Warfare and Firearms in Fifteenth Century Morocco, 1400-1492


Firearms late 15th centuryWarfare and Firearms in Fifteenth Century Morocco, 1400-1492

Weston F. Cook Jr.

War and Society: v.11 (1993)

Warfare in history is back in vogue again with special interest in the period 1350-1750. Much of this renewal arises from debate over the ‘Early Modern Military Revolution’ paradigm formulated by Geoffrey Parker and other self-described ‘New’ Military Historians.1 While the origins of this revolution are fixedly sixteenth century, tracing its roots has given new respectability to ‘a perennial stalking dinosaur of a theory’ – the Gunpowder Revolution of the Fifteenth Century.2Revolutionary or not, firepower warfare definitely played a compelling role in the political, social and commercial changes in the decades from 1430 to 1492.3 The ‘New Monarchs’ of fifteenth-century Europe and the ‘Gunpowder Empires’ of Afro-Asia and Iberia, whether land-based or seaborne, owed their expansion in no small measure to superior gunpowder firepower. Cannon coercion intensified the struggle for commodities, customers and trade routes begun once ‘Age of Exploration’ adventurism melded into the mercantile ‘Commercial Revolution’, itself both prelude and component to Parker’s gestating military revolution.4 Violent military intrusion could and often did unleash tumultuous social, religious and cultural ferment and accelerated change, if not outright prolonged upheaval, among victims and perpetrators alike.5 Several ‘new military historians’ are now shaping these paradigms to serve as templates for the study of political and social change on a global scale. The ambitions of this article are more modest, however. Its focus is just one country, Morocco, and its conclusions are tentative rather than declarative.

Still, it is truly ironic that the independence of modern Morocco stands upon its own distinctive ‘sixteenth century military revolution’ because, in the fifteenth century, Morocco came within a hair’s breadth of joining Byzantium, Burgundy, Granada, Novgorod and other fifteenth century states in the cartological museum of political extinction.6 In that century Morocco’s primary foreign antagonist, Portugal, developed a potent blend of amphibious assault power, naval suppressive fire techniques, and a deft divide-and-conquer strategy of occupying vulnerable coastal cities – all based on artillery warfare and, increasingly, arquebuse firearm.Lisbon ruled its penetration points through a carrot-and-stick approach mixing commercial enticements for compliant Moroccan notables and merchants with frequent and violent military excursions into the countryside, all anchored on fortified land enclaves supported by a self-sufficient seaborne logistical network.8 These Portuguese and later Castilian incursions helped to set off revolts that sped up fragmentation of the ancient Banu Marin sultanate (1262-1465) and brought forward a new ruling house, the Banu Wattas (1465-1554).

The new Sultanate, however, had to contend with more challenges than Iberian aggression and technological superiority. Long dormant traditions of local self-reliance had revived among restive Moroccans and would not be surrendered casually to some distant, tax-gouging pretender. Leo Africanus (Muhammad al-Wazani), reflecting on the wars and repression bedeviling Morocco in the late 1400s, classed the Wattasids of Fez alongside the infidel King of Portugal as co-equal despoilers of a hapless people battling against intruding despots, domestic or foreign, Muslim or Christian.9 But patriotic or parasitic, the Wattasid Sultanate which finally gained its footing in 1472 after 15 years of fitna [civil, turmoil] was a more disjointed state than the Marinid, and not only because of foreign hammerings. The new makhzan [the official state appa–ratus of army and civil service] had already lost control of a populist gunpowder revolution aborning within society itself.

Analysis of the ‘Gunpowder Revolution’ era in Morocco is complicated by two sources problems. First, the indigenous record for fifteenth-century Morocco is astoundingly sparse and poorly reconstructed; and, until recently, both Moroccan and western scholars not aligned with colonialist-minded French history writers have shown distaste for the entire era.10 The major secondary work on this period, a revised dissertation by the French scholar Auguste Cour, is now over 70 years old, supplemented by thoughtful but cursive essays by Nehemia Levtzion and Abdullah Laraoui. Several excellent recent articles have sharpened our focus on the period, but even these have concentrated on the late 1400s.11 Thus, until virtually the onset of the Granadan war (1481-1492), when Moroccan witnesses like Africanus and Muhammad al-Kurasi are heard, we must lean on rather the triumphalist writings of Portuguese, a few Castilians, and one Lowlands cavalier, Jurge Von Ehingin.12  Thus, in addition to a lack of available sources, those we have must be treated with some diffidence. Al-Kurasi, Ruy de Pina, and Mateus de Pisano wrote as loyal courtiers with an eye to enhancing the reputation of their royal patrons. The familiar cautions about the medieval tendency to exaggerate enemy force size still apply throughout the Moroccan-Iberian struggle. On the other hand, writers as diverse as Gomes Eanes Zurara and Leo Africanus prided themselves on visiting battle sites, interviewing participants, describing accurately events and personalities, and recording even defeats and’ embarrassments in some detail. Our sources may therefore display predictable biases but they are far from useless.

