• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

To what extent did weapons technology represent the biggest change in warfare in the period 1792-1945?

Extracts from this document...


To what extent did weapons technology represent the biggest change in warfare between 1792 - 1871? Between 1792 and 1871 there were many significant technological, social, and political changes which were often closely linked that greatly affected the nature of warfare. There were highly important changes in strategy and tactics, and in the quality and numbers soldiers. However, to a large extent the biggest change that occurred has to be that of weapons technology. The area of warfare between 1792 and 1871 where the biggest change occurred was in weapons technology. Pre 1792 muskets were unreliable, and although the adoption of the matchlock increased accuracy to 200 yards, it took twice as long to load and was twice expensive. Moreover artillery had poor accuracy, and was often prone to backfiring, furthermore soldiers were forced to fire blind due to the smoke produced by the equipment. Although there was little significant change in weapons technology in Napoleonic Warfare due to a lack of progress in industry, the rate of change soon accelerated as the German Wars of Unification approached. Most importantly the development of artillery had a profound impact on warfare. The technological breakthrough of rifling and breech loading in small arms could be applied to artillery. Prussian steel cannons were lighter more mobile and could fire greater ranges than French adversaries link to tactics. ...read more.


Pre 1792 officers paid for ranks and so authoritative positions in the army were made up of the nobility or wealthy aristocrats whilst lower ranks were made up of criminals and drop outs. This socially structured nature of the army changed largely during Napoleonic Warfare where meritocracy was enforced. This was possible largely the increasing literacy rates among the middle classes. Meritocracy within the army meant big changes in warfare because it meant those who were best suited to the role got the job, and thus meant the standards of generalship were higher. Particularly in the German Wars of Unification this allowed power to be delegated to flexible generals on the battlefield, who could then make decisions based on what was in front of them, rather than on a rigid strategic plan. This flexibility within armies, particularly the Prussian one, reaped dividends in battles such as Konnigratz where both the Prussians and Austrians armies on field leadership had to think on their feet as the armies stumbled into each other. The higher quality of the on field Prussian soldiers prevailed in this battle through tactics such as envelopment whilst the Austrians dithered. During the Napoleonic wars there was also a huge change in the numbers of soldiers. One of the key reasons for such a fast rate of change in this area was the French Levee En Masse which ...read more.


The rate of change in strategy and tactics stayed at a steady rate into the German Wars of Unification as improved communications and the development of railways within Europe meant troops could be transported far quicker than when having to march. Moreover another important change in this period was the development of blockading strategies which moved the nature of warfare from being limited towards total. A clear example of this is in the American Civil War where the Union Navy maintained a blockade on the Atlantic and Gulf Coast of the Confederate States of America designed to prevent the passage of trade goods, supplies, and arms to and from the Confederacy in an attempt to starve their opponents. Despite all these changes in strategy and tactics there were some consistencies in this period such as the sustained use of infantry and cavalry in battles as well as the continuation of bayonet charges to weaken the enemy. Overall the area where the most changed occurred in the period from 1789-1871 was in fact in weapons technology. However there were also significant changes in quality and organisation of soldiers as well as strategy and tactics which should not be undermined when assessing the evolving nature of warfare in this period of history. Despite all these changes in warfare, there were still some consistencies which show that none of these areas of warfare changed completely. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 essays

  1. "To what extent was French defeat at the battle of Waterloo due to Napoleons ...

    So when you consider that napoleon managed to gain a numerical advantage over an enemy, it is easier to appreciate what an amazing feat the battle of waterloo truly was. Napoleon showed his genius in his tactical manoeuvre, which made both the British and Prussians retreat toward their supply lines.

  2. What was the impact of transport improvements on the nature of warfare 1792-1945?

    Although warfare was fairly mobile, it was still hard for him to supply his army especially when they were so far from home and caused the French to use the hopeless tactic of living off the land. Moreover, making his army walk for miles on end tired them out.

  1. To what extent did victory or defeat in war in the period 1792-1918 depend ...

    The greatest example of envelopment being used to determine the outcome of a battle was at Ulm in 1805, which has been recognised as a victory achieved as much by marching as by fighting. This is because the French marched 500 miles from North East France to the Rhine and

  2. Trench Warfare

    I have been told to expect another four weeks of duty on the front lines, and then I will be exchanged for a fresh soul from the support trenches. The food is that of a dog's. I am hesitant to eat, for fear of the ailments that could be present within it.

  1. To what extent were technological changes the biggest feature in the changing nature of ...

    Another weapon advance was the Dreyse rifle which could be reloaded 5 times faster than the muzzle firer and could be loaded from the prone position, it's impact on the Prussian Austrian war was huge as the Prussians could fire 5 shots whilst lying down and at the same time

  2. Why did the Franco-Prussian war happen and why were the Prussians able to defeat ...

    With Prussia getting stronger, France would begin to feel threatened. They would have a reasonably warlike neighbour, warlike because Prussia had caused two wars in seven years, that would have been defeated previously but in the late 1860's could defeat France, and Prussia had a very Machiavellian minister President, Bismarck, that would take risks in order to increase Prussian power.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work