Essay on Gunpowder: Triumph and Tragedy

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Gunpowder was originally created and widely used by ancient China around the 10th century. It is rumored that Taoist alchemists discovered gunpowder while trying to find the formula for immortality. The creation was made out of carbon, sulfur, and potassium nitrate. While the formula failed, the compound that was formed was much more potent. It had the ability to burn at high temperatures and explode when concealed in a canister. After a little more testing with the proportions of the ingredients, gunpowder was created.

Gunpowder had many uses early on. One of those uses is for mining, in which the Chinese used it to blow up rocks. This proved to be much easier than conventional tools since it was faster and less work, albeit far more reckless. Another use was for fireworks, the first is known as the ti lao shi, also known as the ground rat. It fired in all directions, spinning on the ground. The crackling effect of gunpowder was used in fires to ward off demons and was later used to scare enemies. The Chinese would also use gunpowder on oxen, turning them into massive weapons. Another major use was for shooting small pebbles, rocks, and arrows from early forms of guns and cannons. British scientist and philosopher, Roger Bacon, was one of the first in gunpowder's evolution. He was responsible for making gunpowder more powerful through experimentation with ingredients and proportions. However, after it was created, it was mostly kept a secret because of its power until it was leaked in the 16th century. After the leak, there was an explosive amount of development in gunpowder. There was the new ability to change the colors of the sparks from the gunpowder by adding metals to it, advancing firework technology. It also gained a hotter and faster burning rate. Plus, it became very ingrained in military technology with new developments like guns and cannons.

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A triumph for gunpowder is the fact that it highly contributed to the end of the middle evil ages, a very cruel, and ruthless period of time. Because gunpowder was powerful enough to launch projectiles close range combat was limited. This is because projectiles could easily pierce armor and kill the person inside. Plus a single cannonball could kill many people at once! With these new inventions, wars quickly devolved into guerrilla (hide and seek) warfare. Furthermore, with the use of gunpowder castles were made useless because cannons could quickly knock down walls and doors. Even if the castle had a draw bridge and moat they were useless because cannonballs and flaming arrows could be shot over the walls and destroy the castle from the inside. These reasons are how gunpowder largely contributed to the demise of the middle ages and started a new era for mankind. Weapons play a huge part in gunpowder's history. Some of the earliest weapons known to use gunpowder were used by the Chinese. For example, the early Chinese would light fires before a battle started and through gunpowder on them. This would ignite the gunpowder causing it to make a loud crackling sound. This would make their army look and sound larger than it really was and scare the enemy. Another early weapon the Chinese used was gunpowder on oxen. They would light the tail and horns of the oxen on fire and then strap a larger bomb on its back. This would send the oxen rampaging into the enemy causing much confusion and destruction. Furthermore, the first military rockets were used by the Chinese c.1232. They were called the fei huo tsiang or flying fire lances in English.

The first guns were far from effective, they launched small rocks or arrows out of hollowed-out bamboo rods supported by steel. However, this design did not create much compression at all when the gunpowder was lit so the projectiles did not go far. Plus the weak materials used meant that the aim was horrible and the gun had a strong chance of backfiring. Because of the poor results from guns early on, it took a while for them to get more usage and evolve. But by the 13th century, more and more guns became popular. The first which is shown above was created around 1332 with a completely bronze structure which made it very powerful but hard to carry. The first cannons started to be used around the 13th century in the middle east. The Chinese used a shoot of bamboo and a large rock (similar to their first gun) and launched the rock by igniting tun powder behind it. It went through a similar evolutionary process to guns. However, cannons were a definite deviation from standard guns. Because of this, cannons were sometimes favored because of their massive damage potential and firing range.

The one downside is that cannons could be unpredictable with backfiring. This is because the massive explosion that occurs in the barrel will slowly wear it away. So if a cannon has been overused it will explode when lit and destroy anything around it. Even though gunpowder may have been responsible for much death and destruction throughout the ages, it is also responsible for saving millions of lives and keeping us safe. Gunpowder brought the end of the terrible medieval ages, created weapons that provide safety to people, and therefore strengthen our military. It made fireworks, a lovely spectacle to behold, and finally, fun recreational activities like fire-making, target shooting, and hunting paved a way for new technology. We chose our topic because gunpowder was the driving force of modern-day concepts such as guns and fireworks. We always talk about these things very casually even though our ancestors way before us were very terrified of gunpowder because nothing had ever been like it. It is this and the general curiosity about such a dangerous powder that led to us choosing this topic.

The way we conducted our research was we initially searched through the databases for primary source documents and reliable information, before resorting to the internet for the rest of our information. After we had found our information, we needed to find some interactive media. Soon enough we discovered a video and some audio that fit under the limit and implemented it. As this was all going on, we were citing the sources and annotating the ones we were actually going to use for our annotated bibliography. We eventually found all the information we needed and we were done. We selected the website for our presentation category because we felt that an electronic form of the project would be easier to access and would give a more modern feel to our project. The way we created our project was by meeting up and adding to the website carefully and gradually each time, starting out with our basic information and sources, then things like photos, a video, some audio, and optimization. Each time we worked, the website become a bit more complete, and we did it until the due date. Our project supports the theme of triumph and tragedy by how we decided to go in a more positive direction. This helps show that our website is for triumph over tragedy and demonstrates how the debate for this theme works. Not only that but we also mentioned some of the bad things that came from gunpowder, showing that there is a tragic side to each topic. Besides those two things, there wasn’t much else we could’ve done to relate to the theme

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Essay on Gunpowder: Triumph and Tragedy. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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