For many, gunpowder is associated with Guy Fawkes and the attempt to blow up parliament on 5 November 1605. Fewer people know that the formula for gunpowder was in fact discovered more than 1,000 years ago - in China - and by accident - and was initially a medicine.
This fascinating book tells the story of the huge impact of gunpowder on every state and empire in the world. For 400 years the Chinese kept it to themselves, until a Mongol soldier leaked the secret to the Islamic world, where gunpowder played a crucial role in the rise of the great empires of the Ottomans and the Mughals: the spectacular capture of Constantinople in 1453 was accomplished through new siege tactics, while India was conquered with muskets and artillery mounted on 700 carts held together with ox harnesses.
Even more important was the impact of gunpowder on Europe, where new weapons created new states and helped Europeans go on to dominate the rest of the world. Packed with unexpected and interesting facts, Gunpowder is an exciting, devastating and important story.
Clive Ponting was until recently Reader in Politics and International Relations at the University of Wales, Swansea. His Green History of the World was an international bestseller, and his revisionist biography of Churchill raised a storm of controversy. Available in Pimlico are his most recent books: The Pimlico History of the Twentieth Century; World History: A New Perspective; Thirteen Days: The Road to the First World War; and The Crimean War. He recently took early retirement and now lives on a small Greek island where he is creating a Mediterranean garden and cultivating olives.