Weapons of Mass Destruction have been used for thousands of years since the first large tribes. This article will examine various definitions, explore the countries and aggressors, as well as offer a chronological report on the subject. Occasionally the article will address warfare and certain leaders that made significant marks in history. It appears the most consistent WMD throughout history are among the leaders of great populations. Until World War I and the 20th, for the past 5,000 years, dutiful soldiers and evil criminals most often had to look upon those they killed.
Weapons: anything that can be used to injure, defeat or kill. Typically, a weapon is a natural resource developed by man into an object for offensive, defense or survival; such as a knife, spear, bow, gun, cannon or bomb. Some have been categorized by range; however, modern weapons are primarily by type for warfare.
Mass Destruction: related to death or injury on a large scale. Mass refers to a large body of matter or great population; and destruction to death or such damage that objects and structures cannot be repaired.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD):
U. S. Code, Title 50; § 2302 and § 2902: “The Term ‘weapon of mass destruction’ means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination or impact of – toxic or poisonous chemicals… a disease organism; or radiation…” “‘WMD’ mean chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons…”
Alternative Definitions of WMD: Weapons that can produce devastating results when delivered in a single strike; or a weapon or weapons with the capacity to inflict death and destruction on a mass scale. From the most logical and basic approach, WMDs can be anything from a dictator or technology that can be used to destroy and kill masses of people or significant portions of a population. From a modern military approach, the weapon(s) must be some form of technology developed by mankind.
Timeline of Ancient Weapons
c. 3500 BC: Stones, bones and cooper were used in tools and weapons.
c. 3500-2400 BC: Bronze (copper and tin) was used to make weapons.
c. 3100 BC: Pharaoh Narmar, the Scorpion King, is said to have united upper and lower Egypt. His armies used stone maces, copper-tipped spears and bows with flint or obsidian arrows.
c. 3000 BC: horses and equidae were used in war.
c. 2600 BC: Egyptian armies, ruled by Pharaohs, used spears and had wooden shields with leather hides. Archers used flint or copper arrowheads.
c. 2400 BC: Amorite chieftains organized armies to raid and conquer weaker villages and tribes. Their warriors used swords, socketed axes, spears, and shields. About this time the Assyrians begin to organize (people of Assur and Nineveh).
c. 2300 BC: The army of King Sargon of Akkad (Sumerian) used infantry and chariot troops with spears and bows to conquer Sumerian and Assyrian territories.
c. 2000 BC: Xia Dynasty; Chinese army used bronze on a Ge (fighting) staff or poll weapons.
c. 1600 BC: Shang Dynasty in China used Ge weapons, as well as spears (some with jade tips) and swords. They also made use of large armies, horses and bows.
c. 1700-1200 BC: The Hittites conquered Mesopotamia (Tigris & Euphrates area) and modern Turkey, Iraq, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon through use of large armies of spearmen with shields, chariot troops, and moved from the use of bronze to iron weapons (swords, shields, armor).
Ashurbanipal the Assyrian
c. 1400- 612BC: Assyrians conquered Syria, Armenia, Palestine and northern Mesopotamia. By 750 BC, they had over a hundred thousand professional soldiers; and were writing on leather, parchment and papyrus. They built forts and roads. They used chariots, cavalry with bows; infantry with tall shields, spears, IRON Swords and daggers, and full body armor with helmets.
c. 1180 BC: Pharaoh Ramesses III of Egypt had infantries and fleets with soldiers using bows for massive continuous volley of arrows. Their fleets also used grappling hooks to pull in enemy ships or vessels. They also used war chariots with bow riders.
c. 1800-536 BC: The Babylonians conquered most of Egypt (2 Kings 24:7), Mesopotamia and the Middle East, and Asia Minor. Hammurabi put forth some of the earliest written laws (1780 BC). During the time of Nebuchadnezzar II (c.580 BC) their empire reached its greatest extant. The Babylonians, with the Medes, destroyed the Assyrian Empire. Their armies dominated other nations and took their people as slaves – as did the Egyptians, Hittites, Amorites, Chinese and other like empires. Their armies used bronzed sickle swords, socketed axes, daggers, spears, bladed maces from the Egyptians and shields; as well as slings and bows.
