixtures would explode with appreciable noise in a closed space, but still did not maximize the explosive potential of the mixture because the proper proportion of ingredients was not known. The final stage of development would come with the discovery of modern day gunpowder. The mixture for this contained refined saltpeter, rich in potassium nitrate, along with sulphur and charcoal in an approximately 75 15 10 ratio (Partington, 1, p. 66). Such a composition would detonate with great force if ignited, and its explosive strength made it suitable to be used as a propellant in guns and cannons. Compared to its predecessor weapons like the Greek Fire, gunpowder was a much deadlier agent of destruction, for not only did it create mayhem with its loud noise on ignition, weapons made using gunpowder as a propellant could now use force generated by chemical reactions, instead of relying on purely mechanical means, to shoot projectiles; this cut short the reaction time given to its victims by orders of magnitudes.





From the above discussion we can infer that the distinguishing property of gunpowder from other firearms was the inclusion of refined saltpeter in its recipe. The reason for this being that saltpeter has this astonishing property of increasing the inflammability of any substances mixed with it by prodigious amounts. If saltpeter alone is thrown into a fire, it will only melt and turn red hot without any hint of explosion. But if an inflammable substance, like sulphur or charcoal, is mixed with saltpeter and thrown into the fire, the mixture will instantly burn in a violent blaze. A part of the saltpeter, equal to the quantity of the inflammable substance added to it, will be consumed in this explosion (Robins, 17, p. XXVI). During this process of combustion, gases are released that expand to require over a thousand times the space occupied by the original mixture (Archer, 00, p. 1). It is precisely this release of energy that gives gunpowder its explosive nature. It is not difficult to note, that once this phenomena was understood, it was only a matter of time before the concept of harnessing this energy for firing projectiles was evolved. The reaction for this process can be represented by the following equation


KNO + S + C --------- KS + N + CO


Although not shown by the equation, the above process also releases amounts of carbon


monoxide and potassium carbonate as by-products. The above reaction corresponds


approximately to the combustion of gunpowder containing saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal in the proportions 75 1 1 respectively. This is, by theoretical considerations, the ideal composition for gunpowder (Partington, 1, p. 8).


By now we can clearly appreciate the significance of saltpeter in the formula for gunpowder. This crucial ingredient must, however, be purified before it is fit to be used. From our previous discussions on gunpowder history, it is known to us that the discovery of the refining techniques for saltpeter played a significant part in the development of modern day gunpowder. Therefore, it is worthwhile to analyze these techniques in slightly more detail. Saltpeter, or niter as it is also called, is a gray-white mineral of potassium nitrate. This mineral is mostly found in cavernous places devoid of sunlight and any source of fresh water. It can be found in abundance in places like horse stables, cattle pastures and places where urine is discharged (Simienowicz, 171, p. 0). In its crude form the mineral is usually mixed with common salt, sodium chloride, and contaminated with deliquescent calcium and magnesium salts. The purification can be done to some extent by simple recrystallization from water, which separates the sodium chloride, but to fully remove the calcium and magnesium salts requires a treatment using potassium carbonate, or potash, in the form of wood ashes. The nitrates in crude saltpeter react with the potash to form calcium or magnesium carbonates, both highly insoluble salts, leaving potassium nitrate, or pure saltpeter, in the solution (Partington, 1, p. XXV). The technique by recrystallization was first given by Roger Bacon, who may also have known the procedure using wood ashes, but the first comprehensive account of the latter method was given by Hassan al-Rammah (Partington, 1, p. 14). We will in turn go over both the techniques.


The refining by crystallization involves first washing the natural saltpeter and removing all visible impurities. The mineral is then dissolved in water and put over a gentle fire to boil until no more scum is visible on the surface. The impurities at the top are skimmed and thrown away. The fire is increased until the solution becomes quite clear. The contents of this solution are left to crystallize over a low fire. The water is then drawn off and the deposits of refined saltpeter are collected from the bottom of the container as crystals (Partington, 1, p. 74, 01).


