The Gun


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I n reality, in the 18th century, as now, power shaped knowledge-sharing everywhere. In Britain, for instance, government offices engaged in military supply often prohibited contractors from patenting their inventions: a patent would slow the spread of innovation to other contractors and thus slow the production of urgently needed supplies. While the British government thus abetted the sharing of know-how within Britain, it actively stifled such sharing abroad. In , they ensured that legislation allowing duty-free imports of American bar iron at once prohibited American iron-manufacturing, explicitly to prevent creation of a war machine there.

In India, old, rather than new, manufacturing industries caused concern. British colonial officials strove to strangle local gun-manufacture and block Indian access to British gun-making knowledge. They did so out of an understanding that arms-making lay at the heart of industrial progress. Eighteenth-century Britons perceived the connection between war manufacturing and industrial development, especially in the West Midlands.

In , an influential and powerful Quaker gun-maker of the town explained to his concerned fellow friends that there was no industrial work that did not in some way contribute to war. Intensifying European involvement in Indian conflicts heightened demand for weapons.

During the long wars against France unfolding then, military contracting dominated the town. The Ordnance Office took control of the arms industry, monopolising its output. From to , Birmingham produced 7,, arms and components. The town worked to quash any legislation threatening the gun trade.

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The industrial downturn after the wars in confirmed their view. Similar regional military-industrial economies existed in the Indian subcontinent. In the 16th century, arms sales constituted part of Ottoman-Mughal diplomatic business in India. Babur, the first Mughal emperor, brought Turkish firearms, which Mughal adversaries, the Rajputs and the Afghans, in turn adopted.

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Exchanges with the Portuguese and Egypt helped to establish the technology in the subcontinent. The Mughal emperor Akbar was deeply interested in firearm manufacture, and drew master gun-makers to his court. By the 17th century, the Mughals had state foundries and arsenals. From Malabar to Bihar, kingdoms across the subcontinent cultivated arms manufacture. Intensifying European involvement in Indian conflicts heightened demand for guns. Indian craftsmen also copied European firearms.

Peasants of the Gangetic plains used cheap handguns made by local blacksmiths. Travancore, Kashmir, Rajasthan, Punjab and Sindh possessed sites of arms manufacture.


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Indian guns and gun parts were also sold in Persia, Oman and across the Indian Ocean. British military men noted the superior range and velocity of Indian matchlocks. European observers also praised Golconda muskets. Indian designs, the British recognised, were sophisticated and effective; subcontinental arms emerged from a rich and dynamic culture of technical knowledge. To obtain trading privileges, they also presented arms as gifts. By the s, the company exported nearly 1, tons of small arms per year for profit. The French and British used arms deals as a proxy to challenge one another in the subcontinent.

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With each British success, EIC arms acquired ever more cachet, making them an ever more effective medium of diplomatic exchange. To be sure, the British worried about arming their enemies. But short-term commercial interests often prevailed. Officials worrying about reckless sales confronted the logic that forbidding them would merely push custom to European rivals, forfeiting both British profit and influence.

This was the calculus with respect to Hyder Ali of Mysore: the British felt that selling him guns brought both profit and his goodwill as he brought down their common enemies, the Marathas. He had access to French and Spanish guns anyway, they noted. The EIC also bought British guns for its own use. As its territorial stake in India grew, it required massive gun shipments for its expanding professional army. In , it anticipated an annual demand of 5, In , Calcutta officials asked for 10, stand of arms plus 4, more each subsequent year, to be supplied by the same manufacturers who supplied the home government.

The same year, the EIC acquired the right to collect taxes in Bengal, assuring its capacity to pay for arms. With both its own army and the right to collect taxes from colonial subjects, the EIC was becoming a colonial state. They also needed 17, new arms, plus more for the nawab of Arcot. The EIC was also extravagant, relative to the Ordnance Office, in its readiness to replace damaged arms.