c. 1000-800 BC: About this time the Chinese used Arsenic compounds and toxic plants in smoke bombs. It is said they called the Chemical Warfare weapon ‘soul-hunting fog.’
c. 850 BC: Assyrians used battering rams, earthen ramps and siege towers to conquer walled towns and cities.
c. 560-340 BC: The Persian Empire came together under Cyrus the Great (2 Chronicles 36:23), after they revolted against Median Empire (the Medes). They conquered Media, Lydia and Babylon. Then they were at war with the Greeks in Asia Minor, but in times of peace – conscripted Greek soldiers. Under Artaxerxes (343 BC) their army destroyed the walls of Egypt, and overran most of the Middle East and Egypt with about 300,000 Persian soldiers. According to the historian Herodotus, “the armored Persian horsemen and their death dealing chariots were invincible. No man dared face them…” The Persians used iron swords and large daggers, short spears, bows and wore scaled armor. They had heavy armor infantry, heavy cataphracts and developed a navy.
c. 490-404 BC: The Greeks in Athens and Sparta defended against the invading Persians. Then the fierce Sparta warriors turned on Athens and conquered it (404 BC). Sparta was a warrior society (Spartans) in which citizens were trained with military drills. Their heavy infantry fought in phalanx formation (rectangular mass) with spears, pikes and sarissas (very long spears); and at times locked shields. Some wore bronze cuirasses and greaves, with a helmet. Many also used the javelin as a range weapon.
c. 500-450 BC: Crossbows are being used by militaries; by the Greeks and Chinese.
Chinese: Zhou Dynasty
c. 415 BC: The historian Thucydides records the use of fire ships by the Greeks.
c. 399 BC: Crossbow technology used to invent the Ballista (first catapults types) by the Greeks.
c. 350 BC: The Mangonel (Greek mágganon, “engine of war”) catapults were invented to break down walls and gates. Most likely invented by Greeks, but some say they were first used by the Romans. A type of Trebuchet was said to be invented by the Chinese about this time.
Timeline of Weapons of Mass Destruction
c. 512: Sun Tzu (also: Sun Zi; pictured below) was a Chinese General and Military Strategist who won many battles, and influenced warfare for centuries as the said author of The Art of War. In an English translation it is written, “The art of war is of vital importance to the State. It is a matter of life and death, a road either to safety or to ruin… The art of war is governed by five (5) constant factors…: (1) The Moral Law; (2) Heaven; (3) Earth; (4) The Commander; (5) Method and discipline. The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives… Heaven signifies… times and seasons. Earth comprises distances… danger and security; open ground and narrow passes; the chances of life and death. The Commander stands for the virtues of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage and strictness. By Method and Discipline are to be understood the marshaling of the army in its proper subdivisions, the …rank among officers, the maintenance of roads by which supplies may reach the army, and the control of military expenditure. These five heads should be familiar to every general; he who knows them will be victorious… (1) Which of the two (opposing) sovereigns is instilled with the Moral law? (2) Which of the two (opposing) generals has most ability? (3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? (5) Which army is stronger? (6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? (7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment? By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat… All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him… In the operations of war, where there are in the field a thousand swift chariots… and a hundred thousand mail-clad soldiers, with provisions enough to carry them a thousand LI, the expenditure at home and at the front… will reach the total of a thousand ounces of silver per day… When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull… if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain… There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare…” https://suntzusaid.com/artofwar.pdf
c. 336-323 BC: Alexander the Great of Greece used catapults, ballistas and battery rams mounted on ships in the Battle of Tyre. In land battles the Greeks used advanced military tactics. They had their heavy infantry phalanx (with bronze shields, helmets and armor – some iron plated), archers, cavalry and siege engines. They used contingent conscripts and had organized officers over squadrons (ilia – 200; agema – 300). The cavalry used tactics such as the wedge formation, and carried a xyston (double ended lance) and sword; and was supported by horse archers. Their 100,000+ soldiers, and superior technology, overwhelmed those in their path from Greece to India. Alexander was among the first to used ballistas in open field battles.
