Local Matters: Perceptions of Global "Military Revolutions" from a Japanese Case
Mr. Nathan H. Ledbetter
22/06/2022 - WED 16:30 - Zoom Link
Narratives of a “global military revolution” posit the development of gunpowder weapons as a key driver in social and political change in the West, which then spread globally as part of a cultural package called “modernization.” Various scholars have challenged the idea of unidirectional spread from a superior West, while others have detailed the rapid spread of firearms through Asia via a mix of European, Muslim, and East Asian trade networks. Despite this, the notion persists that guns were largely underutilized in Japan until one commander, Oda Nobunaga, made them the mainstay of his armies of conquest, “most spectacularly” at the Battle of Nagashino in 1575. However, the narrative of Nagashino that supports “military revolution” is based largely in nineteenth and early twentieth century interpretations of hagiographic accounts written long after the battle occurred. This presentation first seeks to demonstrate how the popular perception of Nagashino derives from many of the same colonialist assumptions of Western technological superiority that undergird the technologically based version of Military Revolution Theory, followed by a reinterpretation of the Battle of Nagashino based on a critical examination of textual sources combined with terrain and force composition analysis. It finishes with some thoughts on how refined understandings of local warfare (and the contributions of specialists) can help redefine “military revolution” as a useful theoretical concept.