Please read the following journal article excerpt and then answer the questions below: The conclusion from Stephen Haw’s “The Mongol Empire—the first ‘gunpowder empire’? Haw, Stephen G. “The Mongol Em

Please read the following journal article excerpt and then answer the questions below:

The conclusion from Stephen Haw’s “The Mongol Empire—the first ‘gunpowder empire’?

Haw, Stephen G. “The Mongol Empire — the First ‘Gunpowder Empire’?” Journal of the Royal 

Asiatic Society 23, no. 3 (2013): 441–69.

There has been considerable speculation in the past regarding whether the Mongols used guns or other gunpowder weapons, and whether they were instrumental in introducing gunpowder from China to the West. Until recently, evidence was insufficient to answer these questions with any degree of certainty. Some four decades ago, the question “Did the Mongols use guns?” could only be answered with “a qualified negative”. It was considered “wholly improbable” that they could have introduced gunpowder and firearms to Europe. However, it is now quite clear that the Mongol armies used a variety of Chinese artillery and fire weapons in their campaigns. Catapults, incendiary bombs, fire-lances and fire-arrows were commonly used in China by the early thirteenth century. A whole range of incendiary weapons, using gunpowder (or at least saltpetre) to produce fierce, “almost inextinguishable” flames, had existed in China since the early Northern Song period, about the year 1000. Explosive bombs had been in use since at least as early as about 1150, with cast iron casings from about 1220. There is archaeological proof that explosive bombs were taken to Japan during the Mongol invasions, and much literary evidence that the Mongols appreciated the usefulness of Chinese weaponry at an early date: Chinggis Khan himself is recorded as having at least some understanding of its value. Chinese troops from the Jin Empire joined the Mongols and fought alongside them in their earliest western campaigns. The success, speed and range of the Mongol conquests were not simply the result of efficient military organisation, excellent generalship and exceptionally effective use of traditional steppe nomad weapons. Cavalry armed with bows and arrows could not possibly have taken walled towns, cities and fortresses as easily and rapidly as the Mongol armies consistently did, during the early period of their conquests. The Mongol conquests were essentially enabled by Chinese artillery and Chinese gunpowder weapons. It could, in fact, plausibly be argued that the Mongol empire was the first of the so-called ‘gunpowder empires’. As to whether the Mongols used guns, the evidence is that by the late 1200s they certainly did and it must at least be likely that they began to use them earlier. The use of guns, however, is not the essential issue. The range of Chinese gunpowder weapons available to the Mongols, such as explosive and incendiary bombs, fire-lances and fire-arrows, was sufficient to inspire terror in enemies who had never previously encountered anything of the kind. Since such weaponry was unknown in the West, it was not understood and its use by the Mongol armies was explained in terms of ‘witchcraft’. However, by about 1250 the secret of gunpowder had become known to many of the Mongols’ enemies. This must almost certainly have been a result of the use of Chinese weapons by the Mongol armies, which carried the Chinese technology of gunpowder weaponry westwards. By the 1260s, this knowledge had reach as far as England, where Roger Bacon recorded a gunpowder formula. This probably explains why the Mongol conquests lost their impetus, at least in the West, after the 1250s. The fact that the Song Empire possessed gunpowder weapons even before the Mongols began their career of conquest certainly contributed to making the overthrow of Southern Song the longest and most hard-fought of all the Mongols’ victorious campaigns. 


Read the included excerpt from a journal article and write a discussion post answering the following questions:

  • How did the Mongols aid in transferring advanced Chinese technologies to other parts of the world?
  • What impact might this have on history?

250-500 words

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