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Asia in the Gunpowder Revolution  

Scott C. Levi

Contrary to long-held notions that gunpowder weapons technologies were devised in the West and gradually transmitted eastward into Asia, more recent scholarship indicates that innovations flowed in both directions. Scholars have also come to recognize that there was no uniformity in the ways that states implemented gunpowder weapons, and that multiple factors relating to environment, demographics, and cultural preferences informed decisions about when and how to embrace the new technology. The major Asian agrarian states of the Ottomans, Safavids, and Mughals (the so-called Gunpowder Empires) and the Ming and Qing dynasties in China implemented gunpowder weapons differently. The Ottomans were the most aggressive in this regard, the Mughals preferred a hybrid force, and the Safavids long favored cavalry. Chinese militaries employed hybrid forces to great effect, but in later years a lengthy peace during the Qing era slowed the implementation of new technologies. In Central Asia and other places where rulers could rely on large numbers of well-trained, fast-moving mounted archers and a nearly endless supply of horses, they found little reason to rush to embrace what for several centuries represented an expensive, slow, and unreliable technology.


Humanitarian Aid and Development Assistance in Afghanistan since 1979  

Jennifer L. Fluri and Rachel Lehr

Afghanistan has been on the receiving end of uneven development aid and humanitarian assistance since the early days of the Cold War. Since the onset of war in 1979, a lack of strategic planning has contributed to poorly coordinated and irregularly implemented relief and development aid only worsened by proxy wars of competing empires and the capriciousness of donor governments. Armed conflict, whether between empires or regional and local actors, has been a consistent challenge. The intent of humanitarian assistance is to alleviate suffering and save lives in times of crisis, political or environmental. It is by design reactive, limited in duration and reach. The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan has required relief and assistance over a long rather than limited time period. Humanitarian aid worldwide is mostly coordinated through UN agencies and implemented by local affiliates or partners. Development aid is designed to address structural issues in a country in order to improve lives and livelihoods, through improvement programs for infrastructure and economies. Institutional and political reform are part of development aid, often conceived in accordance with the political systems and to meet the goals and interests of donor countries. In Afghanistan, in the past twenty years the problems relating to the distribution of massive amounts of donor funding, the coordination and implementation between local and international Non-Governmental Organizations, the role of the United Nations, and the international military forces, have all hampered success across spatial scales. From 1979 to 1992 humanitarian assistance was also delivered in response to the political goals of donors—in the proxy war between the US and Soviet empires—and from 2001 to 2021 as a primary target of the US-led Global War on Terror. Relief and aid have always suffered from top-down administration, allocation decisions made at the donors’ political whims, decisions about programs and budgets taken at headquarters, or implementation in the field where reality does not meet expectations.


The Indian Army, 1850–1950  

Anirudh Deshpande

In 1850, the armed forces of the English East India Company were comprised of three Presidency Sepoy Armies and the Bombay Marine sometimes called the Indian Navy. A British Army garrison drawn on rotation from infantry, cavalry, and artillery units, numbering around 50,000, was stationed in India as a counterpoise to the sepoy armies. Between 1750 and 1850, the sepoy armies developed as self-contained forces with separate budgets, commands, recruitment, artillery, infantry, and cavalry. In 1850, the Bombay and Madras Armies, theoretically autonomous, were subordinated to Calcutta. Entrusted with the conquest of north and northwest India, the Bengal Army became the largest sepoy army in the 19th century, recruiting high-caste Purbias from the Gangetic plains. Numerous Bengal Army regiments mutinied in 1857 and a major military reorganization in 1859 was recommended by the Peel Commission. The consequence was the single “class” (actually an ethnic or caste community) company and mixed-class battalion model. Numerous Sikh and Gurkha units were regularized in the Bengal Army and the number of Purbia battalions was reduced. The Presidency Armies were reformed again after the Second Afghan War (1878–1880) on the recommendations of the Eden Commission (1879). From 1875 to 1900, Indian military recruitment was influenced by the “martial races” theory, which remained influential up to 1947. In the 1880s, the movement toward the unification of the Presidency Armies strengthened. In 1891, the presidency staff corps became the Indian staff corps, and in 1895 a single four-command Indian Army came into existence. Between 1902 and 1909, the regiments were renumbered in a new series and reforms were carried out by Lord Kitchener. These reforms failed to stem the growing criticism of the Indian Army in official circles. The result was the appointment of the Nicholson Committee in 1912 whose recommendations were preempted by World War I (1914-1918). World War I highlighted several deficiencies in the Indian Army, most of which remained unaddressed until World War II. In the interwar years, a massive retrenchment and budgetary constraints restricted the modernization of the army. Limited Indianization, the setting up of the Indian Military Academy (IMA), and technological obsolescence were the chief characteristics of the history of the Indian Army in the interwar years. Finally, the Chatfield Committee observations (1939) painted a grim picture of Indian defense; British rearmament from 1932 had left precious little money for the Indian Army. In 1947, the Indian Army was divided into the Indian and Pakistani Armies, commanded by senior British officers up to the early 1950s. In sum, the Indian Army was decisive in the expansion and consolidation of the British Empire in Africa and Asia. Further, its services in the two world wars ensured the survival of the Empire and, thereby, Britain itself. Although the loyalty of this army was tested by small and large mutinies, it generally remained a trusted instrument of British control in south Asia between 1858 and 1947.


