Jan 30, 2022 • 2HR 15M

The Gunpowder Reason, A Plot

Reassessing the English Civil Wars as materialschlacht

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Everything I produce related to London merchant adventurer and military entrepreneur John Fowke. My scholarship has centered on his role in the outbreak of the English Civil War, the parliamentary victory, and the birth of mass politics. Fowke and his Puritan partners shaped the nascent British gunpowder empire from the 1627 through the Restoration. No standalone volume about John Fowke exists. In fact, as far as I can tell I am the first person to ever write an essay focused on his career.
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Before I go any further with the John Fowke project, I would like to present subscribers with a podcast version of the original term paper that started me down this rabbit hole. It’s above the picture.

I was curious to understand why the British “military historians” dominating the previous generation of English-language historiography were so dismissive about the artillery branch in this conflict even though the Battle of Edgehill began and ended with cannon fire. After a bit of research, it was possible to write a material history of the English Civil War — the “gunpowder reason.” Stephen Bull’s The Furie of the Ordnance was particularly helpful in this regard. The war of 1642-1645 was not some bizarre outlier from the early modern military revolution in Europe that historians debate. The same things were going on there that were going on everywhere else.

During my follow-on research into the material victory of Parliament, the name John Fowke kept appearing in the historiography of revolutionary London. Then, as I began to read the official records of the East India Company, I discovered that Fowke had interests in the gunpowder trade decades before the war. He is not as well-known as his contemporary Wallenstein, but Fowke’s career in treason and gunpowder was at least as colorful — and ultimately, far more successful.

My researcher has just delivered an enormous trove of material related to Fowke’s lawsuit against the Honourable Company and other matters of his biography. Subscribers will be the first to know what I find out. Apologies for the audio quality, as my production equipment was rudimentary.

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