The method of purification by wood ashes requires that we take dry willow wood, burn it and immerse the ashes in water. Then we take three parts by weight of saltpeter and the third part of the wood ashes that have been compressed to fine powder, and put the mixture in a container. Water is added and heat is applied until the ashes and saltpeter do not cling to each other. The latter has now been purified from calcium and magnesium salts (Partington, 1, p. 01).


Now that we have knowledge of the purification techniques of saltpeter, it is covetable to note a simple technique by which one can prove if the refined mineral is fit for making gunpowder. This can be done by putting a sample of the purified saltpeter on a wooden board and setting fire to it with a live coal. If the mineral burns with a bright flame leaving no residue of viscous particles or dirt, we can be satisfied that the saltpeter is suitable to be used in gunpowder preparation (Simienowicz, 171, p. 7).


Hitherto, we have gained familiarity with the ingredients of gunpowder; their purification, desired proportion and the chemical reactions that take place once the powder is ignited. It is a good opportunity to make some comments on the subject of preparing gunpowder. However, it must be realized that a detailed discussion of this subject is beyond the scope of this paper. Manufacture of gunpowder became an immensely important and widely practiced trade once the incredible potentials of the invention were realized. Gunnery became an art; with nations, all around the globe, competing to come up with the best composition of powder for their particular needs.


The result was the emergence of a vast quantity of variants of gunpowder customized for different weapons and purposes. The tale is indeed long and winding. However, on a more positive note, the underlying fundamentals of the manufacturing process can be encapsulated by the very simple method for gunpowder preparation that is presented in this paper. Also, its worth noting that despite the existence of so many alternative forms of gunpowder, the science behind their functioning remains, more or less, the same.


Gunpowder can be created by taking appropriate quantities of refined saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal and boiling them in water inside an earthen pot. Once all the water has evaporated and the mixture has become thick, we leave the contents of the pot out in the sun to dry. The dried mixture is then grinded upon a smooth polished stone. It is then moistened and corned (Simienowicz, 171, p. 10). Corning is the art of splitting the powder into very small grains. A homogeneous powder with uniform granules has enhanced explosive characteristics because it permits a better flow of oxygen during combustion (Archer, 00, p. 1).


This technical analysis of gunpowder would be incomplete without some further reflection on the proportion of ingredients in the powder. As mentioned previously, the theoretically ideal composition is approximately 75 1 1 parts of saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal respectively. It is logical to suppose that during the early days of the invention, the experiments were done on a trial and error basis starting from a 1 1 1 composition. Roger Bacons formula for gunpowder had a 7 5 5 mixture ratio while the recipe in the Liber Ignium, attributed to an Arabic source, had a mixture ratio of 6 1 (Partington, 1, p. 4). Generally, a composition with higher percentage of saltpeter is regarded as a better mixture; powders with lower nitrate content give large proportion of poisonous carbon monoxide due to incomplete combustion and thus, have lesser explosive potential.


As the gunpowder revolution kicked in, people started experimenting with varying proportions of components in an effort to develop the ideal composition for a particular weapon. This resulted in nations preparing their own different versions of gunpowder; the ratio of ingredients tweaked to suit their weapons of preference. Further changes were at hand as gunpowder gradually started receiving use in non-military occupations. A slow powder containing sodium nitrate instead of potassium nitrate and sawdust instead of charcoal was developed to be used in coal mines in the mid-nineteenth century. However, since sodium nitrate absorbs moisture from the atmosphere at a fast rate, this powder was very difficult to keep fresh. A safe powder for mining purposes was also developed that contained, besides the regular ingredients, a mixture of ammonium and copper sulphate. The purpose of these salts being to reduce the temperature of the flame (Partington, 1, p. 7). These are but a few examples of the numerous variants of gunpowder that have been devised. Research on the composition of gunpowder has shown that the inflammability of the powder is not greatly dependent on the ratio of the mixture. The propulsive force, however, depends on the burning rate and volume of gases, both of which depend on the mixture ratio. Sulphur content also makes a difference in powder characteristics; a higher content gives the powder a longer shelf-life. The particular wood used for the charcoal though does not affect the powder much, provided it is fully charred (Partington, 1, p. 4). As a final word, it must be said that although theoretical ideals have been devised for gunpowder compositions, what is more important than mixture ratios is the method of manufacturing gunpowder. A uniformly granular and intimately mixed powder is necessary for complete combustion. Preparing good gunpowder is thus, as much of an art as it is a science.