From their side, all sources testify readily and repeatedly to artillery and firearms as being vital to Portuguese hegemony. In 1510 a Lisbon courtier summed up the past century of expansionism with militaristic panache, his vision covering the globe-but Morocco formed his real frame of reference:

Pliny says that Europe, being more excellent than all the other parts of the world, produces more conquering races … due to its excellence, some writers consider it not a third but a half of the world; nor need we doubt that in cities, towns, walled fortresses, and other stately and beautiful buildings, Europe excels Asia and Africa, as do her larger and better fleets, much better armed than those of any other region. Nor dare Asia or Africa deny that Europe possesses great abundances of arms and superiority in artillery.13

Portugal’s assault on Morocco began in 1415 at the Mediterranean port town of Sabta (Ceuta). Confirmed use of gunpowder weapons in the taking of Ceuta may be problematic, but Portuguese installation of bombardas, medium-calibre colebratas, and anti-personnel falconetes proved essential to defending the new conquest from repeated Moroccan counter-sieges.14  Although hand-held guns [tiros de fogo] and espingarieros ['riflemen'] appear for the first time in Morocco with King Duarte’s expedition against Tangiers in 1437, they did not save the Portuguese from a humiliating defeat by the Marinid Sultan and his allies.15 Despite this reverse, Lisbon’s forces continued to raid coastal villages while seducing harbour towns like Tangiers, Sla, Safi, Azammur, Anfa and Massa from their unenthusiastic allegiance to the Banu Marin dynasty of Fez.16  After two decades of mixing peaceful trade with annual royal plundering expeditions (frequently led by no less than Henry the Navigator) and piracy by garrisons and privateers, King Affonso himself pounced on a second harbour town on the Straits of Gibraltar, Qsar-s-Saghir.17Lisbon’s ship-to-shore fire effectively repelled Muslim defenders trying to rally the beach against the landing and, in three days, Qsar-s-Saghir fell to this huge force of 25,000 soldiers. Chroniclers of the 1458 campaign made it abundantly clear that artillery was decisive.18 Cannons made it possible to take Qsar-s-Saghir. (‘Great was the terror of the King of Fez’ at the guns), and cannons insured that the city would hold (the Governor of Alcazara ‘taught the Moors to fear the artillery we’d set on our walls’).19 The allocation of 32 expensive and scarce guns to defend their new acquisition indicated that the Portuguese intended their presence on Moroccan soil to be permanent – and had full confidence in their artillery to guarantee that permanence.

The impression of Moroccan vulnerability seems self-evident. The only cannon identified at Ceuta – which, by the way, is also the first confirmation of a gunpowder artillery weapon in Moroccan hands – came not from accounts of the combat, but in a victor’s inventory of loot:

found in the city and dockyards – four galleys and a royal galley, plenty of darts, arrows, arbalests and bucklers, one bombard, much gunpowder, tallow, wax, anchors, cordage, masts, tillers, all in abundance.20

Following Ceuta, Portugal would annex Qsar-s-Saghir (1458), Arzila and Tangier (1471), and compel most other harbour towns into quasi–vasselage, piling defeat upon defeat on the Moroccan ruling elites. Just as the loss of Ceuta contributed to the murder of Sultan Abu Sa’id in 1420,21 a man once credited as a saviour of the dynasty, loss of Qsar helped trigger a dynastic war between the Banu Marin and their ‘Orleanist’ cousins, the Banu Wattas, which lasted from 1458 until 1472. Indeed, evaluating Moroccan military performance in the 1400s, some scholars concluded – very wrongly – that firearms could not possibly have come into Moroccan possession before the very late fifteenth or early sixteenth century.22

But the Moroccans did have artillery and soon used it. In 1419, four years after Ceuta, Sultan Abu Sa’id led an international Muslim expedition against the occupiers. His army included Moroccans from as far south as the Sus Valley, forces from the city-states of Algeria, soldiers sent by the Hafsid Caliph of Tunis, and warships from the Amir of Granada, ruler of Islamic Spain.23 Also included were two bombards, dragged on sleds, crewed by Granadan advisors. The assault was intimidating but, according to Zurara, short-lived:

[Attacking the walls from all sides, the Moors tried] to wear them down with that violent invention – the bombard-like the ones we brought to conquer this place. The Moors had two, a lot for them, the mainstays of this diabolical offensive. They shot at the walls but with no success because we brought up our own which inflicted real damage. Then, as the enemy was repairing, a wily engineer shot off his piece so well that he bested the enemy’s main gun, slew the gunner, and then so adroitly suppressed the fire of the other weapon that the Moors lost all their guns.24

Although the Sultans own standing army was small, 10,000 at most, he and his subordinates clearly commanded every component of the entire force once assembled, likely 40-50,000 professionals with numerous tribesmen and villagers turning out like militia.25 Second, the siege was a ‘national’ effort with tribal units and volunteers from all over the realm as well as militia from cities far to the south of Marrakech and even pro–Lisbon port towns. The Granadans present underscored the fact of Moroccan access to European military technology, for Iberian Muslims had already shown their dexterity with artillery during the 1404-1410 Antequerra War between Granada and Castile.26  But questions are raised, too. Moroccan cannoneers proved they could emplace, load, aim and fire, but what exactly was the organisation, support basis and manning for a medieval gun battery? Where did the cannons come from? How were they made? The Sultan or his local officers would march on Ceuta nearly every two years, but these never matched the 1419 and 1425 attacks in intensity (or artillery).27

