Gunpowder: Ten Cool Facts
Research for me is almost as interesting and rewarding as actual writing. I found this particularly true when doing my homework for The Powder of Death, my new historical standalone, out August 18. Not only did I have to delve into the medieval period in Europe but ancient China, the chemistry of gunpowder and the physics of early ballistics. Certainly a riveting diversion from my ongoing Kydd tales and the Age of Fighting Sail! Here are some of the fascinating facts I came across researching The Powder of Death. And at the end of this blog there’s a chance to win a copy of the book, along with a smart Allison & Busby tote to carry it in!
Ten cool facts about gunpowder
- 1. Taoist alchemists combined sulphur, saltpetre and charcoal to make the earliest form of huo yao, or gunpowder, during the eighth-century. It was used to kill insects and treat skin diseases. Huo yao would later be used by the Chinese in the following century in fireworks and rockets.
2. Until the mid-19th Century, gunpowder was the only known chemical explosive.
3 Gunpowder is a classic green tea from Zhejiang province, China. Gunpowder tea is made up of leaves hand-rolled into tiny pellets that resemble gunpowder, giving, it is said, this tea its distinct name.
4.The explosive force of gunpowder is the result of very rapid burning, which creates hot gases 1500 times the original volume of the powder.
5. Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot! Known as Guy Fawkes Night or Fireworks Night, the fifth of November is the anniversary of the plot by Guy Fawkes and other conspirators to blow up Britain’s parliament in 1605. Rebelling against the persecution of Catholics by King James I, they planned to kill the monarch during his visit to parliament. But the scheme was foiled and the traitors executed.
6. Shakespeare mentions gunpowder in Henry IV Part 1 (and other plays): ‘Zounds, I am afraid of this gunpowder Percy’ cries Falstaff. And it’s believed that Macbeth is a comment on The Gunpowder Plot.
7. The earliest surviving record for the use of gunpowder in mines comes from Hungary in 1627.
8. The first time gunpowder was used on a large scale in civil engineering was in the construction of the Canal du Midi in Southern France. It was completed in 1681 and linked the Mediterranean sea with the Atlantic.
9. In 1856 England exported 10,500,018 pounds of gunpowder.
10. November 5 was a statutory holiday until 1859 under the Observance of 5th November Act 1605. The Act described the gunpowder plot as ‘an invention so inhuman, barbarous and cruel, as the like was never before heard of’.
For a chance to win a copy of The Powder of Death and a smart Allison & Busby tote email email@example.com with your full postal address and ‘Powder of Death draw’ in the subject line. First out of the hat on Monday August 1 will be the winner!
(This draw is restricted to the UK)
The Powder of Death will be released in the UK and Europe on August 18, in hardback, ebook and audiobook. It will be available in Australia & New Zealand and South Africa on October 1. It can also be purchased via Book Depository, which offers free postage worldwide. The Powder of Death is the second title in the GameChangers: Moments of History Series, following The Silk Tree.
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What was gunpowder called before guns were invented?
It was only called “Black powder” to differentiate it from the so called, smokeless powder (which it a much lighter colour) when the latter was invented in the late 19th century.
‘Hao Yao’ in the Mongol context; not known in the West
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. Prompted by the receipt of an anonymous letter, the authorities searched Westminster Palace during the early hours of 5 November, and found Fawkes guarding the explosives. Over the next few days, he was questioned and tortured, and eventually he confessed. Immediately before his execution on 31 January, Fawkes fell from the scaffold where he was to be hanged and broke his neck, thus avoiding the agony of the mutilation that followed.
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