Gunpowder and the Printing Press: The History and Legacy of the Inventions that Modernized Europe, Charles River Editors
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Gunpowder and the Printing Press: The History and Legacy of the Inventions that Modernized Europe

Author: Charles River Editors

Narrator: Bill Caufield

Unabridged: 3 hr 15 min

Format: Digital Audiobook

Publisher: Findaway Voices

Published: 08/05/2023

Genre: History - Europe


In addition to the wheelbarrow, the seismograph, the waterwheel, deep drilling, suspension bridges, and ship rudders, among countless other life-changing contraptions, the Chinese developed what were later dubbed the “Four Great Inventions of China.” Two of those were gunpowder and printing, which both spread through South Asia and the Middle East before making it to Europe.

For a time, gunpowder was a mere curiosity, but its destructive power and military potential would be realized quickly. The first record of a cannon in Europe comes from a manuscript written in 1326, which has an illustration showing an armored man with what looks like a slow match lighting a vase-shaped object. This crude cannon was called a pot de fer in French and vasi in Italian. While medieval engineers developed new types of cannons and explosives capable of destroying walls and castles, others were making the first handguns possible. European sources first mentioned the widespread use of handgonnes, as they were often called, in the late 14th century, precisely the time when gunpowder became cheaper. 

The history of printing was for ancient Asia an advancement in culture and communication, but for Europe in the 15th century, it was much more, plunging the continent into a new paradigm and aligning it for the modern world. Its importance is often overlooked, but the timeliness of the printing machine was equivalent to the invention of alphabets in antiquity and ranks up there with the digital revolution and the introduction of the internet. Put simply, it made the Renaissance possible and led to the modernization of Europe. Based on earlier Asian principles, Johannes Gutenberg’s movable type printing press propelled an industry that led to the education of the West and ultimately removed the tight grip of the Vatican from daily European life. 


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