The 1437 contest for Tangiers also begs as many questions as its records answer.28 European chroniclers relate that Portuguese infantry deployed in formations that mixed ‘handgunners and crossbowmen’ [espingardeiros e beesteiros], but give few details about their tactics or effectiveness. (Personal firearms had yet to appear in Moroccan ranks.) The octogenarian defender of Tangiers, Salah ibn Salah, turned to both the Sultan in Fez and the Amir of Granada for guns and men, but little is said of how these weapons were used outside the city walls .29 Tangiers defended itself with a mixture of bombards, small calibre guns, and (primarily) older ‘throwing’ machines such as trebuchets, still in common use on both sides of the Straits. Ironically, a key factor in Lisbon’s defeat was its own artillery logistics. Unable to take the city within two weeks, Princes Henry and Fernando ordered the guns of Ceuta dragged overland to reinforce the trenches around Tangiers. This ponderous hauling operation allowed Wazir’Abu Zakariya’ al-Wattas, chief of the royal military, enough time to pull in his allies from the provinces, encircle the besiegers, and capture several of the weapons with Prince Dom Fernando into the bargain.30 Guns taken at Tangiers later reappeared in makhzan service, but the truce Portugal signed to get its entrapped forces released did not stop King Duarte from regular raiding on Moroccan trade and territory.

The relatively low-level violence after Lisbon’s catastrophe at Tangiers ended explosively in 1456-57 in a series of punch and counter-punch assaults, beginning with a massive Moroccan assault on Ceuta. During this siege, the Sultan’s forces demonstrated to an unnerved Portuguese garrison that they knew how to coordinate artillery fire with ground attacks and also how to employ harassing fire to prevent a sortie from the town while they drew their forces together.

at sunrise, watchers on the tower gave warning and cried aloud that the infidels were drawing near in great numbers. At this, every man seized his weapon. Then we saw the infidels crossing a mountain which lay in front of the town and, indeed, the whole mountain seemed to be covered with men. We shot at them with our bombards, which were the best we could employ at the moment. But they drew near to the ditches, being armed with hand-bows and curious long–bows and other weapons. They assailed us with these and with bom–bards, and shot at us all that day whenever anyone exposed himself and, while engaging us, they set their main army in array.31

When Affonso then siezed Qasr-s-Saghir the next year, the Sultanate reacted quickly. The Moroccan Wazir, head of the Banu Wattas faction and deputy to the Banu Marin Sultan, responding to the appeals of his commanders to ‘come with the army and break the walls with your bombards and siege engines’, fielded at least 32 guns for the counter-siege.32 Moroccan soldiers armed with hand-guns also came to Portuguese attention for the first time during this makhzan-led campaign against occupied Qsar-s-Saghir.33

Although unsuccessful, the siege at Qsar lasted over eight weeks, nearly a full royal campaign season and, together with the 1456 siege of Ceuta, provides some of our best current data on gunpowder warfare in fifteenth century Morocco. Even though they now had over 30 guns, the Moroccans continued to deploy them as pairs, two to a battery. This procedure allowed the battery the option to fire its bombards in alternating sequence or volley together and permitted keeping shot and stores nearby, reducing the danger of exposing crewmen to fire while moving supplies. Crossbowmen served with the crews to fire on the walls, for–cing the Portuguese to shelter their own gun emplacements so that they could not target Moroccan positions as well. To frustrate the garrison further, the Wazir’s engineers and sappers [zapadores] set up dummy guns and dug multiple positions so they could keep the cannons moving from place to place. This time, the Portuguese identified the origins of the crew as not only Granadans, but also Moroccans and ‘elchees’, meaning European mercenaries, prisoners, and converts to Islam. (Since many of Affonso’s gunners were Germans and Flandersmen, one might fairly suggest that the Portuguese, too, had ‘elchees’ of their own.)34  While there is not enough detail for full reconstruction of a Moroccan order-of-battle, the presence of these highly-specialised and readily recognised military professionals confirms that the Banu Marin makhzan now possessed a distinct, fulltime artillery corps.

How proficient were Moroccan artillerists? Zurara, hardly an impartial judge, said Banu Marin batteries got off over 30 rounds a day – a very respectable volume of fire.35  However, he also reassured his fellow impe–rialists that ‘the Moors inflicted few casualties and did little damage’ even though they ‘fired 1,595 cannonballs from siege engines, colabretas (a type of medium cannon), and other artillery’.36 Against such a barrage, how did these two counter-sieges fail? First, besides the natural advantages which accrue to defenders, Lisbon’s men could look to their own hefty array of cannons, as many if not more than the Moroccans, plus a highly mobile ship-to-shore fire support and a continuous cycle of resupply vessels. Remembering the biases of our sources, Portuguese gunners seem to have scored better shots, suggesting expertise also played a factor. Third, in the middle of these major operations, the festering conflict between a young Banu Marin Sultan and the tribal clients of his Wattasid Wazir inflamed and finally exploded. An army organised in a confederal command structure could hardly keep to the field with the state system imploding.37

For the next decade, Portuguese raids and cannonades against the coast became almost annual events.38 Leo Africanus’s lament for the 1463 destruction of Anfa, now the modern city of Casablanca, pays bitter homage to the punitive skills of Lisbon’s attackers, and lays the blame for this carnage upon ‘the weakness and sloth of the Wattasid sultan’.

