Rulers with Guns: the Rise of Powerful States
1400 – 1800 CE
Why This Unit?
The invention and spread of gunpowder technology is a case study in technological diffusion, and one that had profound effects on human society. For some historians, the appearance of firearms marks the beginning of the modern era because it had a huge impact on the direction of human history. Students need to understand the nature of this innovation, its military and civilian applications, and the profound changes that its use by political leaders brought about. From a world historical perspective, it is important to widen the lens from a traditionally narrow focus on events in Europe related to this new technology to take in the consequences for peoples and societies around the world.
Upon completing this unit, students
will be able to:
1. Describe the origins, transfer, and uses of gunpowder technology in warfare.
2. Analyze the effects of firearms on the development of powerful, centralized states.
3. Compare societies that made use of, or were affected by, gunpowder weapons in various parts of the world from 1400 to 1700 CE.
4. Analyze the material and cultural impact of powerful monarchies based on gunpowder military expansion through visual analysis of royal portraits.
Time and Materials
These lessons will take 3-4 class periods to complete.
Materials needed are 8 ½ x 11-inch paper, butcher paper, pencils, and colored markers.
Table of Contents
Why this unit?
Time and materials
The historical context
This unit in the Big Era time line
Lesson 1: What is Gunpowder?
Lesson 2: Bells, Buddhas, and Bombards: Military Gunpowder Technology
Lesson 3: Bombs, Bullets, and Bureaucracies: the Growth of Centralized States
Lesson 4: Effects of Gunpowder in Different Societies
Lesson 5: Portraits of Potentates
This unit and the Three Essential Questions
This unit and the Seven Key Themes
This unit and the Standards in Historical Thinking