Gunpowder as a Revolutionary


According to Francis Bacon, the famous sixteenth century philosopher, gunpowder was one of the three discoveries that revolutionized the whole world (Needham, 185, p. 1). The chronology of events following the discovery seems to give validity to such a claim. The invention had far reaching ramifications that transcended the more obvious military revolution. Indeed, the business of warfare was completely transformed by the advent of gunpowder. The coming of the gunpowder age spelled an end to the era of using only brute human or animal strength in matters of warfare. Weapons employing purely biological sources of power could now be replaced with deadlier instruments harnessing forces derived by chemical reactions. This constituted a fundamental change in the way people thought about war. Human prowess was now not the only factor in battle; technology became an essential part of any major armed conflict. Besides the more apparent military changes, there were more subtle, but not any less important, non-military spin-offs of the invention; the arrival of gunpowder caused remarkable social and cultural upheavals that were to leave a permanent mark on humankind.


Admittedly, the speed with which these changes materialized was quite slow initially; the reason being the inefficiency of the earliest firearms. Similar to the controversy regarding the origins of gunpowder, the emergence of the primordial guns is a matter of debate. It was earlier concluded that the Chinese invented the huo chhian, or the fire-lance, around A.D. 110. This weapon was powered by a mixture approximating modern day gunpowder and had a cylindrical shape; for these reasons the fire-lance might well be regarded as the prototype of a gun. Once the explosive mixture was ignited, the weapon would spew forth its ammunition, usually pottery fragments or stone pellets, in a scattered burst. The fire-lance probably saw extensive use in the frequent Mongol invasions into China (Needham, 185, p. 11). Word of such weapons must have leaked through to Arab lands, for in the early twelfth century some Muslim armies were using what they called a madfaa. This was essentially a wooden pot on top of which a stone ball was rested, something resembling an egg in an egg cup. Under the stone an explosive mixture was burnt, the resulting explosion would launch the stone out of the pot. This was a highly inaccurate and inefficient weapon owing to its very flawed design. Wood is one of the worst possible materials to contain explosive gases, and the idea of resting the stone above the explosive mixture significantly lessened the propellant strength of the gases underneath (Volkman, 00, p. 67). Also, it must be noted that true gunpowder had not been developed by this time; the proto-gunpowder used in these weapons was ill suited for propellant devices and thus, these weapons lacked the punch of latter day firearms.


It was not until the end of the 1th century, when the secret of gunpowder had been dissipated to Arab and Muslim lands, that the Chinese came up with a new weapon that was a vast improvement over the earlier firearms. The name for it was I pa lien, and it consisted of a large squat vase made of iron with a blast-proof chamber at the bottom. The vase was loaded with a sheaf of arrows which would be dispelled outwards with great velocity due to the explosion of gunpowder in the chamber. This weapon embodied the three basic features of modern firearms it had a barrel made of metal, used an explosive mixture with high percentage of nitrate and the projectile to be fired totally filled the muzzle causing the propellant gases to exert maximum force. Owing to these reasons, this device might well be called the first true gun (Needham, 185, p. 14). It is interesting to note that till this stage firearms had been developed independently in China without diffusion of knowledge from any other culture. The Arabs had, due to their proximity to China, gained some know-how of such weapons but their early military experimentations did not yield much success. On the other hand, Europe was totally ignorant of gunpowder and the potential of its use in devising weapons before the mid-thirteenth century. However, the scenario was to change drastically once the word on gunpowder and its military potential got out in Europe and the Muslim lands. No one, not even the people with the keenest foresight, could have anticipated the breathtaking speed with which the development of gunpowder weapons took place in these lands.


