The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History by Tonio Andrade (Princeton University Press, 2016).
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa
Cross-posted from Asian Review of Books
Tonio Andrade, a professor at Emory University, has written a well-researched, balanced, and comparative history of military innovation in Asia and the West in which he challenges the traditional notion—set forth most compellingly by Victor Davis Hanson in Carnage and Culture and Niall Ferguson in Civilization—that Western culture largely explains Western global predominance in the post-medieval world.
Although Andrade frames the book around the invention of gunpowder by the Chinese and its subsequent employment in warfare by both Chinese and Western powers, his principal focus is to explain why in certain historical time periods Chinese and Western military innovation surged or remained static, and more specifically why there developed a “Great Military Divergence” between China and Western powers during the mid-18th century into the 19th century. The key factor, he concludes, is not culture but the Toynbeean phenomenon of “challenge and response”. Continue reading “The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History”