Gunpowder: Alchemy, Bombards, and Pyrotechnics: The History of the Explosive that Changed the World

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Basic Books, Apr 27, 2009 - History - 272 pages
When Chinese alchemists fashioned the first manmade explosion sometime during the tenth century, no one could have foreseen its full revolutionary potential. Invented to frighten evil spirits rather than fuel guns or bombs—neither of which had been thought of yet—their simple mixture of saltpeter, sulfur, and charcoal went on to make the modern world possible. As word of its explosive properties spread from Asia to Europe, from pyrotechnics to battleships, it paved the way for Western exploration, hastened the end of feudalism and the rise of the nation state, and greased the wheels of the Industrial Revolution.With dramatic immediacy, novelist and journalist Jack Kelly conveys both the distant time in which the “devil's distillate” rose to conquer the world, and brings to rousing life the eclectic cast of characters who played a role in its epic story, including Michelangelo, Edward III, Vasco da Gama, Cortés, Guy Fawkes, Alfred Nobel, and E. I. DuPont. A must-read for history fans and military buffs alike, Gunpowder brings together a rich terrain of cultures and technological innovations with authoritative research and swashbuckling style.

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User Review  - vguy - LibraryThing

Very neat little book that tells a few good action yarns, gives overall historical insight and juicy technical details. Most interesting: the ferocious speed and expansion of an explosion, how ... Read full review

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User Review  - TheDivineOomba - LibraryThing

Its an interesting write up of the history of Gunpowder - from the invention of it in China, to how it was used in the American Revolution. At times, it was a bit slow. But for the most part, I ... Read full review


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About the author (2009)

Jack Kelly is both an accomplished novelist and an experienced author of popular history. He writes regularly for American Heritage, and has also written features about the DuPont family's involvement in the gunpowder industry and the history of fireworks in America. He lives in Milan, New York.

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