Anfa always traded vigorously with Portugal and England … The town was destroyed for two reasons: first, because it was too protective of it liberties and, second, it engaged too frequently in piracy against Cadiz and Portugal … fifty sail, armed with big guns, were sent against the town.39

Conversely, Moroccan artillery almost vanishes from the records. The lack of documentation for the 1460s, which covers the Marinid-Wattasid wars, is particularly disheartening, given comparative developments in other Islamic lands. The Hafsid Caliphate of Tunis, for example, had a corps of arquebusier infantry and a gun forge by the end of the decade.40

In 1471, after years of minor forays, Portugal’s King Affonso launched an unprecedented armada against port Arzila.41 Facing 400 ships, over 30,000 troops, and a landing force armed with arquebuses, crossbows and cannons of all calibres, the defenders just crumpled.42  (France invaded Italy in 1494 with a scarcely larger army.) Affonso then led his army upland to Tangiers with the fleet following along the shore to give covering fire. Cowed by the 12 massive bombards in Affonso’s train and its militia afield with the Banu Wattas army, the city surrendered with barely a fight.43 Muhammad ash-Shaykh al-Wattas, who had defeated the Banu Marin dynasty, a host of secessionist free-towns, rebelling tribes, and an oligarchy of pietist nobles who still held Fez, rushed an army to Arzila, only to discover himself outnumbered and (with but a single cannon) outgunned. Trapped between the uncertainties of besieging the well-provisioned Portuguese or wresting his own capital from the most dangerous revolutionary force he had faced in seven years of civil war, the Sultan signed a humiliating ten-year truce that gave Arzila, Tangiers, Ceuta and Qasr-s-Saghir over to Affonso. Even then, no longer distracted by Portuguese invasions, he had to negotiate the capitulation of the in–surgent Muhammad al-Juti and his ‘reign of saints’ holding the city of Fez – perhaps for lack of artillery to retake the city by force.

In the 15 years since the Marinid-Wattasid struggle erupted, the balance of firepower between Lisbon and the Moroccans had lurched from near parity (as shown in the grand sieges of 1456-1459) to quantum Portuguese superiority in operational versatility, tactical expertise and in the types, numbers and technical currency of guns. From the Portuguese side, Affonso himself can claim some credit, deciding to ‘modernise’ his arsenal early in the 1450s and replace the guns lost at Tangiers.44  He brought in a cadre of German and Flemish artisans to cast bronze cannons, pieces with far greater durability, range and firepower than old–fashioned wrought iron guns, forgers to make matchlock arquebuse guns, and assorted mercenaries to fire the guns, repair them and train crews. Second, despite the 1472 truce, he and son Joao II persisted in subverting the quasi-autonomous port towns like Azammur to serve as logistical waystations for royal caravals heading to Guinea and India.45  Lisbon also wrung treaties from these towns to fortify a local trading post in each harbour, then violated that concession by slipping cannons and garrisons into the stockade. Once installed, the merchant-commanders of these posts [feitorias] gradually insinuated or bullied themselves into a communal policing role, overseeing and regulating local markets for a wide range of mercantile purposes. One of those measures was a total arms embargo, embodied in rigorous search and seizure of any vessels suspected of trying to sell cannons, firearms or gunpowder stocks to Muslim town authorities or folk at large. While probably not a complete success, the vigilance of Portuguese inspections, now enforced on Moroccan docks as well as at sea, accelerated depletion of Moroccan gunpowder arsenals and prevented replenishment. Indeed, as the six–teenth century approached, Europeans often remarked not only on the absence of firearms among ‘los Moros’ but even – as Spaniards noted when they seized the Mediterranean towns of Millila, Ghasasa and Badis in 1496-97 – the apparent Moroccan ignorance of gunnery and their terror at its results, results now depressingly familiar to Europeans.46

From the Moroccan side, chroniclers testified to their own lack of firepower in two different, not especially helpful, modes. First, on occasions when reports of cannons might be expected, none appear. Al–Kurasi, the poet-celebrator of the dynasty, frequently refers to Wattasid gunpowder weaponry in later verses. However, in his detailed recount–ing of Muhammad ash-Shaykh’s epic reduction of the 1489 Portuguese expedition to build ‘Fort Graciosa’ inland from Larache, he lauds the genius, patience and energy of the Sultan, but says nothing about any Moroccan guns.47 Al-Kurasi also failed to mention the inconvenient fact that Graciosa did not fall to Muhammad’s strenuous campaigning. Rather, the Portuguese garrison and ships; ‘by firing their cannons day and night’, forced the makhzan to concede them an honourable with–drawal. Sources also intimate their comparative inferiority in gunpowder technology by their comments on the ‘irresistibility’ of cannons, a theme noted in Africanus, in al-Maggari, and the anonymous author of a post–1492 work on the Granada war.48 No author, however, offered to explain whygunpowder weaponry and expertise almost vanished from Moroccan military resources between 1460 and 1490. Then, in the 1490s, despite the belittling comments of European observers, we again get glimpses of Moroccan gunpowder weapons in action, starting with a mention by Africanus that the Wattasid Sultan installed 100makhzan arquebusiers at Larache after the Graciosa campaign.49  In 1496 Sultan Muhammad ash-Shaykh al-Wattas led an expedition against Dubdu on the eastern frontier, a centre of Banu Marin diehards that also controlled the main overland link between Fez and Algeria. Both Leo and al-Kurasi described the campaign, and Africanus credits the success of makhzan tactics to skillful deployments of arquebuse soldiers against Dubdu’s cavalry militias.50 Also, in Morocco’s deep south, beyond the reach. of both Portuguese imperial order and Wattasid makhzan, Leo found a new development-the proliferation of firearms among tribes and polities who would submit to neither Lisbon nor Fez nor any other aspiring outside dominator.

