How Cannons Changed the World

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Suhail Ahmad Wani

While studying world history, we cannot flip through single chapter without coming across battles, invasions and conflicts. When people decided to make superiority over their power, position and status, they start to fight each other to prove their might. From the time of human invasions between settlements turned to chieftains and then into kingdoms and empires, the way and style of mankind’s armory too changed. If we look back centuries, we can see a long line of various weapons invented and used by man to conquer. It starts with stone tools, and ends at the present atomic warfare. But the one and only invention which reflects a sudden change in the image of War or Battle is gun powder. When the Chinese found Black Powder (Gun Powder), they didn’t realize its actual power. At the beginning, they used it as medicine and to make crackers. But, later nearly at the period of Song Dynasty, the Chinese adopted this magical mixture for the purpose of warfare. With that mixture, they built a weapon which was enough to shoot arrows and stones in to a long distance, unlike bow and crossbows. This marks the arrival of the cannon in the history of Wars.
The idea about cannons must be formed between the periods of 10 to 11th century. The first trusted information about using cannon does come from a rock carving, known as Dazu Rock carving dated 1128A.D. At that time, China was totally under the administration of Song dynasty. Bu, t historians didn’t have archaeological evidence to prove that cannons were popular or been used in 12th century. Solid archaeological evidence about the use of cannon emerges from the late 13th century. The first made cannon found by Hoplologists are wuwei cannon in 1227. This one was fully made of Bronze, and used as a Hand Cannon at the time of Yuan Dynasty of China.
Unlike the wuwei cannon, two more cannons were unearthed by experts who belonged to the same period as the former. In 1288, the second oldest cannon found in China are called as Hellingjiang hand cannon. Soon, the importance and role of cannons in a battle, forced other world countries to invent it. From the idea of Chinese technology Europeans, Arabs, Ottomans, Japanese and all the world powers began to produce cannons by adding their own contributions.
In India, cannon were first introduced by Babur in the first battle of Panipat in 1526. In this battle, Babur’s army was relatively outnumbered with his opponent Ibrahim Lodis Army. But with the use of cannon, Babur easily won the war and laid the foundation of Mughal Empire. In south India, Cannons came by the arrival of Portuguese in 1498. Native kings like Chirakkal raja and zamorin of Calicut made their own cannon with the help of westerners. At the battle of Talikotta in 1565, Deccan sultanate used a huge cannon against Vijayanagara Army, named as Malik E Maidan. In this battle the combined army of Bijapur, Golconda, Belur and Ahmednagar destroyed the Vijayanagara Army and burned down their capital Hampi. The Bijapur sultans adopt this artillery Warfare from the Ottomans. Another finest cannon were developed in South India at the period of Tipu Sultan 1750-1799. His cannon were made of both brass and caste iron. Tipu Sultan made so many victories against British, Nizam of Hyderabad and Marathas of Maharashtra through the strength of their Artillery. He is known as the founder of missile technology in Modern Warfare, and the first one who used missiles in battles. In the battle of Poliloor and Srirangapattanom, the British faced several defeats from Mysore, because of sultan’s used best artillery and missile defense
At present, in the 21st century, cannons are usually divided into sub-categories, and given separate names. Some of the most widely used types of modern cannon are howitzers, mortars, guns, and auto cannon, although a few superguns extremely large, custom-designed cannons have also been constructed. Ironically, it was the quest for immortality that led to the invention of the deadliest weapon before the arrival of the atomic bomb.

The author is a PhD Research Scholar at the University Of Indore, (M.P). He can be reached at: