In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Gunpowder Warfare in South Asia: 1400–1800

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Gunpowder Empires of Asia
  • Pre-Mughal Warfare and Gunpowder Weapons
  • Mughal Warfare and Gunpowder Weapons
  • European Intervention and Gunpowder Warfare
  • South Asian Military Revolution in Global Context
  • Gunpowder Warfare in Southern India
  • Fortification, Siege Warfare, and Gunpowder Weapons

Military History Gunpowder Warfare in South Asia: 1400–1800
Moumita Chowdhury
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 June 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0255


The introduction of gunpowder had a massive impact on the global military landscape. The degree of impact can be gauged from the fact that many military historians readily used the term “revolution” to describe the introduction of this new technology. Invented in China, gunpowder technology was disseminated across Asia, Middle East, and Europe by the Mongols. In every region, this new technology had a different impact on the existing military system and character of warfare. The Middle Eastern and Asian states incorporated gunpowder weapons in their military order. This led certain historians to coin the term “gunpowder empires” to describe the new politico-military orders that emerged in Eurasia. South Asia, during the period under review, refers to undivided India, which included Pakistan and Bangladesh. Hence, here the term South Asia will refer to the Indian subcontinent. Here gunpowder first made its appearance on the military scene in the form of rockets. By the fifteenth century, gunpowder weapons such as simple cannon started emerging. By the sixteenth century, different kinds of artillery (heavy and light), muskets, etc. became a common fixture in the armies of the states of northern and southern India. This in turn, has raised many questions among historians. How did the Indian powers transform their cavalry-centric armies into firepower-centric armies? Were gunpowder weapons fully incorporated into the Indian military system or was their presence peripheral? Were the reactions different in northern and southern India? Did the impact of gunpowder weapons in India diverge from that of Europe? The growing presence of Europeans, primarily the French East India Company and English East India Company and eventually establishment of colonial rule, led to the extension of the Military Revolution debate to South Asia. In Europe, artillery played a significant role in transforming the character of combat and accelerated the demise of cavalry-centric warfare. In pitched battles, gunpowder weapons gradually replaced heavy cavalry as the shock element. In sieges, it was given prime position for reducing European forts and fortified strongholds. This raised its own set of questions. Did the British win because they possessed superior firepower and fiscal and administrative resources? Did India experience a Military Revolution? If so, when? The different aspects of the introduction of gunpowder weapons and their impact are discussed in the bibliography.


The sources are divided into Mughal and European.

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