The earliest guns outside China appeared in the early part of the 14th century. Despite Roger Bacons effort to keep the secret of gunpowder intact, western travelers and traders to China must have heard reports of such revolutionary weapons of fire. In a war-minded culture like the one prevalent in Europe at the time, it is hardly surprising that such developments sparked huge interest. It was only a matter of time before Europeans deduced the secret of guns and started devising their own versions. The first mention appears to be in Germany in A.D. 14. Metallurgists in the city of Metz designed an enlarged version of the Chinese vase shaped gun made of short iron tubes joined by steel hoops. But to suit their needs of the time, they used these devices to fire spherical stone balls instead of arrows (Volkman, 00, p. 68). Similar weapons started appearing in other parts of Europe around the same time; in Florence in 16 and in Britain in 17 (Van Creveld, 11, p. 86). After about 10 the use of such guns became a norm in European military affairs. The English used “bombards”, the name given to large guns employed for siege purposes, in the siege of Calais (146-47) and in the Battle of Crecy (146) in the early stages of the Hundred Years War (Archer, 00, p. ). Muslim armies too sensed the importance of this new weapon and were quick to employ it in battle. Mohammed IV, the Moorish king of Granada, is alleged to have used guns in the attack of Orihuela and Alicante in 11. There is also evidence that the Mamluks and the manufactured bombards by the 160s (Cipolla, 165, p. 0).


If truth be told, the early forms of guns were incredibly inefficient and awkward to use in battle. For several years after the emergence of these firearms neither soldiers nor scientists could explain the exact principles governing the almost instantaneous passage of a projectile from the muzzle of a gun to a distant object with such brutal destructiveness. The result was that such bombards were wildly inaccurate and unpredictable. Due to the lack of proper technical knowledge required to construct these weapons, it was not uncommon for guns to fracture during the explosive ignition of gunpowder; many such accidents would wipe out the working crew of the bombards. As siege weapons these weapons were also not very successful because the stone shots they fired were liable to shatter against the thick castle walls (Volkman, 00, p. 6). However, despite their apparent inadequacies these heavy bombards still found widespread use in warfare, mainly because they offered a great psychological edge; the loud noise and fire that they emitted was a phenomenon never before seen in battle. Indeed, it would be fair to say that the early guns had a bark much more severe than their bite. The early gunners in an effort to increase the effectiveness of guns came up with a simple solution increase the size of the guns so more massive stone shots could be thrown. This resulted in an arms race which saw gigantic bombards being built that could throw stones weighing in excess of five hundred pounds. In fact, according to historians, the most striking aspect of the early history of guns is the great size that they soon attained. Mons Meg, a British bombard of the fifteenth century, weighed no less than 14,560 pounds (Cipolla, 165, p.). This tendency towards massiveness also meant that these bombards became extremely immobile devices, their lack of mobility made them suitable only for siege purposes where ample time could be given to placement and the arduous task of preparing these guns to fire. The classic example of the employment of such heavy bombards in battle is the Ottoman siege of Byzantine Constantinople in A.D. 145.