Among the people of the Dra’a valley are many chiefs who are now always at war … these folk here use firearms, the arquebuse and the espingard [an older Spanish handgun], and I have never seen such finely decorated guns. With these weapons, they kill each other all day longs.51

Unnoticed at the time by the agents of the contending states, gunpowder weaponry would soon revolutionize communal modes of defiance and resistance in Moroccono less than state modes of warfare. That story, however, marks the beginning of the ‘military revolution’ of Morocco’s sixteenth century and the end of the era we are considering here.

The incipient revival of firearms capabilities among Moroccans in the 1490s suggests a partial explanation for the pattern of expansion, evapo–ration and reappearance of gunnery in Morocco. A vital, if not determining, factor must be the complex but rapidly changing nature of Moroccan connections to and interactions with the state and peoples of Granada, the last vestige of Islamic Spain. Until the late 1450s, military cooperation between Morocco, Granada and even other North African societies was close, standing foremost on relations between newly restabilised dynastic regimes. But Granadans took the lead on both sides of the Straits in obtaining weapons, providing expertise, and recruiting crews, whether Granadan Muslims, Christian captives or conscripts. No evidence exists that the Marinids or Muhammad ash-Shaykh al-Wattas ever attempted to found a domestic production capability for Morocco and, in fact, Morocco’s first foundry did not appear until the 1530s. Thus, except for occasions when the makhzan could capture modern artillery from an enemy – and the only significant fifteenth century incident of such capture occurred at Tangiers in 1437 – Moroccan ties to Granada served as the primary (if not only) source for gunpowder equipment. These tiesunravelled after 1458 when both states fell into internal political strife, turmoil exacerbated by invasions from stronger states with forces proficient in the use of artillery. Equipment captures simply ceased while natural deterioration and internal war reduced Moroccan stocks of the old iron guns.

Thereafter military isolation intensified, first, because of the effective–ness of Portugal’s surveillance in the 1460s and 1470s, but then because Granada soon faced the threat of outright destruction. Indeed, during the Granadan War, Muhammad ash-Shaykh al-Wattas kept embarrassed neutrality, selling grain to the Christians and observing the Castilian blockade of the Andalusian coast throughout the 1480s. When Granada fell in 1492, Moroccan-Granadan relations changed a third time. Beginning as a trickle after the first major towns fell in 1485, the movement of Spanish Muslims and Jews increased steadily during the war, gradually taking on the dimensions of a demographic shift in the mid-1490s. Distracted by other military concerns, both Ferdinand and Muhammad lacked the will and resources to control either these migrations or the migrants themselves completely. A significant number of Granadans, whether individuals or groups, Muslims or Jews, were war veterans, many experienced in gunpowder weapons combat or crafts. Many found their way into the service of the makhzan and its agents but, as Leo Africanus and many Castilian historians tell us, many also became privateers, enrolled as bodyguards or mercenaries, and sold their services to the domestic challengers of the Wattasids as well.

            In many respects, Morocco’s entire sixteenth century was a prolonged military revolution, one with enormous multi-faceted consequences for that era and for Morocco today. The early roots of that revolution remain but a dim and debatable outline. What is clear, however, even from this summary treatment of one restricted topic is that military history cannot study technology alone in pursuit of military change nor restrict itself to one country. It must become simultaneously social history and interna–tional comparative history, or regress again to the analytical level of ideology, mystique and saga. Second, on this eve of the voyage of Columbus – which is also the eve of Granada’s demise and the great ‘demobilisation’ diaspora of Spain’s Jews and Muslims just mentioned – Third World scholars must now begin the daunting task of bringing their own past into wider public consciousness and placing that history into a global context. The fifteenth century seems a fine place to start.

 



End Notes

The author wishes to thank Paul Chevedden, Donald J. Kagay, David Finkelstein, Albert D. McJoynt, Judy Groff and Nikki Keddie for their advice, assitance and encouragement during the development of this article.

1. Grossly oversimplified, the Early Modern Military Revolution consists of four sequential (but chronologically overlapping) military developments which, Professor Parker argues, had highly diffuse and complex revolu–tionary consequences for early modern states and societies: [l1 armies and navies are forced to reorganise in order to make the most efficient use of the destructive power of gunpowder weapons; [21 part of this restructuring leads to enormous growth in the size of permanent armed forces which en–tail voracious demands on patrons for fiscal, material and human resources; [31 development of agencies and procedures by states and societies to wring these resources from other groups and activities, such as taxes, conscriptions, investments, schools, mercantile endeavours and war; and [41 the infectious pervasiveness of war and its demands on the state and society caused by this expansion. Three key theoretical statements are: Geoffrey Parker, TheMilitary Revolution (Cambridge 1988); William McNeill, The Pursuit of Power (Chicago 1982); and Charles Tilly’s wonderful essay ‘War-Making and State-Making as Organized Crime’, in P. Evans, D. Reuschmeyer and T. Skocpol (eds), Bringing the State Back (Cambridge 1984),169-99.

2. See John R. Hale’s witty and not entirely dismissive plea for restraint in historical theorisation in ‘Gunpowder and the Renaissance’, in C.H. Carter (ed.), From the Renaissance to the Counter-Reformation (London 1966).

