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Class Year

2012

Abstract

The Ottoman Empire is known today as a major Gunpowder Empire, famous for its prevalent use of this staple of modern warfare as early as the sixteenth century. However, when Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq visited Constantinople from 1554 to 1562, gunpowder was not used by the Sipahi cavalry who stubbornly, it seems, insisted on continuing to use the composite bow that the Turks had been using for centuries. This continued, despite their fear of European cavalry who used “small muskets” against them on raids. Was this a good idea? Was the composite bow a match or contemporary handheld firearms? Were Turkish tactics incompatible with firearms to the point that the Ottomans would have lost their effectiveness on the battlefield? Could the Ottoman Empire even be considered a Gunpowder Empire with such a refusal?

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