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Old May 23, 2013, 08:23 PM   #1
BKH
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Help with English thesis ideas

I'm writing another paper, and like always, I'd like to write one that's firearms related. My subject is how the invention of gunpowder changed warfare. I'm having some trouble forming a thesis. Any suggestions?
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Old May 23, 2013, 08:46 PM   #2
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I would probably go with some idea about the use of gunpowder in warfare as being the most important development since we went from sharp rocks to sharpened metal.
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Old May 23, 2013, 09:03 PM   #3
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How was warfare fought before gunpowder?
How did the use of gunpowder change the way warfare was conducted?

(Don't forget to go back to the Chinese and rockets)
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Old May 23, 2013, 09:09 PM   #4
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There are specialized military history textbooks and references books on this topic. An academic data base or even Google will bring them up.

A college student should have such referencing skills.
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Old May 23, 2013, 09:23 PM   #5
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Gunpowder leveled the playing field: An armored Nobleman, who spent his entire life honing his combat skills and required a huge amount of wealth to outfit and maintain him, could be killed by a barely trained conscript who had been furnished a relatively inexpensive (when compared to the Knight's plate armor, warhorses, and retinue costs) arquebuss.

While the English Longbow also was superior to the Knight on an economic level, a Longbowman took years to train, and had to be relatively well fed...... any starving peasant could be drafted and given a matchlock, and have a shot at besting the mightiest armored knight in all the land. Put a few dozen together with some pikemen and halberdiers, and you have a force that could kill entire generations of nobilitiy of region in a single battle, and be replaced relatively quickly and easily.

Gunpowder was one of the important reasons for the end of Fuedalism, and the rise of Professional Armies.
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Old May 23, 2013, 09:24 PM   #6
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A short history of the modern era

Gunpowder >> training unwashed masses as infantry >> declining power of aristocracy >> political and social change of one kind or another, for better or worse.

There's probably a thesis or two in there somewhere; go forth and think.
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Old May 23, 2013, 09:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
While the English Longbow also was superior to the Knight on an economic level, a Longbowman took years to train, and had to be relatively well fed.......
In addition, it takes an expert to make a good arrow. Anyone can be taught to cast a lead ball in just a few minutes.

I've also seen people speculate that the noise, flash & smoke was also part of the reason that guns caught on for warfare. The idea is that they were much more intimidating.
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Old May 23, 2013, 09:34 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigDinFL
(Don't forget to go back to the Chinese and rockets)
The Chinese invented gunpowder, some time between the 9th and 11th century A.D.

I was going to propose that the introduction of gunpowder into warfare allowed killing from a distance -- and then I remembered that longbows and crossbows already did that. So, that's perhaps NOT the appropriate thesis to pursue.
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Old May 23, 2013, 09:52 PM   #9
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Like the crossbow, before, only more so, the firearm allowed peasants to fight against professional soldiers.
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Old May 23, 2013, 10:00 PM   #10
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It's all in the scholarly texts. I took military history years ago from a major general - not hide to find.

In fact, is it legit with the prof to ask for outside aid? Where I teach, this would be a tad funky depending on how you use the info.
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Old May 23, 2013, 10:18 PM   #11
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Like the crossbow, before, only more so, the firearm allowed peasants to fight against professional soldiers.
After the advent of firearms, the Nobility largely got out of the business of doing the actual fighting ...... and paid professional soldiers to do it.
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Old May 23, 2013, 10:37 PM   #12
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Firearms were cheap when compared to a knight in armor, with or without a horse, and a soldier could be trained in their use in days or weeks, instead of years.

Artillery pounded stone castle walls to rubble in a few hours, so the age of cruel sieges of populous cities was over, now the armies would fight it out in the open by maneuvering bodies of troops.
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Old May 23, 2013, 10:47 PM   #13
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Not quite true. The Thirty Years War featured firearms and artillery, yet sieges still occurred.

They would continue for a couple centuries, at least into Napoleonic times, hence Napoleon's comment on artillery fire from the circumference to the center being everything, and from the center to the circumference being nothing.

Fortifications would change, though, with earthworks replacing stone.
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Old May 23, 2013, 11:25 PM   #14
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Quote:
Not quite true. The Thirty Years War featured firearms and artillery, yet sieges still occurred.

They would continue for a couple centuries, at least into Napoleonic times, hence Napoleon's comment on artillery fire from the circumference to the center being everything, and from the center to the circumference being nothing.

Fortifications would change, though, with earthworks replacing stone.

