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The Earliest Shipboard Gunpowder Ordnance: An Analysis of Its Technical Parameters and Tactical Capabilities

From: The Journal of Military History
Volume 71, Number 3, July 2007
pp. 649-669 | 10.1353/jmh.2007.0204


Few technological developments in the history of warfare have been as portentous as the appearance around the turn of the sixteenth century of effective heavy gunpowder ordnance on shipboard, which began a new era in sea warfare. Employed on Mediterranean war galleys and Portuguese caravels, the weapons marked the solution of a series of daunting technological problems discussed in this article, beginning with the appearance of gunpowder in Europe about 1300. Unlike developments on land, change was at first gradual, but shortly after 1400 the pace of development sharply accelerated to culminate in what may legitimately be termed a revolution in firepower at sea.

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