c. 218 BC: Second Punic War: Hannibal of Carthage marched with about 100,000 troops and 40 war elephants (first used in India; iron spikes and spears wore attached to the tusks and archers shot from boxes upon their backs) through the Pyrenees Mountains into Gaul (southern France). Hannibal’s crossing of the Alps with 37 surviving war elephants was one of the most noted feats in ancient military history. Through his troops inflicted heavy casualties on the Roman armies; they also lost about 80% of their infantry and thousands of cavalry.
c. 250BC – 200 AD: According to ancient.eu, “The Romans copied and improved upon the artillery weapons used by the Greeks, but they were not used in open combat, rather, they were reserved for siege warfare in order to pound the fortifications of cities and strike terror into the defenders. The Roman machines used animal sinews instead of horse hair to increase strength …allowing them to fire projectiles over several hundred meters. Metal parts (iron and bronze) replaced wood to increase strength, stability, firepower, and durability… Stone throwers had a single swinging arm and were known as… onager (wild ass) for the violent kick when fired and scorpio (scorpion) because of its form… Another… more accurate, was the carroballista or catapulta which fired heavy arrows, bolts or smaller stones… Legions (3,000-6,000 soldiers) probably had one artillery piece per cohort (1/10th of legion), although, some legions are described as having had 55 in some periods… Trajan’s Column use wagons and mules …to transport these machines and …some were mounted onto carts… The siege of Utica by Scipio Africanus (some say Africa named for him) in 204 BC was one of the first times they used them. They made …towers smaller and more manoeuvrable… added battering rams, a boarding bridge… and wheels. …Julius Caesar successfully employed a siege tower with 10 stories and …artillery in the siege of Uxellodunum in Gaul in the 1st century BC…
‘One of the longest Roman sieges was the attack on Carthage in the Third Punic War between 149 and 146 BC. The massively fortified city resisted until Scipio Africanus the Younger built a comprehensive siege wall and systematically attacked… In 70 CE Titus besieged Jerusalem… Masada was besieged …in 74 when the Romans built a massive 225-metre long and 75-metre high ramp level with the top of the city walls… Other sieges were carried out in Sicily, Greece and many forts in ancient Britain…” They also used cavalry, reserves and slaves.
c.142: Wie Boyang (Han Dynasty, China) records gunpowder as a mixture of 3 powders that ‘fly and dance.’
c. 330: Roman Emperor Constantine I founded the city Constantinople (on Byzantium – ancient Greek colony, 7th century BC). It was originally a Christian city with the Hagia Sophia constructed as a Greek Orthodox Church in the mid-6th century (before Mohammed was born). The Ottoman Muslims conquered the city in 1453, renamed it Istanbul, and forcefully converted the ‘Holy Wisdom’ Christian Church into a Mosque – now a museum.
c. 450: Attila the Hun (Hungary) gathered together the Huns and several Germanic tribes such as the Ostrogoths and Alans. Legend says that Attila claimed to have the sword of Mars – the Roman god of war. He commanded a vast army of warriors estimated at 200,000 – a force called the ‘flagellum dei (scourge of God).’ According to the Roman historian A. Marcellinus (History of Rome), “The nation of the Huns surpasses all other barbarians in wildness of life… Then, going into the fight in order of columns, they fill the air with varied and discordant cries. …they fight in no regular order of battle, but by being swift… they spread havoc over vast plains… they pillage the camp of their enemy almost before he has become aware of their approach… they are the most terrible of warriors because they fight at a distance with missile weapons having sharpened bones fastened to the shaft. When in close combat with swords, they fight without regard to their own safety, and while their enemy is intent upon parrying the trust of the swords, they throw a net over him and so entangle his limbs that he loses all power of walking or riding.” Their cavalry was massive and used quick shocking attacks.
c. 400-1400: The Byzantine Empire (eastern Roman Empire; still called Romans) survived the Roman Empire (after it was broken up and fell apart about 400 AD). They lasted from about 285 to 1461. They employ some of the same tactics (tactica) and strategies (stategicon), using and modifying Roman formations. However, the Byzantine cavalry used charges and formations, heavy and light horse archers. Their major cities had great walls, and they garrisoned many soldiers in their fortresses with towers and archers.