Constantinople in those times was considered an impregnable fortress with extremely thick walls that had withstood determined attacks for several centuries. In an effort to breach these walls Sultan Mehmood II employed a Hungarian gunner by the name of Urban, who had abandoned his work with the Byzantines following a dispute over wages. The sultan demanded guns strong enough to beat down the legendary walls of Constantinople. One of the bombards cast by Urban is rumored to have been almost nine meters in length with walls eight inches thick. This gun, named the Mahometta, was built of hooped iron and was capable of firing stones weighing almost twelve hundred pounds with a range of almost a mile. This gigantic device was transported using thirty wagons linked together and pulled by sixty oxen. A team of carpenters was also required to upgrade the roads and reinforce bridges on the route by which this bombard was hauled towards Constantinople. The great difficulty in transporting this heavy gun convinced Urban to cast other bombards at the site where they were to be used, outside the walls of the besieged city, rather than at a faraway location, for it proved easier to haul the raw materials needed for the bombard than the massive weapon itself. Once the siege progressed, these heavy guns were to prove decisive as they wrecked havoc with the high stone walls of the city. The largest guns, including the Mahometta, were however a failure since they were very cumbersome and could only manage five or six shots a day due to their long reloading time. To prevent fractures the gunners had to cool their barrels with heavy wool soaked in oil after every couple of shots. Even then some of these guns broke down and could not be repaired. But despite these setbacks, Constantinople was helpless against the savage and relentless assault from the heavy bombards. Rumor has it that women would faint due to the tremendous noise produced by the giant guns, pregnant women would even suffer miscarriages (Archer, 00, p. 7; Cipolla, 165, p. 4). Although it might be difficult to attest the authenticity of such claims, it is evident, without a shred of doubt, that the heavy bombards played a critical role in the victory of the Turks. The city of Constantinople became just one of the many victims of the gunpowder revolution.


Although the Ottomans secured victory against Byzantine Constantinople using massive bombards, the obvious shortcomings of such weapons in the long term were quickly ascertained by the more shrewd observers of the time. By far the greatest leaps forward were made in Europe. It is a little ironic that the Europeans, who had lagged behind in the discovery of gunpowder, became the clear leaders in the development and use of firearms, outstripping both the Chinese and the Arabs. From the onset of the gunpowder revolution, Europe opened up a sizeable lead in matters of weapon technology and this lead was never allowed to dwindle, instead it only increased with the passage of time. The reasons why Europe was greatly affected by the gunpowder revolution are obvious when one considers the superiority of firearms over the weapons that were in use before the advent of gunpowder. The more plausible question might be as to why the Chinese and the Arabs did not react with the same enthusiasm as the Europeans to the arrival of the new technology. To answer this question requires a deeper look at the prevalent cultures of these lands.


It is a remarkable fact that the Chinese, pioneers in the invention of gunpowder and the earliest firearms, never managed to produce advanced artillery that could compare with the guns made in Europe. The Chinese culture had always been characterized by insularity; the history of the land is witness to the fact that the effect of the influx of knowledge from the outside world was kept at a minimum while there was a much greater diffusion of knowledge outwards. But then the Chinese civilization had always put itself at the center of the world and considered all foreigners as barbarians. Confucianism, the official ideology of the land, also stressed on ethics, morals and the acceptance of the world as it was; it argued that mankind should adapt to the universe rather than try to change it (Volkman, 00, p. 85). It was due to this mindset that the Chinese never developed the same appetite for all out military development that inspired the more technical-minded and warlike monarchs of the West.


In the case of the Arabs, the story is a bit different. Muslim armies, before the advent of gunpowder weapons, held a clear advantage over their European adversaries in matters of field warfare. Their armies were larger in number, better disciplined and were tactically stronger owing to the high mobility of their light cavalry (Cipolla, 165, p. 1). Their weakness lied in the subject of siege warfare, where they had to face strong defensive bastions of the Europeans. With the coming of the gunpowder revolution, Muslims found in the heavy bombards the kind of weapon they most badly needed. It is impressive how quickly they learnt the new techniques and started employing them in battle. But almost as impressive is the fact that they never went beyond the initial stages of firearm development. Muslims forces instead of devising newer more efficient designs of guns became obsessed with building larger and larger bombards. This misjudgment on their part was probably due to the fact that they were very much aware of their tactical and strategic superiority over the Europeans in open field battles, and therefore did not feel a need to extend the use of guns in field warfare (Cipolla, 165, p. 8). Also, in the passage of time following the gunpowder revolution there were always skilled foreign craftsmen available who could be hired by the Muslim armies to construct firearms for their use when needed (Volkman, 00, p. 84). Reliance on foreign technicians, despite the presence of many qualified Muslim scientists in the land, caused the development of military science to stagnate and became one of the primary reason for the downfall of the Muslims. Their reluctance to adapt to the changing world and the reliance on outdated tactics, that would eventually become ineffective against firearms, would ultimately cost them an empire.


