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Guns for a Global Empire: Deployment of Artillery Technology in the Iberian Colonial Space (1580-1640)

Project description

The globalisation of artillery technology

The Iberian Union (1580-1649) was the first empire to connect the four parts of the world. Military technology played a crucial role in the consolidation of its power. Cannons in particular ensured the defence of its fortresses in the colonies. The EU-funded GLOBALGUNS project will study the evolution of artillery technology in Asia, America and Europe, taking into consideration the disposition of weapons, raw materials and experts. It will investigate the role human capital played in the building of the empire and in the process of globalisation, as well as the technological asymmetries between the centre and the dominions.


This project studies the historical relationship between military technology, globalization and the rise of European overseas empires by focusing on the provisioning system of cannons in the first political entity which ever connected the four parts of the world: the Iberian Union (1580-1640). If cannons have become a symbol of early modern European expansion, no study has tackled their contribution in sustaining overseas conquests. In defence of dozens of sea-fortresses and on board of hundreds of ships spread around the globe, cannons played a crucial role in the first globalization as key infrastructures of the Iberian empires. The project aims to shed light on this world-wide deployment of artillery technology by revealing the emergence of a system combining gun-manufactures in Europe, America and Asia, all connected through circulations of weapons, raw material and technical experts. The special attention granted to the actors of the system intends to highlight the importance of human capital in the imperial state-building and globalizing processes. The project implements a twofold interdisciplinary methodology: while computer software is used in order to quantify and map the system, archival sources are crossed with material evidence coming from the wide collections of cannons hold in museums so as to reveal circulations and hybridizations of knowledge. Complemented by thorough archival work on case studies about the gun-foundries in Mexico, Cuba, Manila and Macau, this research addresses the issue of technological asymmetries between centres and peripheries inside the Iberian empires and questions the role of European colonial spaces in the globalization of the military revolution. By doing so, this project contributes to two EU priorities as it provides a reflection, from a historical perspective, on Europe’s place in a global context and generates knowledge on the cultural heritage of European coastal areas regarding their proto-industrial developments.


Net EU contribution
€ 259 398,72
41013 Sevilla

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Sur Andalucía Sevilla
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 259 398,72