Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: The Frontiers of Global Military History: Military Technology and Inner and East Asian Warfare
Abstract: This panel explores at least two historiographical frontiers in the study of global military history. First, it recognizes that increased knowledge about Inner and East Asian warfare has revised previous scholarship on the famous Military Revolution model, and seeks to bring more such data from regions as varied as East Turkestan, Tibet, China, Korea and Japan. Second, it supplements existing scholarship with the perspective of military technology, and exposes a greater range of global variations in the use of key technologies in early modern warfare.

Discussions in global military history used to emphasize the unusual concentration of innovations and advances in early modern Europe. Recent studies however recognized the agency of non-European actors in adopting and adapting key military technologies such as guns, forts and drill, revealing their truly global nature. This panel nourishes the latter trend with new data. The first paper examines the arms race of cannon and forts in East Turkestan, and the wars between gun-toting armies of Qing China and the Dzunger Mongols. The second paper focuses on the Tibetan transformation during these wars and beyond, tracing the development of soldiering technologies such as conscription and training. The third paper analyzes the development of musketry in East Asia, which had a deep concern for target shooting and accuracy, and explores the world-historical implications of its 'divergence' from the emphasis in European musketry on unaimed, mass firing.
Hyeok Hweon "H.H." Kang, Harvard University
Participant's Paper Title: Divergence in an Age of Parity: Musketry and Marksmanship in East Asia and Western Europe
Participant's Paper Abstract: In recent scholarship on the Military Revolution, a debate about the role of firearms in Western ascendancy, historians have recognized a military parity between Western Europe and East Asia during the early modern period, namely, that musketeers in both regions could volley fire, or rotate the ranks to fire in turns. On the contrary, scholars in Japan and Korea argued the opposite, proposing a military divergence: while East Asians could volley fire, they prioritized individual marksmanship, and thus, were not as quick-firing, methodical, and collectively trained as their Western European counterparts. This paper tests the supposed notion of a divergence in musketry with comparative data and global perspectives. Drawing on gunnery manuals, battle records, and musketry trials from Korea, Japan, and China, and matching them against European data, it adduces new evidence that musketry in East Asia was indeed highly accurized, not only in design but in training and tactics, unlike in the West. Yet, while appreciating the differences, the evidence also suggests that this 'divergence' in musketry stemmed not from a fundamental disparity in military aptitude, but from variances in the manner of employing effective firepower in an age of technological and tactical parity. From the perspective of the history of technology, this paper also complicates the common wisdom that smoothbore muskets were severely limited in accuracy; instead, it reveals that even with their seemingly "backward" and cumbersome matchlocks, East Asians took musketry to its maximum potential accuracy.
Cheng-Heng Lu, Emory University
Participant's Paper Title: Military Revolution Marches Steppe: Gunpowder Weapons and Walled-Cities in the Inner Asian Steppe, 1600-1760
Participant's Paper Abstract: Kenneth Chase questions "Why was it the European who perfected firearms when it was the Chinese who invented them?" By analyzing the use of gunpowder weapons in "The Oikoumene," which is a geographical term used by Chase to refer Europe, the Middle East, India, and East Asia, Chase argues that the threat of the steppe nomads was an obstacle of perfecting gunpowder weapons. In East Asia, the steppe nomads were the primary threat, so China did not effectively employ gunpowder weapons even though Chinese invented them. Chase's theory is attractive and persuasive, but is this true? In this paper, by analyzing the war between the Qing and Dzungar (1688-1759), I argue that the use of gunpowder weapons was not restricted by the steppe nomads in the Inner Asian steppe area; instead, the Qing utilized various gunpowder weapons and perfected them suitably in the steppe area. Meanwhile, the steppe nomads also armed themselves with considerable gunpowder weapons in order to resist the gunpowder empires' powerful attack. Moreover, the use of gunpowder weapons in the Inner Asian steppe area seems parallel to the process of military revolution in Western Europe during the sixteenth to nineteenth century. The use of gunpowder weapons alters the landscape of the steppe area because both sides, the invader and invaded, built strongholds surrounded by walls which structures are able to resist bombardment.
Qichen "Bart" Qian, Columbia University
Participant's Paper Title: Benign Bellicosity: A Tibetan Buddhist Pho lha gnas' Militia between 1717-1733
Participant's Paper Abstract: During the eighth century, Tibetan Empire conquered as far as what is now Afghanistan, India, Xinjiang and even occupied Chang'an, capital of the all powerful Tang dynasty at the time. Its military power was one of the six major ruling regimes in Eurasia during its peak time. However, after about three hundred years of fragmentation, Tibet became a religious state and was seen as a militarily incapable area under the Chinese and the Mongolian grip. This presentation seeks to introduce the first investigation on the Tibetan military organization between 1717 and 1733. From the Dzungar War of 1717-1720, to the Bhutan civil war between 1731 and the 1733, Tibetans reformed their military system and produced an organized army whose excellence was widely recognized in Inner Asia and by the Qing empire.

This presentation aims to study the organization of Tibetan military force during the eighteenth century mainly through the Dzungar War and Dbus Gtsang Civil War. The Tibetan military led by Polhané, an Tibetan aristocrat and Buddhist, was actively defending the Tibetan territory and deterring the enemies during the first half of eighteenth century. Through Polhané's active conscription and training, the Tibetan military professed vibrant military prowess. Buddhism was deeply embedded in Polhané's military as evidenced in both the Chinese and Tibetan materials. Their personal equipments as well as the army formation and its division, manifested the ingrained Buddhist ideas into this indigenous military troop. By delving into data such as military organization, size of the central government army, rituals and exercises; this presentation seeks to uncover new materials on Tibetan military history and interactions with Inner Asia during the early eighteenth century.
Kenneth Swope, University of Southern Mississippi