According to Weaponsandwarfare.com “…Speed and firepower had become the trademarks of the ‘new Romans.’ The stirrup reached the empire from China early in the fifth century… The core of the Byzantine army became the heavy cavalry. A typical heavy cavalryman was armed with a long lance, a short bow, a small axe, broadsword, a dagger, and a small shield. He wore a steel helmet, a plate mail corselet… leather gauntlets, and high boots. His horse’s head and breast might be protected with light armor as well… The infantryman …in the field was either a lightly armored archer who used a powerful long bow… or an unarmored skirmisher armed with javelins and shield… The Varangian Guard, the emperor’s personal body guards, were famous for their great two handed axes… their armor was almost complete plate and mail from head to foot. To the Byzantines, war was a science… Military manuals such as the Strategikon (ca. 580) and the Tactica (ca. 900) laid down the basics of military strategy that really did not vary for almost a thousand years… for several centuries the Byzantine army had no equal anywhere in the world…” “Greek Fire” was invented about c.670.
(above Charlemagne: Paris)
768-814: Charlemagne, Charles the Great, ‘Father of Europe,’ grandson of Charles Martel, ruled as King of the Franks (after death of Carloman – his brother) and then Emperor of the Romans. He united much of the old western Roman Empire and became the ‘Holy Roman Emperor.’ In 782, during the Saxon Wars (Germanic tribes vs. Franks), in order to crush the last of the Saxon revolts and strongholds, Charlemagne ordered the death of about 4,000 Saxons in Verden. He ordered that conversion to Catholic Christianity from paganism. He supported military campaigns against the Muslim Moors raiding Spain and into Austrasia. The Franks had large infantries and cavalries which had lances, swords and bows. The king used feudal levies (taxes) to fund standing armies. If the nobles and land holding freemen did not pay, they lost their lands (capitulary: kind of like taxpayers today). The Carolingian army was a professional force equipped with the best modern weapons, armor and warhorses. But it was supported by a system of barons or lords in the Empire who ruled over territories; yet who sworn alliance to the Holy Roman Emperor and the kingdom. Charlemagne in 46 years undertook 54 military campaigns. He was buried at the Cathedral of Aachen and later canonized by Frederick Barbarossa.
919: About this time the Chinese, according to the historian Lin Yu, acquired ‘Greek Fire’ from the Arab traders (Byzantine incendiary compound acquired from the Greeks). The Chinese had already invented piston syringes c.220. China began to use gunpowder rockets and fire arrows, bombs and grenades in battle. Approximately 930, they used piston-pump flame throwers.
c.1000: the fire lance – type of earliest gun invented in China.
1054: There was a Great Schism (split) between the Catholic and Orthodox Christians.
1066: William the Conquer (above), of France (Norman – Normandy), after the Battle of Hastings became the king of England. William’s forces of about 10,000 infantry and 1,000 to 2,000 cavalry crossed the English Channel on ships. They wore light chainmail – the cavalry’s had slits to allow riding. They had shields, javelins or crossbows and swords or maces. Harold II, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England, led his 7,000 to 15,000 soldiers to meet William. Harold was killed in Battle after 9 hours of fighting; as were his brothers, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. William had archers which inflicted many casualties on the English soldiers with slings and spears. And the Norman cavalry broke through the English/Anglo shield wall; and soon after the battle London also surrendered. Perhaps Harold should have made the Norman’s march the 75 miles to England and used better tactics. Nevertheless, through French was the language of the court for years; the Anglo-English common tongue of the people would prevailed as the language of Great Britain and many of their colonies.
