As the battle over gun rights in America reaches more and more baroque levels it’s easy to lose track of how we got here.
Weaponry and war has been a concern for humanity from its very earliest days. Empires from Greece, Rome and Persia to Napoleonic France and Colonial England have all been built on a backbone of superior firepower. From Roman’s peasants fearing Hannibal’s elephants to Irish farmers dreading the sight of Viking warships on the horizon, from Paul Revere’s “The British are coming!” to the 1950’s “Duck and Cover” drills, weaponry has haunted our nightmares for as long as it’s fueled the dreams of boys and conquerors.
The right of protection against tyranny was so important to our founding fathers that they included it as the Second Amendment to the Constitution. This debate still rages, as we weigh the costs of our gun culture against this principle. Technology, as always, drives innovation. And that is just as true with weapons as it is with the Internet.
Just as there is a through line that stretches from the Sears catalog to Amazon.com, there is an equally clear line from the sword to the predator drone.
History is shaped by these technological innovations. It is impossible to imagine a Roman empire without its Legionary sword, or a British one without muskets. The German blitzkrieg required fast engines and lots of gasoline. The Atomic bomb, which has shaped every political action since its first use at Hiroshima, required nuclear physics (and, obviously, flight).
With those historical realities in mind, take a look back at the technology that changed weapons and the weapons that changed everything.