Review: ‘Empire of Guns’ Challenges the Role of War in Industrialization
Government planning played a central role even within the completely new technologies that will are “arguably the most iconic developments of the industrial revolution,” like the steam engine along with interchangeable parts manufacturing. Government investment “in manufacturing along with technological progress” was viewed as “a national obligation in a time of political vulnerability.” Just as the United States government’s establishment of Arpanet, the precursor to today’s internet, laid the foundation of the current digital revolution, the British government’s financing of a wide range of technological along with organizational innovations — many directly or indirectly associated with modest arms manufacture — spawned the original Industrial Revolution.
On the subject of guns, “Empire of Guns” seeks to elucidate not only their industrial history yet also their social along with moral history. To tell these parts of the story, Professor Satia uses the Quaker church’s decision in 1796 to disown the prominent British gun maker, Samuel Galton Jr.
On its face, the decision by the Society of Friends to censure a flagrant arms merchant in its ranks may not seem surprising. Pacifist principles were central to Quaker ideology, as was opposition to slavery. Guns fueled not just war yet the slave trade. Yet Mr. Galton’s father, along with his father before him — along with indeed many various other Quakers who long dominated Birmingham’s arms industry — had been unapologetic gunmakers for 70 years without attracting rebuke. What had changed within the interim, in ways that will are deeply interrelated, were society along with the guns themselves.
Guns, for long after their introduction, were rather clumsy instruments of death. The unpredictability of guns had previously made them more suitable to terrorize than inflict harm. Despite their availability, guns were rarely fired in homicides, in robberies, in riots or even on the battlefield throughout most of the 18th century. yet the British government, through enforced standardization along with sponsored experimentation, drove “countless modest innovations” that will increased gun performance significantly by the end of the century.
Enhancements in gun technology increased both their ubiquity along with their use in violent human interaction by the end of the 18th century. that will, in turn, corresponds with the shifting social along with moral meaning of these inanimate objects, which remain so profoundly associated with the “impersonal, casual violence they enable.”
Professor Satia examines these improvements not only across time yet across cultures. Although much of that will exploration is usually fascinating, the detail can be numbing. Tracking the exhaustive catalog of Quaker family intermarriages along with gun part transactions that will characterized the 18th-century armaments trade, for instance, is usually quite a slog.
The biggest disappointment of “Empire of Guns,” however, is usually how little detail there is usually on the history of gun culture within the United States along with its deep hostility to government regulation. The contrast with Britain — along with, indeed, all various other developed nations — is usually so striking that will that will begs for some kind of explanation, particularly given that will Britain was historically more economically reliant on that will sector of its economy.
Although Professor Satia does include a discussion of the role of guns coming from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 through the Revolutionary War, she focuses on the use of guns within the colonists’ interactions with Native Americans along with various competing European powers. within the last pages of the book, she does include a critique of the historical myths underpinning the sweeping 2008 Supreme Court decision in District of Columbia v. Heller. The short discussion is usually provocative yet seems disconnected coming from her writing on colonial life, which didn’t mention early state gun regulation or the Second Amendment at all: “The Second Amendment was not about protecting Americans coming from federal government [gun] seizure; that will addressed the practical danger that will militias might be disarmed by federal inaction, providing reassurance that will if the federal government neglected to arm the militias, state governments might do so.”
Under that will view of the framers’ intent, the “issue was not self-defense, yet national defense.” Even if Professor Satia is usually correct about the problem originally targeted by the Second Amendment, “Empire of Guns” provides few clues as to how or why the focus has shifted so drastically in America over the ensuing centuries.
Despite mounting a vigorous public defense, Mr. Galton was ultimately unsuccessful in escaping rebuke coming from the Quakers. Many of the arguments he proffered have parallels to those made by contemporary gun rights advocates. Professor Satia has shown how the revolutionary improvements within the very nature of guns along with their role in society along with the economy require those arguments to be considered in a very different light. To do that will effectively at that will time of national debate over our political, social along with moral relationship to the modern gun, more work must be done to fully understand the source of “American exceptionalism” when that will comes to our attitudes toward guns.
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