Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture

Journey to the West: Gunpowder’s Odyssey from China to Europe and Back

Date
17 October 2018
Time
Address
Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 1
2311 BZ Leiden
Room
006

Gunpowder was one of the most consequential inventions to emerge from China. While an earlier generation of scholars sought to prove the Chinese origin of gunpowder, the transmission of gunpowder across Eurasia has seldom received much attention.  The history of how gunpowder and gun technology traveled west across Eurasia in the late 13th and early 14thcenturies, and then returned east in the 16thcentury tells us a lot about the global medieval world and the roots of the modern world.  Perhaps just as critically, tracking the movement of gunpowder technology across Eurasia provides a better picture of the development of gunpowder technology in China, explains why it stagnated in the 14thcentury, and highlights the differences between the invention, production, and effects of technology on societies. 

Peter Lorge is Associate Professor of Pre-Modern Chinese and military history at Vanderbilt University.  He is the author of four books, most recently The Reunification of China: Peace Through War Under the Song Dynasty(Cambridge 2015).  He is currently working on a book detailing the cultural use of Sunzi’s Art of Warin the West.

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