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Guns in Scotland: the manufacture and use of guns and their influence on warfare from the fourteenth century to c.1625

Guns in Scotland: the manufacture and use of guns and their influence on warfare from the fourteenth century to c.1625

By David Caldwell

PhD Dissertation, University of Edinburgh, 1982

Detail from a contemporary drawing of Edinburgh Castle under siege in 1573, showing it surrounded by attacking batteries
Detail from a contemporary drawing of Edinburgh Castle under siege in 1573, showing it surrounded by attacking batteries

Abstract: Guns first came into use in Western Europe in the fourteenth century and the Scots were using them by the 1380s. It was not, however, until the reign of James 11 (1437-1460) that they emerged as an important weapon for battering fortifications. The first mention of a master of the artillery dates to this time and by the sixteenth century there is substantial evidence for a gunnery establishment with a master, a comptroller and various other craftsmen – gunners, founders, wrights and smiths – mostly based in Edinburgh Castle. Bronze guns were being cast by the 1470s.

Guns allowed James IV (1488-1513) to embark on an aggressive policy against England which was disastrously unsuccessful and finally abandoned by the Regent Albany in 1523. Artillery was expensive to make and maintain and considerable expertise was needed to make full use of it. By the 1540s the Scots’ ineffectual handling of their artillery was plain, leaving tile way open for English and French intervention and the establishment of sophisticated artillery earthworks.

In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century hand firearms with snaphance locks were manufactured in the Scottish burghs, particularly Edinburgh, Canongate and Dundee. The Scots should be given the credit for first making snaphance pistols on a large scale, if not for significant developments in the lock mechanism itself. The surviving firearms are of high quality and must be seen in the context of a flowering of Scottish craftsmanship at this time.

medieval-mag-38-357x500The Scots adapted their castles for use with guns but gunloops were perhaps sometimes for little more than show and provisions for flanking fire were not of ten systematic. Despite the presence of French and English trace Italienne forts on Scottish soil in the 1540s and 1550s the Scots eschewed the radical new approach these suggested.

Click here to read part 1 of this these from the University of Edinburgh

Click here to read part 2 of this these from the University of Edinburgh

 



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