Meanwhile, the speed of military development in Europe, in wake of the gunpowder revolution, would reach a frenetic pace. And as is so often the case with such matters, the greatest advances were made along frontiers where relationships between people were characterized by constant war. The chronic battleground between England and France served as an ideal platform for further endeavors in firearm development. The French were probably inspired in their efforts due to the need to checkmate the revolutionary weapon of the English, the longbow, that was threatening to drastically tilt the balance of power against them. At Agincourt in 1415, the English longbow men had inflicted a heavy defeat on a numerically superior French army and in the process occupied northern France, sending shivers down the spine of the French monarchy. Charles VII, the king of France at the time and a man with great military intellect, vowed to expel the English from his land (Volkman, 00, p. 66). In this hour of dire need, the French turned to science for help. The greatest military technicians from around Europe from were rounded up and paid handsomely to devise a solution that would rid them of the English. The result of this research would be a wonder weapon that would not only provide France a military superiority over the English but would forever change the face of warfare. In 1450, the French and English armies would square off again in battle at the village of Montigny. The English, prepared for a French infantry assault, readied their longbow men for attack. But the French, instead of charging, stayed away from the range of the longbow men and fired their own wonder weapon. Amidst the thunderous explosions, 774 of the 4500 longbow men would die without firing a single arrow (Volkman, 00, p. 6). The hour of the longbow had passed, and that of the cannon had begun.


The dramatic conceptual breakthrough that led to the development of the cannon was made by the military think-tank of Charles VII. They had observed the ever increasing size of bombards that most armies of the time were busy acquiring. They wisely concluded that pursuing the path of building heavier guns was a technical dead-end, since these weapons were extremely unreliable and restrictive in their use (Volkman, 00, p.70). Their weight and immobility meant that they could be employed only in siege situations. And even there, these clumsy bombards were not very successful because of their long reloading time and tendency to become dysfunctional after firing a few shots. By combining and expanding on the techniques and knowledge of gunnery prevalent in Europe at the time, the research team assembled by Charles VII made some crucial discoveries that drastically increased the effectiveness of guns and broadened their use in warfare.


One of the main disadvantages of the early guns was their unreliability in battle; on many occasions they would fracture or even burst apart during the explosive ignition of gunpowder in the blast chamber. This problem was largely due to the fact that early guns were constructed from iron, a metal for which satisfactory casting techniques were not known at that time. Hence, guns had to be constructed by welding several bars of wrought iron together. These bars were built up about a wooden core and had to be beaten while red-hot to remove impurities and to weld them into a solid tube. Heavy iron hoops were then clamped onto the tube and shrunk to provide additional strength. Even then this technique was hardly foolproof for it left occasional air-holes in the tube, especially in places where the ore contained sulphur (Archer, 00, p. 5). Such holes were liable to cause a leakage of gases during the combustion of gunpowder, leading to potentially fatal accidents. Therefore, firearms made in this manner left a lot to be desired in matters of reliability. A satisfactory solution for this problem was to replace iron with bronze. The latter is a metal which is technically much easier to cast, and it had been used in making church bells since much earlier times; this meant that there were craftsmen all over Europe who had attained great skill in casting bronze. Guns constructed with a single piece of bronze proved to be far more reliable than iron guns, and had the additional advantage of being lighter and rust-free (Cipolla, 165, p. ). The use of bronze also made the manufacture of muzzle-loaders possible. Previously guns were required to be loaded from the breech because it was impossible to construct a wrought iron barrel properly without a core. Thus, iron barrels were initially forged open-ended and then the rear-end was closed by inserting a breech-block. This method only increased the risk element associated with iron guns because the breech area was always prone to fracture during the explosive ignition of gunpowder in the blast chamber (Cipolla, 165, p. 4). Muzzle-loading, made possible in bronze guns, was a much safer alternative.