3. In addition to McNeill’s Pursuit of Power, which says a lot about the revolutionary role of gunpowder in the fifteenth century, see these other works: R. Bean, ‘War and the Birth of the Nation-State’, Journal of Economic History, 33 (March 1973): 203-31; John Bridgman, ‘Gunpowder and Governmental Power’, in L.L. Farrar (ed.), War: A Historical, Political, and Social Study (Santa Barbara, CA 1978), 105-11; Malcolm G.A. Vale, War and Chivalry (Athens, GA 1981), esp. 136-44; John R. Hale, War and Society in Renaissance Europe (New York 1985), esp. 46-8. Scholars interested in the Islamic world must read David Ayalon, Gunpowder and Firearms in the Mamluke Kingdom (London 1956); Andrew C. Hess, ‘Firearms and the Decline of Ibn Khaldun’s Military Elite’, Archivum Ottomanicum, 5 (1972): 173-201 and The Forgotten Frontier (Chicago 1978); Ahmad al-Hassan and Donald Hill, Islamic Technology (Cambridge 1986), 98-115.

4. The great Portuguese chronicler, Gomes Eannes Zurara, concludes his history of the exploration of Guinea with the wonderfully self-deceptive comment that ‘affairs [between Portugal and the Africans] now are conducted more by commerce and mutual agreement than force and feats of arms’. The trade he means, however, is the slave trade where humanity is harvested by war, kidnapping and brigandage. The trade is only peaceful now because someone other than the Portuguese does the risky work. War, slave commerce and the explorations of the Portuguese were simultaneous from the very first (Zurara, Crdnica dos feitos notavies que passaram na Conquesta de Guine, ed. T. de Sousa Soares (Lisbon 1878), 354). Good analytical introductions are Bailey W. Diffie and George Winius,Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, vol. 1 (Minneapolis, MN 1977); Frederick C. Lane’s essays in Profits from Power: Readings in Protection Rent and Violence Controlling Enterprises (Albany, NY 1979); Malwyn Newitt, ‘Plunder and the Rewards of Office in the Portuguese Empire’, in M. Duffy (ed.), The Military Revolution and the State, vol. 1 (Exeter 1980), 10-20.

5. There are many examples, but of special interest for the fifteenth century are Malcolm G.A. Vale’s ‘New Techniques and Old Ideals: The Impact of Artillery on War and Chivalry at the End of the Hundred Year’s War’, in C.T. Almond (ed.), War, Literature, and Politics in the Late Middle Ages (Liverpool 1976), 57-72; J. Petrovic, ‘Firearms in the Balkans’, in V.J. Parry and Malcom Yapp (eds), War, Technology, and Society in the Middle East (London 1976), 165-72; Philip Contamine,War in the Middle Ages, trans. by M. Jones (London/New York 1984).

6. This is my dissertation thesis, argued at length in Weston F. Cook, Jr, ‘The Hundred Years War for Morocco, 1465-1580: Warfare and State-Building in the Early Modern Maghrib’, 2 vols (unpublished Dissertation, Georgetown University 1989).

7. Summarised succinctly but brilliantly in John Vogt’s ‘Saint Barbara’s Legions: Portuguese Artillery in the Struggle for Morocco’, Military Affairs, 41 (December 1977): 176-82.

8. Robert Ricard, ‘A propos de rebato: Note sur la tactique militaire dans les places portugaises du Maroc’, Bulletin Hispanique, 35 (1933): 448-51; John S. Galbraith, ‘The Turbulent Frontier as a factor in British Expansion’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 2 (January 1960): 150-68.

9. Muhammad al-Wazani/Leo Africanus, Description de 1′Afrique, 2 vols, trans. P. Epaulard (Paris 1956),1: 27-30 and 40-41.

10. Auguste Cour, La dynastie marocaine de Beni Wattas (Constantine 1920) and the sound summary chapter by Nehemia Levtzion in ‘Sharifs and Ottomans in the Maghrib’, in Roland Oliver (ed.), The Cambridge History of Africa, vol. 3 (Cambridge 1977). Nineteenth and twentieth century French historians often justified their creeping subjugation of Morocco by distorting Wattasid history to prove that Moroccans could not govern their own society unless enthralled to despotism of superstitious fanatics (the Wattasids are often – somehow – caricatured as a ‘secularist’ dynasty) or under the tutelage of enlightened foreigners. Abdullah Laroui ponders the neglect of this era and the challenges facing researchers in The History of the Maghrib (Princeton 1977), 209-42.

11. Mercedes Garcia-Arenal, ‘The Revolution of Fas in 869-1465 and the Death of Sultan Abd al-Hagq al-Marini, Bulletin of the School of African and Oriental Studies, 41 (1972): 43-66; M. Benchekroun, La vie intellectuelle marocaine sous les merinides et les wattasides (Rabat 1974); Muhammad al-Hajji, L’Activite intellectuelle au Maroc 1′epoque sa’adide, 2 vols (Rabat 1976-77); Abd al-Krim Krim, al-Maghrib fi’ahd ad-Dawla as-Sa’adiya (Casablanca 1978); Ahmad Boucharb, Dukkala wa-l-isti’mar al-Burtuagli (Casablanca 1984); Vincent Cornell, ‘The Logic of, Analogy and the Role of the Sufi Shaykh in Post–Marinid Morocco’, International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 15 (1983): 67-93.

12. Africanus was born in Morocco, probably in the 1470s. Muhammad al–Kuraswrote in the 1550s, fairly contemporary with the events or witnesses thereof (Arusat al- Masa’il fima li-Banu Wattas min Fada’il, ed. A. Ben Mansur (Rabat 1963). Most Moroccan writers on these events were chroniclers born in the seventeenth century or later. For Jurge Von Ehingen, see The Diary of Jurge von Ehingen, trans. Malcolm Letts (London 1929).