Tall curtain walled stone castles could indeed be reduced in a very short time by cannon fire ...... low earth and brick star forts armed with cannon of their own had to be starved out, or undermined.....
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Old May 24, 2013, 12:11 AM   #15
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if you can carry the musket, you can load it, fire it, and normally kill a particular person you aim at on the other end of the football field.

if you want to use a bow, you have to be of certain size and strength, and trined from childhood. crossbows not as dependent on training, but strength and size is still an issue. as you needed a specific amount of strength to cock it.


there are so many socio economic aspects, political, class, that its not funny.

in essence, it became easier for the nobles to expend excess peasant populations by having wars with each other.
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Old May 24, 2013, 05:44 AM   #16
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MLeake wrote:
Quote:
Like the crossbow, before, only more so, the firearm allowed peasants to fight against professional soldiers.
Agreed. Look at what firearms did to the centuries old feudal system of Japan.
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I think that one of the notions common to the anti-gunner is the idea that being a victim is 'noble'; as if it is better to be noble in your suffering than disruptive in your own defense.
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Old May 24, 2013, 07:22 AM   #17
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Lot of great info,
My subject is how the invention of gunpowder changed warfare. I'm having some trouble forming a thesis.
Take it a different direction. I think Newton gave you some good points to start your thesis devolopment. That is the general direction I was thinking of.
How gunpowder blah blah blah. has been done to death. You need to boldly go where not many have gone before.
in spitie of the pompus remarks, my school encouraged open discussion with peers as part of the learning process.
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Old May 24, 2013, 11:23 AM   #18
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Depends on the rules of the assignment. Schools vary and some consider asking others in some cases not to be legit. So keep the pomposity to yourself.

If you are asking us for substantial help that you then use, paraprhase and quote - it has to be cited as such.
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Old May 24, 2013, 04:00 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MarkDozier
How gunpowder blah blah blah. has been done to death. You need to boldly go where not many have gone before.
And that would be ... where?

Quote:
in spitie of the pompus remarks, my school encouraged open discussion with peers as part of the learning process.
I don't think a university professor commenting that asking other people for the information with which to write your report could be construed by faculty as cheating is "pompous." I would consider that sage advice. Further, I don't think the OP is engaging in an open discussion with his peers. His peers are the other students in whatever class this paper is for. Most (if not all) of us on this forum are years or even decades older than the OP, we are mostly long since done with being students, and we have many more years of exposure to both firearms and history to draw on than the OP. That's simply not a peer-to-peer relationship.
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Old May 24, 2013, 04:31 PM   #20
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Quote:
My subject is how the invention of gunpowder changed warfare.
Excellent, debunk that nonsense, challenge the accepted theories. The more the weapons evolve the more the actual conflict stays the same., or does it?

Really, what is it that is really changing when you boil it all down to so many of these guys are trying to kill so many of those guys who are really trying to kill the first guys first.

Is it war that's changing, the way we conduct war, the purpose or object of war, who is doing the fighting and dieing?

We are supposedly winding down a nice long, (for the history books), 10 year war. It opened pretty dramatically with the highjacking of four airliners, ( dudes with box cutters). I think many Brits would tell you the war on terror is still going on and their latest casualty was killed when his head was cut off. What did gunpowder have to do with that I wonder?

Just food for thought, get the old grey matter thinking.
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Old May 24, 2013, 11:22 PM   #21
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Are you planning an honest to goodness firearms related research thesis for an English course or more of an essay?

Either way, a topic to consider is how gunpowder changed the dynamics of Native Americans in terms of either non-warfare survival (hunting) or inter-tribal warfare. The facts are there for the finding.

Have fun.
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Old May 25, 2013, 12:27 PM   #22
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Gunpowder didn't change the nature of war. It is still, and always has been one group attacking another for percieved gain. The gain may be political, theological or economic, but there is some perceived gain to be had by the attackers.

What gunpowder changed was the details of war, the tactics, who did the majority of the fighting, and how effective/cost efficient they were.

As to sieges being eliminated by gunpowder, that idea is false. Just look at WWII to find numerous cases of sieges, in the modern era of not just gunpowder, but long range artillery and bombers. The 900+ day siege of Leningrad comes to mind as one huge example. There are others, of lesser duration everywhere, just look.
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Old May 25, 2013, 01:32 PM   #23
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The introduction of infantry firearms didn't change tactics in the field that much. As has been mentioned above it was more of an economic change.
Having machines that sent ten pound balls through the ranks of your infantry formation did change things.

Gun powder allowed the introduction of field artillery. Before canons, heavy ranged weapons were mostly limited to sieges.
Very few mangonels or ballista made their way to the battlefield. Gun powder changed that because powder was much lighter than mechanical means of launching heavy objects. Canon were lighter than trebuchet.
The mobility of these machines changed things a lot.
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Old May 25, 2013, 03:11 PM   #24
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If you want to look at an era when artillery was really transformational, look up Gustavus Adolphus and his artillery wizard, General Torstenson.

Torstenson perfected both the placement of field artillery, to get the best fire angle nearly parallel to enemy lines, and the grazing shot, which skipped a ball multiple times along the enemy lines.

Given the limited population of Sweden, the fact the Swedes were able to dominate most of continental Europe until the battlefield death of Gustavus Adolphus was amazing - and largely tied in to their better use of field artillery.
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Old May 26, 2013, 08:37 AM   #25
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Narrow your research a bit: How gunpowder AND rifling AND the expanding-base bullet changed INFANTRY warfare. Until then it was the blade (pike or bayonet) which won battles upon closing after a desultory volley or two.

Gunpowder had been around nearly 800 years before practically-employed in linear/smoothbore battlefield tactics. Those tactics then remained in place for two centuries.

The rifle came on the scene just prior to the Revolution, but for 80 years it remained a specialty application.

The rifled musket/MiniƩ ball came on the scene, and 36 months later it was the world-turned-upside-down.

Don't write about Shakespeare (as my English teacher used to say).
Instead, pick apart one passage in one sonet.
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