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The Asian Military Revolution


  • 9 maps
  • Page extent: 202 pages
  • Size: 228 x 152 mm
  • Weight: 0.44 kg
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 (ISBN-13: 9780521846820)

  • Also available in Paperback
  • Published August 2008

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$94.00 (P)
The Asian Military Revolution

Cambridge University Press
9780521846820 - The Asian Military Revolution - From Gunpowder to the Bomb - by Peter A. Lorge

The Asian Military Revolution

Records show that the Chinese invented gunpowder in the 800s. By the 1200s they had unleashed the first weapons of war upon their unsuspecting neighbors. How did they react? What were the effects of these first wars? This extraordinarily ambitious book traces the history of that invention and its impact on the surrounding Asian world – Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia and South Asia – from the ninth through the twentieth century. As the book makes clear, the spread of war and its technology had devastating consequences on the political and cultural fabric of those early societies although each reacted very differently. The book, which is packed with information about military strategy, interregional warfare, and the development of armaments, also engages with the major debates and challenges traditional thinking on Europe’s contribution to military technology in Asia. Articulate and comprehensive, this book will be a welcome addition to the undergraduate classroom and to all those interested in Asian studies and military history.

PETER LORGE is Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at Vanderbilt University, Tennessee. His previous publications include War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China (2005) and The International Reader in Military History: China Pre-1600 (2005).

New Approaches to Asian History

This dynamic new series will publish books on the milestones in Asian history, those that have come to define particular periods or mark turning-points in the political, cultural and social evolution of the region. Books are intended as introductions for students to be used in the classroom. They are written by scholars whose credentials are well established in their particular fields and who have, in many cases, taught the subject across a number of years.

Books in the series
Judith M. Brown, Global South Asians: Introducing the Modern Diaspora
Diana Lary, China’s Republic
Peter A. Lorge, The Asian Military Revolution: From Gunpowder to the Bomb

The Asian Military Revolution

From Gunpowder to the Bomb

Peter A. Lorge
Vanderbilt University, Tennessee

Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo, Delhi

Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK

Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Peter A. Lorge 2008

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2008

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data
Lorge, Peter Allan, 1967–
The Asian military revolution / Peter A. Lorge.
p. cm. – (New approaches to Asian history)
ISBN 978-0-521-84682-0
1. Asia–History, Military. 2. Military art and science–History.
I. Title. II. Series.
DS33.7.L66 2008

ISBN 978-0-521-84682-0 hardback

ISBN 978-0-521-60954-8 paperback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party internet websites referred to in this book,
and does not guarantee that any content on such
websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.


List of mapspage vi
1China through the Yuan24
2Japan and the wars of unification45
3The Chinese military revolution and war in Korea66
4Southeast Asia88
5South Asia to 1750112
6The military revolution in South Asia, 1750–1850133
7The arrival and departure of the West154


1Asiapage 3
2The Southern Song25
5Southeast Asia89
7South Asia113
8The Mughal empire125
9European settlement in India, 1501–1739134


This book would not have been written without the encouragement of David Graff. It was his idea that I write a book on gunpowder in Asian history, and he overcame my initial resistance to such a project. I can only hope that the end result does not disappoint him. My editor, Marigold Acland, provided further encouragement, and steered me through the very long process of book production. Her team of editors vastly improved my manuscript. I must also thank the three anonymous reviewers of the initial proposal, whose comments were so helpful. To the anonymous reader of the final manuscript, who caught so many errors, I can only say dōmo arigatō gozaimashita. My thanks also to my copy-editor, Carol Fellingham Webb.

I was also fortunate to receive timely criticism from Michael Charney and Lai-chen Sun that corrected many points in my chapter on Southeast Asia.

Having stretched so far to write this book, I am acutely aware of my shortcomings. Despite the kindly and scholarly efforts of several people, many of my mistakes remain.


808First mention of a mixture retrospectively understood to be gun-powder
Late 9th centuryFirst possible use of gunpowder in warfare
Mid-10th centuryFirst representation of a fire-spear
960–1279Song dynasty
Early 11th centuryIntroduction of explosive gunpowder bombs in China
1044First direct description of gunpowder published in the Complete Essentials from the Military Classics (Wujing Zongyao)
1127Jurchen Jin capture the Song capital at Kaifeng
1132First mention of a fire-spear, used at the siege of De’an
1221First mention of iron-casing bombs, used during the Jurchen siege of Qizhou
Late 12th centuryInvention of the rocket in China
1290Earliest dated extant gun
13th centuryAppearance of the true gun in China
1259Koryo surrenders to Mongols
1274First Mongol invasion of Japan
1281Second Mongol invasion of Japan
1363Battle of Lake Poyang
1368–1644Ming dynasty
1400Melaka established
1405–33Zheng He’s seven voyages
1467–77Onin War
1511Portuguese conquer Melaka
1526First Battle of Panipat
1526–1857Mughal empire
1543Putative introduction of Portuguese firearms into Japan
1556Second Battle of Panipat
1575Battle of Nagashino
1592–3First Japanese invasion of Korea
1593Battle of Pyongyang
1597Second Japanese invasion of Korea
1600Battle of Sekigahara
1600–1867Tokugawa Shogunate
1644Shivaji sacks the Mughal port of Surat
1644–1911Qing dynasty
1674Shivaji has himself crowned king
1739Nadir Shah invades the Mughal empire and captures Delhi
1757Battle of Plassey
1782Chakri dynasty established at Bangkok
1804Qing court grants the name “Vietnam” to the ruler of Annam
1824Myanmar conquers Assam
1824–6First Anglo-Burmese War
1839–42Opium War
1850–64Taiping Rebellion
1852Second Anglo-Burmese War
1857Sepoy troops mutiny against their British officers
1868Meiji Restoration
1876Britain’s Queen Victoria assumes the title Empress of India
1885Third Anglo-Burmese War
1894–5Sino-Japanese War
1904–5Russo-Japanese War


ArquebusTerm for a handgun originally derived from the early fifteenth-century word “hackenbüchse,” or hook gun.
AshigaruLit. “light-foot.” Less heavily armored Japanese troops of the lowest martial class or commoners pressed into service.
AtakebuneA kind of early Japanese battleship-mounting cannon.
BanA South Asian rocket arrow.
CorningA method of granulating gunpowder that affects its absorption of atmospheric water and its burn rate when ignited.
EICBritish East India Company.
Fire-arrowEither an arrow packed with gunpowder and fired by a conventional bow in order set fire to a target, or a rocket, a projectile launched by the reactive force of ignited gunpowder.
Fire-ballA container of low-nitrate gunpowder launched at a target to burn it.
Fire-spearA spear with a tube filled with low-nitrate gunpowder affixed near its head.
Fire-tubeA tube filled with low-nitrate gunpowder.
FiringiA South Asian field gun.
GunpowderA mixture of a nitrate (potassium, sodium, magnesium or calcium), sulfur, and charcoal.
HuoyaoLit. “fire drug.” Chinese term for gunpowder.
Jaza’ilOriginally a shaturnal modified to fire from atop a wall, it later evolved into a sort of sniper rifle.
MansabImperial rank.
MusketOriginally the name for a heavier form of arquebus that came to encompass most long-barreled, but unrifled, handguns.
NaginataA polearm with a long, curved blade.

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