13. Duarte Pachco Pereira, Esmeraldo de Situ Orbis, ed. Damiao Peres (Lisbon 1954), 27-8.

14. Portuguese accounts are Gomes E. Zurara, Cronica de tomada de septa por el Rei Dom Jodo I, ed. F. Periera (Lisbon 1915), 169-264 (note 204); Gomes E. Zurara, Cronica da Conde Dom Pedro de Meneses, in Colleccod de libros inMites de hist6ria portuguesza, [hereafter CLIHP], ed. Jose Correa de Serra, vol. 2 ‘(Lisbon 1792), 240-539; Mateus de Pisano, Livro da Guerra de Ceuta, ed. R.C. Pinto (Lisbon 1915), 38-50; Jer6nomio de Mascarenhas, Historia de la ciudad de Ceuta, ed. A. de Dornales (Lisbon 1918), 80-113. A decent Arabic account from lost sources is Muhammad al-Qadiri’s Nashr al-Mathani, ed. and trans. E. Micheaux-Bellaire in Archives Marocaines, 24 (1917): 233-6. Good summaries include John Vogt, ‘Crusading and Commercial Elements in the Portuguese Capture of Ceuta’, Muslim World, 59 (1969): 287-99; Derek Latham, ‘The Strategic Position of and Defense of Ceuta in the Later Muslim Period’, Islamic Quarterly, 15 (1972): 189-204; Henry Livermore, A New History of Portugal (Cambridge 1977), 106-10.

15. The earliest and most unambiguous reference to ‘hand-guns’ in Morocco is in Ruy de Pina’s account of Tangiers (see his Cronica d’el Rei Dom Duarte, in CLIHP-1: 71-194, noting 103-6, 111-16, 132, 151-3 of 142-58). See also Documentos sobre a expansiao portuguesza, ed. Vitorino Magalhaes Godinho, 3 vols, (Lisbon 1943-1956), 2: 55-78, 93-102, 128-31; Richard Ricard, ‘Le Maroc septentrional au XV siecle d’apres les chroniques portugaises’, Hesperis, 23 (1936): 89-143.

16. Godinho, Documentos, 3: 16-18; Pedro de Azevedo, Documentos das chance–larias reais relativos a Marrocos, 2 vols (Coimbra 1915-1934), 2: 106-7, 250-1, 297-8, 304; Ca Da Mosto, Voyages, 58-9; R. Ricard, ‘Les portugais et le sahara atlantique au XV siecle’, Hesperis, 11 (1930): 97-110; Boucharb, Dukkala, 18–84.

17. Gomes E. Zurara, Cronica do Conde Dom Duarte de Meneses, ed. Larry King (Lisbon 1978), 104-20; Roy de Pina, Cronica d’el Rey Dom Affonso V, CLIHP-1 (Lisbon 1797), 458-83 of 199-626; Damiao de Gois, Cronica do Principe Dom Jodo II, ed. A.J. Goncalvez-Guimarais (Coimbra 1905), 33-47; Mascarenhas, Ceuta,232-4; Africanus, Afrique, 1: 265. On Portuguese pre-1458 privateer–ing, see Zurara, Dom Pedro, 310-12, 345, 347-52, 359-62, 366369, 377, 379, 410, 414, 417, 486, 494, 498, 515-19, 536-7, and note also Azevedo, Documentos, 2: 26 and Von Ehingen, Diary, 31-7; Zurara, Conquesta de Guine, 203.

18. Cristovao Rodrigues Acenheiro, Cronicas dos Senhores Reis de Portugal, ed. Jose Correa de Serra, CLIHP-V (Coimbra 1824): 260-2.

19. Zurara, Dom Duarte,131 and (on the number of various cannon types) 164.

20. Zurara, Ceuta, 264. I have found no unambiguous evidence that Moroccans possessed any kind of cannon predating this reference from Zurara. All others I have seen, including the famous reference of Ibn Khaldun to the 1277 siege of Sijilmassa, are either anachronistic or too vague to exclude the possibility that the weapon in question was not one of the many common throwing machines which could hurl gunpowder-based incendiaries. Nonetheless, given that true artillery – cannons and guns that used a controlled gunpowder explosion to propel a missile at a target – existed in Iberia in the fourteenth century, Moroccans clearly must have obtained and used artillery before 1415. But my readings do not supply an earlier date. I am eager to be corrected.

21. Africanus, Afrique, 1: 267.

22. G.S. Colin, ‘Barud’, Encyclopedia of Islam, vol. 1, 2nd edn, (Leiden 1960), 1: 1057-8; repeated by Andrew C. Hess, Forgotten Frontier, 23-4.

23. Zurara, Dom Pedro, 253-5, 261, 268-9, 276, 324-5, 335, 368-9; 376-505, 522-4, 539.

24. Zurara, Dom Pedro, 459-61.

25. In a much shorter account of the 1419 siege, Zurara said over 100,000 but this figure rings of typical medievalist exaggeration (Guine, 32). Africanus gives no figures but, at least from the Portuguese records, his snide depiction of Abu Said being murdered at a ‘Belshazzar’s Feast’ for failing to prosecute jihad only a year after this exhausting assault against the Portuguese invaders is inaccurate and unfair (Afrique. 1: 267).

26. This short-lived war, more a prolonged series of border skirmishes, revealed considerable changes in the technological and logistical capability of Iberian armies on the eve of modernity. Ian A. McDonald, Don Fernando de Antequera (Oxford 1948).