That year, it wanted 40, muskets for Madras and more for the nawab of Arcot, Bengal, the nawab of Awadh, the Bombay Marine, and the king of Travancore. After that war, too, the EIC routinely had at least 20, muskets en route to the subcontinent, in addition to maintaining 75, in store. By the end of , the EIC handed over some 30, guns for use by other British forces around the world. The Indian army had enough British guns in store and on continual order to spare all this, even as its forces expanded from 88, in to , in Its adoption as the standard infantry weapon in revolutionised English arms production.

Between and , Birmingham produced more than 3 million barrels and gunlocks, plus another million for the EIC. More than 1. During a slackening of demand in , the company helped Midlands ironmasters by anticipating munitions orders for the next year and thus purchasing , tons of Midland iron. While facilitating industrial revolution at home, the EIC actively stifled industrial progress in India. It manufactured some military goods in its arsenals and purchased some locally made tents, swords and tulwars sabres. Local manufacturers repaired guns. Occasionally, a British official suggested that Indian manufacturing might offer efficiencies.

In the s, complaints about the quality of English arms prompted a suggestion to minimise importation of stores that could be manufactured in India. The EIC likewise rejected a proposal to develop lead, iron, copper and tin mining in Bengal on the grounds that it would cost the EIC profit and control. But of course Bengal was not independent; it was part of the British Empire.

Like Adam Smith, this official knew that curiosity and experimentation were not components of some unique European culture. As arms manufacture lay at the heart of progress, officials helped create the divergence between East and West.

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Colonial officials in particular feared that Indians would acquire knowledge leading to improved weapons-manufacturing. Facilitating or allowing the spread of knowledge of metalworking among South Asian colonials presented a simple danger. In , the EIC considered closing the Fort William foundry out of fear that knowledge about casting might spread. Thus, while EIC arms purchases stimulated industrial revolution in England, the EIC prevented analogous stimulation of metalworking in the subcontinent, and took steps to counter it. EIC officials were sure that arms manufacture lay at the heart of industrial progress, and they helped create the divergence between East and West.

In their ad hoc decisions lie the beginnings of global industrial disparities. That was what empire was about. As British industrialism took off, Indian economic development was reoriented to serve it. P reventing exposure to British knowledge and suppressing Indian development was a big part of the battle, but the British also strove to suppress existing Indian knowledge and close down relationships in which other Europeans might share skills and knowledge with Indian states.

It was a real concern. For, in the face of British aggression, indigenous polities were struggling to strengthen their gun-manufacturing capacities. In the early s, the nawab of Bengal, Mir Qasim, began to manufacture firelocks at the fort at Monghyr, where Raja Todar Mal had manufactured guns in the 16th century.


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  • Its guns enjoyed a reputation superior to the best British military muskets, especially in the barrel metal and flints made of agates from the Rajmahal Hills. As French fortunes declined in the second half of the century, French mercenaries offered their expertise to Indian manufactories. Police would later talk to the supposed uncle, Robert Campbell, who's actually Doyle's half-brother. He would tell them the truth. Several people knew Doyle had actually bought the gun from a Winona man named Ike Williams.

    In a statement to John Johnson, Ike confirmed he'd sold the. Doyle came clean about having purchased the gun from Ike, but Johnson grilled him about why he'd lied in the first place.

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    Johnson then told Doyle that his gun had been identified as the murder weapon. Doyle was clearly surprised to hear this. He asked for confirmation. There's a note in the case file that documents a call from Doyle. He had a message to deliver to investigators, one that seemed to point suspicion away from him and to implicate his nephew instead. When Curtis Flowers testified at his first trial, he said on the stand that he knew Doyle Simpson owned a gun.

    But he didn't know the gun was in the glove box of Simpson's car on the morning of the murders. For his part, Doyle Simpson has changed his story a few times on this point. He testified that Flowers knew the gun was in his car. But he also testified at various times in the six trials that he usually kept the gun in his mother's house, under his mattress or in his car.

    In the following exchange from the first trial, Simpson testifies under cross-examination from defense lawyer Billy Gilmore on Oct.

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    It's far from clear that on July 16, , Flowers would have found the alleged murder weapon.

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