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

Dr. Tonio Andrade

Professor of History, Emory University.

 

Around 800 C.E., gunpowder was invented by the Chinese, who quickly adapted it for military use. For five hundred years, China led the word in gunpowder technology, but it was Europeans who brought guns to their most lethal potential. Why? As a historian of China Dr. Andrade has long pondered the famous “Needham Question”: Why did China, once the wealthiest, most powerful, and most technologically-advanced country in the world, find itself overcome by the once-backward Europeans? Many explanations have been put forward, focusing on economics, agriculture, social structure, political philosophy, etc., and in recent years debate about the so-called Great Divergence has been vehement and voluminous. He believes that warfare—and the gun in particular—may help us untangle the controversy and come to a clearer understanding of when and why China and Europe diverged.

Dr. Andrade grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, and has a B.A. in Anthropology from Reed College and a Ph.D. in History from Yale University. He is currently Professor of History at Emory University, where he writes on global history and the history of China.

His first book, How Taiwan Became Chinese (Columbia University Press, 2008), focuses on the early history of Taiwan. His second book, Lost Colony: The Untold Story of Europe’s First War with China (Princeton University Press, 2011), explores the European military revolution with data from East Asia. He is currently writing a book about the military history of late imperial China (1300-1911), a period during which guns and gunpowder weapons revolutionized warfare and spread from China throughout the world, sparking dramatic changes in warfare and society wherever they took root, perhaps most significantly in Europe, whose constantly warring states adopted and adapted them with alacrity. This global military revolution has important implications for how we understand world history and the famous and much-debated question of the rise of the West.

Dr. Andrade’s lecture was held in the Escondido Theatre at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, November 5, 2013.