Another technical improvement made around the mid-fifteenth century was the forming of gunpowder into small grains, or corning as the procedure was called. One of the primary reason archaic firearms were inefficient and unreliable was due to the weak and unpredictable explosive nature of early gunpowder. This was mainly because primitive forms of the powder were composed of an improper proportion of saltpeter, sulphur and charcoal. It would take several years of experimentation until the optimum ratio of ingredients was discovered. With experience, gunners would begin to prepare specialized gunpowder compositions suiting the needs of the various firearms in existence. Also, gunpowder of old usually had a consistency resembling fine dust; this tended to make it unstable and subject to temperature extremes. The granulated or corned form of powder proved to be much safer and functioned consistently irrespective of weather conditions (Volkman, 00, p. 71). Corning also had the effect of significantly enhancing the explosive characteristics of gunpowder. This was owing to the fact that the exposed surfaces of the separate grains of the powder could now all burn at once causing rapid ignition. Moreover, the gases produced in the combustion reaction were created at an increased rate with less time to escape, thus a correspondingly more powerful explosion would take place. The advent of corned powder naturally put more strain on the gunmetal. For this reason gunners had to be careful to thicken the area around the blast chamber to prevent the guns from exploding (McNeill, 18, p. 88). Indeed, corning proved to be a major breakthrough in firearm development. It allowed for more powerful and reliable guns to be developed that had the added advantage of consuming less quantities of gunpowder to deliver significantly better results than previously possible.





The fundamental change that distinguished the cannon from the huge bombards of old was the modification in its barrel design. The hallmark of the primitive gun was its vase-like shape with a very short barrel protruding from the chamber. This provided an insufficient area for the expansion of explosive gases created during the ignition of gunpowder. The design for the cannon employed a radically different approach; it consisted of a significantly smaller weapon with a much longer barrel. This way the expansion of the explosive gases would accelerate the projectile as it traveled through the length of the barrel (McNeill, 18, p. 87). The newer design released its shot with much higher velocities than had been possible with all previous forms of firearms. The replacement of stone shots with spherical iron projectiles constituted another major improvement in the performance of the cannon over its predecessor weapons. Smaller guns firing the denser iron cannonballs could pack a punch equal to a bombard three times their size firing stone shots. Also, iron balls were relatively cheaper to make and unlike stone shots, that normally shattered on impact, they could often be reused (McNeill, 18, p. 88). Consequently, due to the improved design and more powerful shots, lighter and more mobile firearms could now be built without a tradeoff of power in the process.


The French in an effort to make their wonder weapon even more mobile came up with the ingenious idea of mounting it on a two-wheeled carriage that could be pulled by horses (Volkman, 00, p.7). Cannon, the weapon that resulted from the combination of all the above mentioned developments, was nothing short of a revolutionary firearm. The clumsy bombards of the fourteenth-century had already tilted the balance of war from defense towards attack by a significant degree; the arrival of the cannon would enormously widen that gap. Gone were the days when the only method of conquering heavily fortified castles was to establish long sieges; some of which would last for months in the hope of eventually forcing the defenders into starvation. There wasnt a castle in existence at the time that could resist a pounding from fifty to seventy pound iron cannonballs tearing at them with dreadful velocity. The greater mobility of the cannon also meant that for the first time artillery could be used effectively in open-field battles (McNeill, 18, p. 8). The result was absolute death to the infantry and cavalry. It is no wonder then that by mid-fifteenth century, France emerged on the map of Europe as the most dominant military power; due in no small part to the cannon.


