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Some seminal works get the exposure they deserve others languish The difference between the two is often the flash of the subject John Keegan made his mark with The Face of Battle beginning his investigations of battle experience with three famous battles Bert Halls Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe Gunpowder Technology and Tactics doesnt have the allure of Waterloo or Agincourt and wont get the attention Keegans book did Nonetheless Keegan and Hall share three of the most important facets of serious military history a detailed and innovative explanation of their subjects destruction of hoary stereotypes and integration of military matters into the history of society as a whole Mr Halls work attacks the concept that the apparent slowness of Europe in accepting gunpowder for use in the field was due to conservative members of feudal society The standard image of the plate-armored aristocratic knight resenting anything so ignoble as a firearm fits well into the classic noble versus bourgeois dynamic of the Renaissance thus bearing out authors as diverse as Burkhardt Marx and Shakespeare Hall makes the case instead that city dwellers could more easily adapt the new technology because the leaders of field armies although realizing the value of firearms had more obstacles to overcome before they could use handguns profitably Hall begins by reviewing the evolution of tactics before the advent of gunpowder and finds not surprisingly the cavalry-heavy armies of the day were beginning to develop ad hoc combined arms tactics He then explains why gunpowder did not play an immediate role in this evolution Gunpowder was very difficult to produce in Europe because of the scarcity of saltpeter When it was obtained powder was difficult to store and transport in the field Halls detailed explanations on how these problems were overcome are meticulous and delightful one solution for the saltpeter problem entailed strong beer and tavern outhouses He then verifies that the aristocracy of the
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