Professor Catherine Fletcher Inaugural Lecture – A foul and pestilent discovery: Handguns as a new technology in early modern Europe

27 April 2022, 5.30 – 7pm, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester School of Art, Benzie Building

Register for tickets here.

A foul and pestilent discovery: Handguns as a new technology in early modern Europe

Guns are often described as one of the quintessentially modern technologies. Yet remarkably little is known about their impact on European societies in the first century of their development. Drawing on research in multiple Italian archives, Catherine Fletcher explores the ways that sixteenth-century states attempted to exploit firearms’ military potential, while at the same time regulating their use in the interest of maintaining public order. She investigates the range of contemporary attitudes towards firearms, from literary hostility to civic pride to gun users’ pleasure in shooting. Many of the concerns raised by early critics of guns still have resonance in debates on arms control today.

Catherine Fletcher is Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan University and head of the Manchester Centre for Public History & Heritage.

Alongside academic work on the history of diplomacy, she is the author of several books bringing sixteenth-century history to broad audiences including Our Man in Rome: Henry VIII and his Italian Ambassador (Bodley Head, 2012), The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de’ Medici (Bodley Head, 2016) and The Beauty and the Terror: An Alternative History of the Italian Renaissance (Bodley Head, 2020). Her work has been featured internationally on TV and radio in programmes ranging from BBC2’s A Fresh Guide to Florence to hit podcast Your Dead To Me, to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Art Show.

Catherine’s current research focuses on the early history of firearms in Italy and beyond: she has chapters on this topic forthcoming in the Bloomsbury Cultural History of Technology (ed. Raffaele Pisano) and in Working in the Shadows of War in Renaissance Europe (Amsterdam University Press, ed. Stephen Bowd, Sarah Cockram and John Gagné).

Professor Fletcher’s respondent will be Professor Peter Wilson

Peter H. Wilson lives in England and is the Chichele Professor of the History of War at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of All Souls College, and Principal Investigator of a research project on the ‘European Fiscal-Military System 1530-1870’ funded by the European Research Council (2018-25). Previously, he held posts at the universities of Hull, Newcastle, and Sunderland, as well as visiting positions at the University of Münster, Germany, and at High Point University, North Carolina USA. He the President of the Society for the History of War and works on the history of German-speaking Europe, and the history of war between 1500 and 1900.

His books include Europe’s Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War (2009) which has also appeared in German, Polish and Spanish. His books include The Holy Roman Empire: A Thousand Years of Europe’s History (2016), and Europe’s Tragedy: A History of the Thirty Years War (2009) which won the Society for Military History’s Distinguished Book Award. His work has been translated into Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Macedonian, Polish, and Spanish. His latest book, Blood and Iron: A Military History of the German-speaking Peoples since 1500, will be published in October 2022.

Professor Steve Decent, Provost & Deputy Vice Chancellor, will introduce Professor Fletcher

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