In 144 the French invaded Italy and brought along with them a collection of artillery that was unprecedented in history. The effect was sensational; many of the city-states, like Florence, surrendered without resistance once they had witnessed the awe-inspiring performance of the enemy firearms. The few that resisted were reduced to rubble in quick time. The fortress of Monte San Giovanni, then thought to be an impregnable bastion with high walls several feet thick, fell to the French in just eight hours. A feat all the more amazing considering the fact that this stronghold had defended the state of Naples against determined attacks for over a hundred years, and had only recently survived a siege lasting seven years (Volkman, 00, p. 6). However, necessity being the mother of invention, this imbalance in power could hardly have been expected to last for very long. The French conquest of Italy would at last be thwarted by a new and revolutionary design of defensive fortifications that would readjust the balance between attack and defense in the years to come.


For decades the Italians had been considered as masters in the ways of war. Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth century was a quilt work of mutually hostile city-states that were constantly engaged in battle with each other and foreign invaders who had their sights set on the riches of the land. With the threat of cannon on their heads, the innovative military minds of Italy devised a new form of fortification that could negate attacks from the most powerful firearms of the time. While the typical middle-age castle consisted of high curtain walls that presented an easy target to the attackers artillery, the new so called Italian type of fortification was built right into a wide ditch. The attacker therefore faced the vertical forward face of the hole, something like a negative wall (McNeill, 18, p. 0). This proved to be an obstacle that was entirely proof against cannon fire. Also, long and low walls with wedge shaped towers were built around the perimeter of the ditch. These walls had strategic holes constructed into them from where defensive firearms could be fired. Additionally, the towers were made in a symmetrical and geometric fashion such that they could be made to protect each other as well as sections of the wall. The end result was a star-shaped fortification that became to be known as the trace Italienne. It had the effect of drastically strengthening the defensive ability of the besieged for such bastions could not only resist artillery fire from afar but any attacker that dared to venture close had to face a bewildering crossfire from the strategically built outworks. The idea for the trace Italienne fortification did not come overnight but followed from a long series of observations and experiments conducted by the astute military thinkers of the time. By the mid-sixteenth century however, these types of strongholds would come to dominate the military landscape of Europe (Van Creveld, 11, p. 100). Their arrival would stimulate further efforts in devising even stronger firearms and improving offensive techniques; thus propagating the perpetual struggle between attack and defense that had gripped Europe, ever so strongly, in wake of the gunpowder revolution.


Hitherto, the discussion on the development of warfare has focused almost entirely on higher caliber guns, or artillery, without mention of portable firearms. Indeed, it is true that in the early phase following the advent of gunpowder a much greater emphasis was placed on the former, while the latter only saw limited use in a strictly defensive role. This path of progression is understandable when one takes into account the disparity that existed between attack and defense in the pre-gunpowder era. The balance was heavily lopsided in the favor of defense for strong walled castles could deter almost any weapon of the time. The need of the hour was to develop a strong wall cracker; the earlier guns were therefore developed almost exclusively for siege purposes. Additionally, primordial handguns were extremely impractical to use in field battles, so they mostly served the purpose of defending parapets or walls against attackers (Archer, 00, p. 5). The first portable guns were simply metal or wooden tubes closed at one end.Please note that this sample paper on Gunpowder is for your review only. In order to eliminate any of the plagiarism issues, it is highly recommended that you do not use it for you own writing purposes. In case you experience difficulties with writing a well structured and accurately composed paper on Gunpowder, we are here to assist you. Your college papers on Gunpowder will be written from scratch, so you do not have to worry about its originality.

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