1096-1204: Common weapons, strategy and troop numbers were still the weapons of mass destruction at that time. During this period were four Crusades where the prizes sought were Jerusalem, Antioch and Constantinople. During the first crusade the Christian knights took the Kingdom of Jerusalem and the Principality of Antioch; but by c. 1200 Salahd-la-Din (Saladin), Sultan of Egypt and Syria prevailed against the crusaders in the Levant. Richard the Lionheart, king of England, led the Third Crusade and aided in the taking of Arce. He also took about 2,700 Muslim prisoners which were later executed. About this time the Ottoman Muslim Turks were expanding; but it was the Catholic backed Crusaders that sacked Greek Orthodox city of Constantinople in 1204 (after earlier Byzantine attacks on Catholics; and their allowing Sultan Saladin to build a mosque). Attacks lasted months, and involved perhaps 200 transport and galley ships carrying about 8,000 infantry, as well as cavalry. If was a great fire that was set and broke the morale of the city; but it was the murdering, looting, raping and destroying in the already fragile city that would allow Turks to soon take control. This would lead to partition of Byzantine, the Balkan States and centuries of conflict.
960-1368: During the Song and Yuan Dynasties, the Chinese began putting stones, ceramics and metal in their gunpowder fire lances and tubes – which developed into Cannons. They developed into hand-held weapons used by Yuan troops (1288 AD) and as they got larger were mounted on carts. Smelted iron rings, bands, strips and tubes led to the early Chinese cannons.
c.1206-1241: Genghis Khan (Temujin), the first Khagan of the Mongol Empire united many nomadic tribes (including the Naimans, Merkits, Tatars, Keraites and Khamag Mongols) and then led campaigns to expand through much of Asia and into Europe. He had several wives and children, some who married among the Mongol and Muslim clans. In one of Khan’s campaigns he led 10 tumens (10 x 10,000). It is said that hundreds of thousands of Chinese Jin troops was massacred by the Mongols (genocide). Ogodei Khan (third son of Genghis) succeeded him, and would be the one to expand their territories to it largest extent. The Mongols (and certain Turks) were often known as the ‘Golden Horde;’ some say due to the color of their tents. Like most empire, civil wars led to their fall.
Mid-1200s: Bishop Albertus Magnus and Roger Bacon both speak of gunpowder in Europe.
1260: During the battle of Ain Jalut near Jerusalem, the Egyptian Muslim Mamluks fight the Mongols led by Mongke Khan. The Mamluks were among the first to used cannons. A century later they and other in Europe would be using types of these gunpowder weapons.
1337-1453: The Hundred Years’ War was fought on French soil, between the English and the French. By 1453, after decades of alliances and wars and marriages between ruling families, several treaties would be reached and each country would be faced with their own internal struggles and revolts. England would concede all its formerly held lands in France except Calais, France would reorganize; and soon both would turn its military, political and commercial eyes on colonization of foreign lands – for ‘God, Gold and Glory’ – mostly for Gold.
1370s-1464: Cannons began to be used in Europe as siege weapons to break down walls and gates. By 1464, Turkish military engineer Munir Ali built the Dardanelles Gun or Great Turkish Bombard Cannon (pictured below). It was made of bronze and fired very large stone balls. This model type would be used for hundreds of years, and iron shots were later used.
1368-1644: During the Ming Dynasty cannons were placed on ships; and field cannons became larger and more powerful. As the technology was traded or discovered, other nations rapidly included the cannon in the military arsenals.
Late 1300s: Hand guns in Europe and gunpowder in India.
c.1425: Matchlock (arquebus) rifles.
