Monday, February 9, 2009
Review: Firearms: The Life Story of a Technology by Roger Pauly
Here's a cool book for you: Firearms: The Life Story of a Technology, by Roger Pauly, copyright 2004. My copy was published by Johns Hopkins University Press and is a reprint of the original by Greenwood Publishing Group.
A short (208 pages!) summary of the development of gunpowder small arms. Artillery and rockets are given a passing mention, but the primary focus of this book is guns. Pauly begins with the invention of gunpowder and its likely initial use in primitive "flamethrowers", covers intermediate forms like the wheel lock, matchlock and flint lock, discusses the transition from smoothbore to rifle, and the development of pistols, finally ending with modern assault rifles.
A good short book on an interesting topic. I don't think there's anything here an expert in this field wouldn't already know. Thank goodness I'm not an expert. I did find the details of the various types of lock tedious after a while, and my eyes started skimming. Some nice information about the first time certain technologies are found, either in extant devices or written about. The analogy between living organisms, which have specific births, follow a (usually) well-known pattern of growth, and then finally die, and technologies such as firearms is labored at times. The main point Pauly is making, however, seems right on target (har, har) -- that is that the underlying technology behind firearms hasn't changed in a major way since the early 1900's. We've merely refined the techology that had been developed at that point.
Worth reading, but not worth owning. Get this one at the library.