Port Cities and Islamic Insurgency across Southeast Asia, 1850–1913  

Joshua Gedacht

Port cities have long played a critical role in the circulation of peoples, commodities, and ideas within and across the maritime spaces of Southeast Asia. Although an indelible component of the islands and archipelagos of this region since at least the 15th century, the rise of global empires in the 19th century rejuvenated these communities by the sea, giving rise to thriving metropolises from Rangoon to Singapore, Bangkok to Penang. Historians recognize that these ascendant cities served as “imperial bridgeheads,” connecting the products and peoples of the Southeast Asian hinterlands to world markets. Yet, the idea of “cosmopolitanism” arguably pervades how historians understand these port cities; bustling docks, diverse populations, and lively scenes of popular culture take precedence over the imperial coercion unfolding within and beyond their shores. Port cities and urbanization, in fact, were intimately intertwined with the violence of conquest and Islamic insurgency enveloping various corners of the Southeast Asian countryside. When armed conflicts such as the bitter Dutch-Aceh War in the Netherlands East Indies (present-day Indonesia) and the Moro Wars in the southern Philippines engulfed venerable Muslim sultanates, the maritime metropolises of the Straits Settlements emerged as critical nodes—sites for the dissemination of weapons and smugglers, spies and diplomats, contentious ideas and theologies. These circulations were facilitated not just by Muslim networks or colonial agents but by the very cosmopolitan nature of port cities. Chinese and German, Arab and Turkish, Muslim and Christian, all became drawn into the whirling vortex of “Islamic insurgencies.” By highlighting the integral position of port cities in the conduct of various armed conflicts, it becomes possible to gain new perspectives and suggest reconfigured research paradigms for understanding the connected histories of colonial conquest.


Japanese Empire in Taiwan  

Paul D. Barclay

On April 17, 1895, the Qing dynasty ceded the province of Taiwan to Japan in the Treaty of Shimonoseki, ending the Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895). Thereafter, Taiwan was governed as a colony of imperial Japan through 1945. Armed resistance to the Japanese occupiers flared from 1895 through 1915, and it continued sporadically into the 1930s. Tens of thousands of Taiwanese were killed, wounded, or displaced in the collateral damage that was part and parcel of Japanese state-building on the island. Taiwanese civil protest movements against Taiwan Government-General despotism crested between 1914 and 1934. Concurrently, Japanese politicians in Tokyo, administrators in Taiwan, and civilian settlers implemented various economic development and population management schemes. Deep water harbors, hydroelectric dams, agricultural research institutes, and an island-wide railway system were built, while functioning systems of commercial law, public health, and education were implemented. After the great depression hit in 1929, the Taiwan Government-General severely curtailed the activities of Taiwanese nationalists, communists, and labor organizers. From 1936, Taiwan became a hub for Japanese southward expansion into the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. Thereafter, increased exploitation, surveillance, and militarization were coupled with intensified assimilation campaigns. After 1942, the Imperial Japanese Army recruited Taiwanese to serve as soldiers in Southeast Asia and Pacific Island campaigns. At least 200,000 Taiwanese were mobilized during World War II, as soldiers, auxiliaries, translators, medics, and laborers for Japan’s armed forces. Over 30,000 perished. Upon Japan’s surrender to the Allied Powers, sovereignty over Taiwan was transferred from the Government-General of Taiwan to the Republic of China, which formally assumed power on October 25, 1945.


Military Technology and Organization in Imperial China  

Peter Lorge

Warfare and the military were at the center of the imperial Chinese state, though their significance was downplayed by government officials and the literati. Chinese dynasties fielded armies organized and supported by the central government that combined infantry and cavalry forces, and mixed part-time (militia) and professional soldiers. Cavalry and infantry forces were strongly, though not exclusively, connected to ethnic background. The best and most numerous cavalry came from steppe groups, and the best and most numerous infantry were Chinese. The stirrup and guns were invented in China, changing the course of both Chinese and world military history. China also had a highly developed tradition of military thought that drew upon a classical tradition and was vastly elaborated and expanded upon during the imperial period. What most distinguished imperial China from its earlier period was the effective use of war to create and support a unified state. Overall, the history of warfare and the military in imperial China was one of technological and intellectual sophistication in support of state power.


The Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe in 1223, 1237-1240  

Alexander V. Maiorov

The task of the tümens of Jebe and Sübedei’s raid to Europe (1221–1223) was not limited to reconnaissance only. This raid was part of Chinggis Khan’s general expansion strategy involving establishing total control over the Kipchaks and conquering their steppe territories both in Asia and Europe. This strategic ambition had to be implemented by Prince Jochi, the ruler of the Western ulus of the Mongol Empire. Jochi was to bring his major forces to Europe and join the Jebe and Sübedei vanguard corps for the final defeat of the Kipchaks. Being allies and kin of the Kipchak rulers, the prince of Kiev and other southern Rus’ princes provided military assistance to them. Thus, the counter-attack of the Mongols targeted Rus’. After the defeat of the Rus’–Kipchak coalition forces in the Battle of the Kalka River, the Mongols were able to cross the Dnieper and approach Kiev. However, Jochi’s refusal to bring his major forces to support the Mongol vanguard brought to naught all the victories and achievements of generals Jebe and Sübedei. The initial goals of the Great Western Campaign of the Mongols (late 1236–1242) consisted in conquering Volga Bulgaria, the Kipchak/Polovets steppes, and the Hungarian kingdom. To a large extent, the defeat and destruction of Vladimir-Suzdal Principality occurred as part of the aftermath of the battle of Kolomna, where Kölgän, the youngest son of Chinggis Khan and one of the most honorable Mongol lords, was killed. The Mongol invasion was preceded by peace negotiations with the Mongols conducted by the most powerful Rus’ princes, specifically Yury Vsevolodovich of Vladimir-Suzdal and Daniel Romanovich of Galicia-Volhynia. Following these negotiations, the princes did everything they could to avoid personal involvement in military action against the Mongols. The Mongols’ stone artillery and wide use of flame liquids were critical weapons in the siege and assault of Rus’ cities and towns. The defendants had no effective countermeasures against these dangerous weapons. A comparative analysis of various reports in Rus’ chronicles about the date of the capture of Kiev by the Mongols with information from Hungarian sources shows that the most likely date is December 6, 1240. The proper names Uladmur and Uchogul Uladmur, given by the medieval Persian historian Rashīd al-Dīn in his account of the conquest of south Rus’ by the Mongols, cannot be related to the historical toponyms of Galician-Volhynian Rus’. The Mongol name Uladmur was connected with the name of Prince Vladimir Riurikovich, who had occupied the Kievan throne not long before the attack of the Mongols against south Rus’ and held peaceful negotiations with Prince Möngke. In Volhynia and Galicia the Mongols used a method that they had often used before. They forced the residents of the conquered cities to go outside the city walls and massacred them. They spared only the young men suitable for military service and took them into auxiliary troops (khashar), so that they should fight in the most dangerous areas of the battle.


Nomadic Warfare before Firearms  

Timothy May

Nomadic warfare in the Eurasian steppes centered on a mobile horse-archer whose composite bow was surpassed by firearms only in the 17th and 18th centuries. Until the rise of effective firearms, pastoral nomadic horse-archers were the most dominant element on the battlefield. Even after the advent of firearms, nomads remained effective. The horse-archer’s bow possessed comparable accuracy, range, and a more favorable rate of fire than slow-loading harquebuses. As early firearms tended to be slow and inaccurate, they were not decisive against nomads until cannons became sufficiently mobile to disrupt formations of swift moving horse-archers. Even then, it was still necessary for states to have well-developed logistical systems in order to support sedentary-firearms-based armies in the steppes. These armies still found it necessary to have suitable numbers of nomads to serve as scouts and to protect their flanks. While massed firearm-wielding infantry, accompanied by cannons, could defeat nomadic armies, they remained vulnerable in transit. The success of nomadic warfare prior to firearms was dependent not only on technological factors such as the composite bow and lamellar armor, but also factors such as tactics that became a standard part of steppe warfare, including the feigned retreat and encirclements. The strategic and tactical level of steppe warfare reached its zenith during the period of the Mongol Empire, which also ushered in a revolution in steppe warfare. Other factors also played a part, including the training for warfare through hunting and herding. Combined with a vigorous and often harsh lifestyle on the steppes, sedentary observers often viewed the pastoral nomadic warrior as if bred for war.


Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s Invasion of the Chosŏn Kingdom, 1592–1598  

Nam-lin Hur

In the fourth month of 1592, and at the direction of Toyotomi Hideyoshi—the feudal baron, or daimyo, who unified the Warring States (Sengoku) across the Japanese Archipelago—a massive force invaded the Korean Peninsula, which, at the time, was controlled by the Chosŏn dynasty. The war lasted until late 1598. Initially, the defending Chosŏn armies were helpless, but they managed to frustrate Hideyoshi’s goals before leaders of the Ming dynasty dispatched a large rescue force in the twelfth month of 1592. The Ming, whose empire spanned much of the central and eastern territories of present-day China, were concerned about the security of their borders, but they were also pressured by the Chosŏn to help. There were two intense battles in 1593 (albeit the second did not involve the Ming); however, despite the Chosŏn’s strong opposition, the Ming court and the Hideyoshi regime pursued a negotiated settlement to end the war. These negotiations ended in failure: Hideyoshi ordered his daimyo generals to resume an attack against the Chosŏn in 1597, the Ming court sent reinforcements, and more battles ensued. In the end, none of the belligerents got what they wanted. The war came to an end when Hideyoshi died in the eighth month of 1598. All battles took place in the Chosŏn-controlled Korean Peninsula, and the casualties far exceeded those that occurred anywhere else in the world during the 16th and 17th centuries. Hideyoshi’s invasion of the Chosŏn kingdom went through three phases: (1) invasion, defense, and retreat (4/1592–4/1593); (2) attempted truce negotiations (5/1593–8/1596); and (3) massive resumption of battle and the path to the withdrawal of Hideyoshi’s invading troops (9/1596–11/1598). The aftermath of the war involved the collapse of the Hideyoshi regime and socially transformed the entire region.


Warfare and Arms of the Early Iron Age Steppe Nomads  

Oleksandr Symonenko

At the turn of Bronze and Early Iron Ages, the nomads of the Eurasian steppe brought about a new and progressive phenomenon in world military history: cavalry warfare. Spanning the vast distance from the Danube in the West to the Hwang Ho in the Far East, among nomadic peoples including the Cimmerians, Scythians, Sakas, Sarmatians, Xiongnu, and Xianbei, a universal mode of warfare, more or less similar in tactics, battle, arms and armor, and horse harness, dominated. The chronological frames of the Early Iron Age are differently determined in various historiographical traditions, but for the history of steppe Eurasia the frame is customarily considered to begin in the 10th century bce and end in the 5th century ce. The main sources used in studying the military art of Early Iron Age nomads are of two categories: the literary sources (Greek, Roman, Chinese), and archaeological finds of weapons, armor, and horse harnesses belonging to the various archaeological cultures of steppe nomads. The literary sources noted the Cimmerians (10th–8th c. bce); people of the Scythian ethnic group (7th–3rd c. bce), the proper Scythians and the Sakas, Massagetians, Issedonians, and Sauromatians; the Sarmatians (2nd c. bce–4th c. ce); the Xiongnu (2nd c. bce–1st c. ce); their contemporaries the Wusun and Yuezhi, and some other peoples. The light-armed cavalry was a basic military force of the nomads. Each nomadic man was an armed and skillful warrior. Judging from archaeological material and narrative sources, the nomadic light cavalryman was armed by bow and arrows, light javelin and/or lance, and probably lasso. The light cavalry consisted of the common nomads. Since the 7th c. bce noble nomad formed the heavy armored cavalry where the horsemen, and sometimes their horses, wore body armor and helmets. The tactical principles and fighting methods of nomads were conditioned by the composition of their army, with light cavalry prevailing. One of the main methods was raids, which varied in duration, range, and composition of personnel involved. The battle tactics of nomadic troops developed due to a need to overcome a resistance of deep infantry formation. Since the long spears of infantry inhibited close combat, nomadic horsemen first covered the adversary with a massive and dense, although undirected, torrent of arrows. After that, light horsemen approached and threw spears and javelins from shorter distances, thus causing confusion in the ranks of the infantry. Then heavy cavalry rushed into the breach for fighting with close-combat weapons, spears, and battleaxes.


Warfare in Premodern Southeast Asia  

Michael W. Charney

Warfare in premodern Southeast Asia, roughly that fought up until the end of the 19th century, was shaped by the environment across the region. Maritime trade connections brought the introduction and circulation of external models of warfare that would help to frame the way warfare in the region was depicted in some of the indigenous literature and art (including the influence of the Indian epics on shadow puppet theater). Firearms played a more direct role in determining the development of warfare in the region over the course of the early modern period. As a result of better firearms, the elephant declined in battlefield importance and was increasingly replaced by cavalry. In the 18th century, Southeast Asians fielded some of their best-organized armies, and in the early 19th century there was a temporary revival of naval strength in parts of the region, particularly in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the introduction of the steamship and better European military technology from the 1820s ushered in the decline of the remaining Southeast Asian armies by the end of the 19th century. Although indigenous states would attempt to modernize and catch up with Europe militarily, all of Southeast Asia, save for Thailand, fell under European control.