1440s-1476: Vlad the Impaler, Vlad III Dracula (Drăculea; ‘son of dragon – Dracul/Draco’) of Transylvania, Romanian used some of the most cruel methods of punishing his enemies. He was raised in partial captivity by the Muslim Ottoman’s and his father and an older brother was assassinated by Wallachia ‘Christian Orthodox’ Romanians, who later conceded to the Ottomans. Vlad III (first supported by the Ottoman Sultan – then repelling their expansion) engaged in numerous battles and campaigns against Hungarian and Ottoman forces to regain his father’s claims. On the field of battle he was noted to have left thousands of enemy victims impaled. He became a ruler of Romanian before being killed in battle. Some say Vlad had people placed in cauldrons and boiled or executed women in a horrible way. Some have compared Vlad to the psychopaths Caligula and Nero; both first century Roman Emperors (said to be responsible for the deaths of the apostles Peter and Paul; and numerous Christians).
1494: Treaty of Tordesillas: Divided the newly discovered Americas by Portugal and Spain.
1500-1800s: Spanish Empire: By this time, the Inca of Tawantinsuyu (parts of Peru, Chile, and Ecuador) had a population of perhaps more than 15 million. For two centuries their chiefs had united 100 different ethnic groups, built roads and centralized their language and religion. Nevertheless, the Spanish conquistador, Spanish smallpox and civil wars would bring down their empire. About the same time, the Aztecs of northern Mexico and Central America had also amassed an excessive native civilization. In 1428, Itzcoatl formed an alliance with the Texcocans and the Tacubans to defeat the Tepanec. The Aztecs, known for the tall pyramids and live sacrifices of girls and children to their spirits and gods, had skull racks in front of their temples – with skulls in the tens of thousands. In 1440, Montezuma I ruled over as many as 500 small states and 6 million Aztecs. Montezuma II (Moctezuma), ‘the god of war and of the sun,’ was the 9th Aztec emperor of Mexico; he was made prisoner by the Spanish leader Hernando Cortés, and killed by his own people in 1520 for his submission to the Spaniards. During which time the Aztecs overran the Spanish and killed about 800.
By 1521, Cortés small army of hundreds with cannons, swords, pikes and muskets, versus thousands with inferior hand weapons and fear, massacred as many as 200,000 people and razed Tenochtila – building Mexico City over the ruins. By 1570s the Spaniards with their horse soldiers, metal armor, swords, cannons and firearms; as well as their diseases and intermarrying (as did the Muslims and others throughout history); conquered the Incas – took over rule of their cities and systematically stole, claimed and carried their gold and resources back to Spain, which was also used the financial more war and the Spanish Colonization of much of the world from the Americas to Eastern Asia. At the same time that Cortés was conquering in the Americas, Magellan landed in the Philippines. Due to the resources found, Spain would subdue the Filipinos and take their resources for nearly 380 more years (1521-1898). And through conquering, building and centuries of intermarriage and culture, the Spanish forever would be intertwined with the Indians, land and history of the Americas.
1526: Pietro Beretta Arms Factory was founded in Italy; first making arquebus barrels. It is reported that Beretta has supplied weapons for every major European war since 1650.
c.1630: Flintlock rifles or muskets invented with better firing ignition systems.
1526-1800s: Portugal Empire: The Portuguese began to colonize Brazil (pau-brasil; a red wood) in 1533. At that time the 2 to 3 million inhabitants were spread across the lands in clans and tribes, some of which were cannibals. The Portuguese began by taking positions on the coast and by trading with some tribes. They took much hard Brazilian wood from the Rain forests (a process which continues today). They began cultivating sugar in 1526 and took indigenous slaves. About 1570, due to conflict and disease, Indian slaves were unable to meet the needs of the plantations. By about 1580, two-thirds of the slaves on the 66 sugar plantations were Indian and one-third African. By 1700, it is estimated that Brazil’s population was: 100,000 whites (Europeans), 150,000 slaves (mostly African), and 50,000 free blacks, Indians and mixed. Due to their desires for slave trading, in 1587 Portugal began establishing forts in Africa (the Dutch, British and French were already there). By the 1800s Portugal conquered and colonized Angola (Kongo) and Mozambique. Slave trade was banned in 1836 in Angola, but continued still until 1875. Slave trade involved African tribes raiding and taking other Africans, selling them to Muslim or Christian traders, who sold them to companies and ship masters who transported them for use or sell in the Americas.
