Military historians have argued that the emergence in Europe of the musketry volley fire technique and the concurrent development of systematic infantry drill was of epochal importance for world history, a key part of the famous “military revolution” that underlay Europeans’ purported military advantage over other peoples. This article shows that the arquebus volley technique was described in the writings of the famous Chinese military thinker Qi Jiguang by 1560, well before the most commonly accepted date for the technique’s introduction in Europe. Qi Jiguang’s drilling techniques were part of a long and unbroken military tradition stretching back to China’s Tang dynasty and beyond, in which drill—and the volley technique itself—played a central role. The implications for our understanding of global military history are profound. As we learn more about Asian military history we will increasingly question standard narratives of our global military past.
BörekçiGünhan“A Contribution to the Military Revolution Debate: The Janissaries’ Use of Volley Fire during the Long Ottoman-Habsburg War of 1593-1606 and the Problem of Origins.”Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae2006594407438
GontierJean-Marie“Qi Jiguang, un stratège de la dynastie Ming (1528-1587).”Institut de Stratégie Comparée Commission Française d’Histoire Militaire2012accessed 11 November 2014http://www.institut-strategie.fr/?p=671.
de LandtsheerJeanineEnenkelK. A. E.“Justus Lipsius’s De militia Romana: Polybius Revived, or How an Ancient Historian was Turned into a Manual of Early Modern Warfare.”Recreating Ancient History: Episodes from the Greek and Roman Past in the Arts and Literature of the Early Modern Period2002LeidenBrill101122
NakajimaGakusho中島樂章GuoWanping郭萬平ZhangJie張捷“16 shiji 40 niandai de Shuang yu zousi maoyi yu Ou shi huoqi” 16 世紀 40 年代的雙嶼走私貿易與歐式火器Zhou shan Pu tuo yu dong ya haiyu wenhua jiaoliu 舟山普陀與東亞海域文化交流2009HangzhouZhejiang University Press3443
ParkerGeoffreyTracyJames“The Artillery Fortress as an Engine of European Overseas Expansion, 1480-1750.”City Walls: The Urban Enceinte in Global Perspective2000CambridgeCambridge University Press386416
Lipsius1614. For more on the influence of classical models on European warmaking in the early modern period see Scott 1992 especially the examination of the musketry volley technique at 116-22.
Landtsheer 2002; Dear2003101-29; Parrot 2012 97-99; and most importantly Parker 2007.
Reyd1650162. I found this source through the wonderful Parker 2007.
Equiluz159569. I found this source through the excellent González de León 2004 25-42.
Parker2007337. He also cites two other examples.
See especially Nimwegen2010100-112; and Parker 2007. But see also Puype 1997.
González de León200429.
Parker2000414. See also Parker 1996 140-41. Italics in original. He and many others have argued that Nobunaga employed the technique in the famous battle of Nagashino in 1575 with three thousand arquebusiers divided into three rows that fired in turn defeating the enemy’s cavalry charges. Parker 1996 140-41. Stavros 2013 248-52; Brown 1948 239; Perrin 1979 17-20; Haskew et al. 2008 54-62 94 and 189. This is debatable. As two scholars of Japanese history have recently written “the commonly accepted story that attributes the victory [at Nagashino] to three thousand harquebusiers who arrayed in three ranks alternated rank by rank in stepping forward to fire enfilades and rearward to reload their weapons is a myth.” Ōta et al. 2011 42. In another work Jeroen Lamers is a bit more circumspect writing “whether or not Nobunaga actually operated with three rotating ranks cannot be determined on the basis of reliable evidence.” See Lamers 2000. The emphasis on Nagashino perhaps misses the point. There seems little doubt that the Japanese did indeed use the technique at other battles. Conlan 2008 170.
Fan and Quan2004259-60.
See for instance Huang1981168-69; Archer et al. 2002 198; Turnbull 2012 52; Whiting 2002 449.
Clausewitz1976esp. 119-21. I’m indebted to Sally Paine who helped clarify Clausewitz’s thought for me.
Charles Oman cited in Kelly200471.
See for example Haskew et al.200844.
Gontier2012Chapter 1 section 3.3.
See e.g. Wang1990147148.
See Swope2009esp. 163-64 125-28 246.
Li Rusong cited in Swope2009163.
He1606juan 12 cited in Li 2012 16. He Rubin believed that the reasons had to do with the intense northern winds which had a tendency to blow the powder out of the musket’s flashpan as well as with the greater speed of the fast lance which was less accurate than the musket but much easier to load and thus more effective against mounted adversaries.
Nakajima2009. The collection Nakajima used is Zhu Wan 朱紈 Bi yu za ji 璧餘雜集 12 juan originally published in the Jiajing period probably around 1549.