Friday, 29 July 2011

Connections Part 3: Distant Voices


eon said...

One of the best episodes of the series, pointing out that it was the Welsh longbow which first began making the armored knight on horseback obsolete on the battlefield. The arbalest (heavy crossbow) and gunpowder finished the job, with the latter going on to do likewise to the castle.

After this double whammy, feudalism was basically finished, but it really took another sixty-odd years, and some Swiss soldiers with pikes, to get the point across in no uncertain terms. (Episode 8, "Eat, Drink, And be Merry".)

Feudalism still hung on, of course, mainly due to inertia. The modern nation-state that replaced it really began with the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), Gustav II Adolf Vasa, and Armand Duplessis, aka Richelieu'- but that's another story.



Sergej said...

And a snapshot of its time, in terms of what may and Must Not be said in public about people one knows nothing about. Specifically, it was known by everyone who knew anything back then that the Chinese only used gunpowder for fireworks (no, being as human as anyone else, they came up with guns pretty quickly...), but it was permissible to call 'em inscrutable without first putting on a white robe and hood.

PC not having been invented yet is something that time had going for it, I suppose. People wishing to sound more clever than they are and keeping a store of "of course, the X do not have this Western [human, in fact] vice" non-facts, seems to exist in all times.

eon: check out the foothill problem with hill-climbing, and its solution with simulated annealing. Both from computer science, originally artificial intelligence. I've always thought that developing knights, and then refining the technology and restructuring society around them, was an instance of going for a local maximum. And then, armies of conscripts, trained to kill, were an entirely new maximum. Just off the top of my head, I can think of Japanese, Balkan, and of course, European, stories, that pretty much end: "and this was the end of chivalry".