1500s-1800s: British Empire (above): It is truly amazing and somewhat miraculous how such a small Island conquered such a great portion of the world. The 1500s were a period of the race to the Americas (which at first were believed to be part of Asia). By the 1560s England was slave-raiding by attacking Spanish and Portuguese ships. Wars would continue between the European rivals for centuries. In 1588, Spain sought to invade and siege England with their Armada; but do to naval tactics, fire ships, galleons with numerous cannons, winds and storms and some miracles, the English defeated the Spanish and their fleets and troops survived to colonize North America – instead of the Spanish who would have surely done so if they defeated the British/English. In 1607, Jamestown colony was established in America, and in 1620 the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth, MA, with their Mayflower Compact – for God and king. From the late 1600s to 1807, the British had transported between 3 and 3.5 million African slaves to the Americas. By 1783, with the Peace of Paris Treaty, the British acknowledged the independence of the United States. They turned their focus on Africa, India and Southeast Asia.
1611-1803: French Empire (above) Between 1534 and 1542, Jacques Cartier sailed three times to what is now part of Canada and Newfoundland; yet it was not until 1608 that Samuel Champlain landed in Quebec and 1611 that he established a settlement on Huron Island. By the 1660s several thousand colonists settled in Canada. By the mid-1700s the French and British were at war in the Americas and in Europe. The Indians were also either being used as allies, killed or pushed off their lands. In 1803, the United States made the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon, doubling the size of the U.S. Napoleon needed the funds for his war in Europe.
1586: The Russian Tsar Cannon weighed about 39 tons at 17.5 feet long.
1600s: Percussion rifles were replacing flintlocks; 1691 the revolving rifle was invented.
1799-1815: French-Napoleonic Wars: Bonaparte had very large armies of about 500,000 in some campaigns. The Catholic Pope ally, pushed the Austrians from most of Italy, then had to fight the British Coalition which included Russians, GK, Austria, Portugal, the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Naples. This caused the sale of the Louisiana Purchase, but more so stretched his troops across Europe. Though Napoleon used great tactics and had well-armed troops, while invading Russia, his troops were met with greater numbers (120,000) in Waterloo (Belgium); who had the advantage of being fresh and in a defensive position. Additionally, the battlefield was muddy. After the battle, over 40,000 of ≈70,000 were killed, missing or captured. This was the end of Napoleon’s rule and their expansion in Europe.
Early 1800s: great weapons of mass destruction were massive armies/infantries with gunpowder weapons (artillery and guns), as well as cavalries.
1810-1821: Mexican War of Independence shows overwhelming forces (100,000 irregular led by a Catholic Priest – Miguel Hidalgo) could still defeat and expel a significantly lesser number of well-armed soldiers (17,000 Spain and Mexican Royals).
1817-30s: King (Chief) Shaka (above), called by some as the founder of the Zulu Kingdom, expanded their lands and population by conquering other tribes and killing hundreds of thousands of Africans along the way. He taught close combat with a large spear (assegais) and tall shield; instead of throwing light spears that the enemy would only throw back. He brought 100 clans together – most by force. It is recorded that when his mother died in 1827, he ordered the execution of over 7,000 people for mourning correctly and some for being ‘ugly’ or ‘to old.’ He also ordered any that deserted to be executed. The over million Africans killed by the Zulu, by the spear or starvation, is also known as the ‘Mfecane’ or Crushing.
1300-1922: Ottoman Islamic Empire: The Muslim Osman overcomes the Seljuk Turks to become the leader and he lays siege to several cities in Turkey. His grandson had ex-slaves (many were kidnapped Christians) trained as Janissaries (elite paid infantrymen; many with flintlock rifles). After civil wars for power early 1400s, Mehmed II emerges as Sultan and the Ottomans pour resources into Istanbul (taxing non-Muslims – increasing converts). In 1520, Suleyman the Magnificent sends out his military to conquer territory and convert tens of thousands to Islam. The 1600s, the Ottoman sought expansion into Austria and also fought the Venetians and Persians, but the Austrians push them back into Hungary. By about 1700 they reach the extent of their Empire. By 1821, Greece revolted and won independence in 1830 with the aid of Great Britain, France and Russia. By 1878, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria gained their independence from the Ottomans. Then in 1912 the Balkan Wars began (often Christian against Muslim).
c.1740-1757: Russian Andrey Nartov invents a mounted fast-shooting gun on a rotating disc. In 1757 two Russians invented a muzzle-loading howitzer cannon.
