Comparative Studies in Society and History

Profane Uses of the Sacred

The Sacred Musket. Tactics, Technology, and Power in Eighteenth-Century Madagascar

Gerald M. Berga1

a1 Sweet Briar College

The idea that firearms promote centralized government has a venerable pedigree in European historiography. Friedrich Engels observed that the new weapons of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrought substantial changes on class relations as merchants allied themselves with monarchs to wrest control of firearms from nobles and to reap the benefits of emerging mercantile states. The history of firearms thus conceived highlights the cultural content of technology and may provide more than a barren chronicle of destructive tools, as illustrated in J. U. Nef's classic study of technology and war and, in the same tradition, William McNeill's recent synthesis outlining the manner in which European culture framed innovations in military technology

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