27. Zurara, Dom Pedro, 520-39, 566, 578, 589-91, 600.

28. Ruy de Pina, Dom Duarte, 71-194; Zurara, Dom Pedro, 391-7; Godihno, Documentos, 2: 55-78, 93-102, 128-31.

29. Ruy de Pina, Dom Duarte, 135-6 and 146-57.

30. Zurara, Dom Pedro, 391-7; Ricard, ‘Le Maroc septentrional’,114.

31. Von Ehingen, Diary, 33-4.

32. Zurara, Dom Duarte, 174-234,281-9; Ruys de Pina, Affonso V, 465-83.

33. Ruy de Pina, Affonso V, 465 and 469.

34. Note the quotation from Heironymous Munzer’s 1495 Itinerium given in R. Ricard, ‘Notes sur les possessions portugaises du Maroc a la fin du XV siecele’,Hesperis, 8 (1928): 410.

35. Zurara, Dom Duarte, 359. 36.  Ibid., 201.

37. Zurara, Dom Pedro, 341-55.

38. Mascarenhas, Ceuta, 237-40; Ruy de Pina, Affonso V, 490-1.

39. Africanus, Afrique, I: 160-1. See also Ruys de Pina, Affonso V, 520.

40. Anselm Adorne saw this apparently ceremonial unit and its foundry shop when he visited Tunis on his ‘travels’. His notes were edited and translated into French by R. Brunsehvig in Deux recits de voyages inedits en Afrique du nord au XV siecle (Paris 1936), 212-20.

41. Ruy de Pina, Affonso V, 511-32; Africanus, Afrique, I: 260-2; De Gois, fodo II, 70-84.

42. Shortly afterwards, the king commemorated his conquest with a series of magnificent tapestries depicting the landing, encirclement and assault on Arzila. These tapestries richly detailed the cannons, firearms and siege tactics employed by Lisbon against Arzila, much as the more famous bas relief carvings in the Toledo choristy display the progressive conquest of Granada by Castile and the weapons employed. Oddly, colour reproductions of the tapestries are few, but black-and-white copies with extensive artistic and historical comments are in Reynaldo do Santos, As Tapecarias da Tomada de Arzila (Lisbon 1925). Most cannons presented are the large-mouthed, sled–dragged type which resemble culvert pipes, a type already made obsolete by developments in Italy, France and Burgundy. Individual firearms include the old colubrina de mao [handgun], espingarda, and newer models of the matchlock arquebuse.

43. Ruy de Pina, Affonso V, 490-6; Africanus, Afrique, 1: 263-4; De Gois, Jodo II, 84-91.

44. Ruy de Pina, Affonso V, 452-3, 465-6.

45. For details from the later 1470s and 1480s, examples are Ruy de Pina, Joao It, 70; Garcia de Resende; Crdnica de Dom Joao II e Miscelanea, ed. J.V. Serrao (Lisbon 1973), 94, 99-100; Africanus, Afrique, 1: 117-18.

46. Fernando de Zafra, in Coleccion de documentos inedites para la historia de Espana, [hereafter CODOINI vols 11 and 51 of 112 (Madrid 1847 and 1899) 11: 88-92, 484-6, 528-33; 51: 67-83; Pierre de Cenival, ‘Introduction’, Sources inedites de l‘histoire du Maroc: Archives et bibliotheques d’Espagne, premiere serie, vol. 1 of 3 vols, (Paris 1921), iii-vi; Andreas Bernaldez, Memorias del reinado de los Reyes Catolicos, ed. M. Gomez Moreno and J. de la Mata–Carriazo, 2 vols (Madrid 1943), 2: 380-1; Pedro de Medina, Cronica de los Duques de Medina Sidonia (Madrid 1861), 516-23; Lorenzo de Padilla, Cronica de Felipe [CODOIN vol. 8] (Madrid 1846), 48-51.

47. al-Kurasi, Arusat al-Masa’il, 15-17. For other sources on the abortive Graciosa campaign, see Ruys de Pina, Joao 77, 97-103; Resende, Joao H, 120-7; Damiao de Gois, Dom Manuel (Ricard), 2-7; Anselmo Braacamp Freire, Expedicoes e armadas nos annos de 1488 e 1489 (Lisbon 1915), 17-35 and 51-2; David Lopes,Historia de Arzila durante o domindo portugaisa (1471-1550 e 1577-1589) (Coimbra 1925), 82-93.

48. Africanus, Afrique, I: 27-40, 160-1, 250-2, 260-7; anonymous, Nubdhat at–Asr fi akhbar muluk Bani Nasr, ed. and trans. A. al-Bustani and Carlos Quiros (Larache 1940), entire work; Abu’l-Abbas al-Maggari, Nafh at-tib min Ghusni– I- Andalus-r-Ratib, ed. Ihsan Abbas, 8 vols (Beirut 1968), 4: 510-35. Spanish artillery superiority is credited by early Muslim authors (and most Castilians as well) with being the decisive factor in the conquest of Granada – along with the Will of Providence.

49. Africanus, Afrique, I: 250-2.

50. Ibid., 299-302; al-Kurasi, Arusat al-Masa il,19-21.

51. Africanus, Afrique, 2: 423-4. Sources for Morocco in the early 1500s, which are much more numerous and detailed, indicate that the slow but irreversible proliferation of firearms among the Moroccan people gradually be–came one of the major obstacles to both Portuguese imperialism and Wattasid domination of the civil society. The eventual, often forcible consolidation of these local resistances into the Sa’adian dynastic movement would become one of the key components in Morocco’s own gunpowder revolution in later decades.


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