Mid-1800s: Oil well and fields are being built in numerous countries.
1830-1875: The French over about 35 years in Algeria, according to Kiernan’s, Blood and Soil: A World History of Genocide…, reduced the population of the Algerians from about 3 million to between 500,000 and 1 million, “the war had killed approximately 825,000 indigenous Algerians since 1830,’ in a “system of extermination.”
1860-1865: American Civil War: Spencer repeating carbine rifle was patented in 1860; and the ‘Revolving Battery Gun’ or Gatling Gun (mounted hand cranked machine gun – 350 rpm) was invented in 1861 ironically by a doctor. Many of them were first used in the Battle of Petersburg (1864) and then adopted by the Army after the war (later version mounted on helicopters).
1870s: First cartridge revolver and the Winchester Rifle (1873). The Winchester became known as ‘the gun that won the West.’ Their company introduced repeating shotguns in 1887 and automatic rifles in 1903, a decade before WWI. Winchester Repeating Arms Company was founded in 1866. Their website notes by 1875 they were producing a million cartridges a day and that ‘smokeless powder entered the market in the 1890s… and started a new phase in the development of guns and ammunition.”
1883: the Zalinski Dynamite gun was first demonstrated and purchased by the U.S. Navy for the USS Vesuvius which was launched in 1888. These could fire explosing projectiles about 1.5 miles (2.5 km). They were used in the Spanish-America War in Cuba.
1891: The Mosin-Nagant, 5-shot internal magazine bolt-action rifle is introduced to the Russian Army – over 35 million who be produced over the next 100 years.
1696-1917: Russian Empire: 1696 Peter the Great ruled Russia. The next year he toured Europe with his ‘Grand Embassy’ seeking aid and allies. Russia was at a truce with the Ottoman in 1700, so they turned their eyes on taking the Baltic States and Sweden – where they took the fortress of Nyenskans and made it St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1762 Catherine the Great seized power from her husband Peter III; she ruled until 1796. It was during her reign that about a third of the Polish Empire was partition between the Prussians (German Empire), Austrians and Russians. By 1809, Finland was conceded to Russia. In 1812, the Russians pushed back and defeated Napoleon’s invading French troops. Throughout the 1800s were also several Russo-Turkish Wars (Russian Empire vs Ottoman Empire); the Crimean War, where the Russians (and Greeks) were defeated by a collision of French, British, Ottomans and others from the region; as well as Russian expansion in Asia – capturing Turkestan in 1865. The Russians sold Alaska to the United States in 1867 to fund their militaries and struggling economy; yet, they did defeat the Ottoman Turks a decade later. In 1904, Japan goes to war invading Russia; the next year (1905) begins a Revolution, 1914 World War I and after the Great War another Russian Revolution (1917) which ended the age of their Empire and began their Republic.
1273–1918: German Empire: In 768 Charlemagne became the Holy Roman Emperor and began to unite the Germanic tribes. In 1273, Rudolf of Hapsburg was crowned king of the Germans. In 1701, Fredrick became the first King of Prussia (then largest German state); and in 1806, the Prussians were at war with the Napoleon and France (the Germans would be off and on at war with the French for the next 140 years). In 1871, Germany captured Paris temporary; same year Wilhelm was first Kaiser. They would cease as an Empire after World War I.
(above: 1848 Prussian Needle Gun; used in Danish-German War 1864; below Mauser Infanteriegewehr – Infantry Rifle 1871; below that a Mauser Model 1898 with insertable cartridges).