It's easy to think of firearms as a modern invention, in part because the science behind them and the technology inside them gets better all the time. But the roots of gun technology go very, very deep indeed...over a thousand years, in fact, and all the way to the other side of the world. Here's what the first 500 years of firearms history looked like:
850: Gunpowder first made in China
1004: First mention of gunpowder in Chinese literature
1067: Chinese emperor places production of saltpetre and sulphur (used to make gunpowder) under state control
1225: Marcus Graecus reveals formula for gunpowder in his Liber Ignum
1250: Roger Bacon records formula for gunpowder in De secretis operibus artis Albertus Magnus reveals formula for gunpowder in De mirabilis mundi ignium Berthold Schwartz experiments with gunpowder in Germany
1259: City of Melilla in North Africa defended by a cannon
1280: First guns appear in China
1308: Guns used by Spanish in siege of Gibraltar
1325: Florentine Republic orders two officers to make cannon for city defense
1326: First known illustration of a cannon in Milemete's De officiis regum
1327: Scots record first seeing firearms at the Battle of Werewater in Britain
1338: Cannons recorded as equipment of English ship Bernard de la Tour Records show gunpowder being stored in Tower of London
1340: Guns first used at sea in Battle of Sluys by Edward III of England Powder mill built in Augsburg, Germany
1344: Edward III's household staffed with "artillers and gonners"
As you can see, although the invention of gunpowder actually took place in China, gunpowder doesn't seem to have actually been used for military purposes until some 400 years later...just a couple of decades after the discovery was "revealed" by European and English alchemists. However, once the innovations began to flower, the timeline between new and notable events in firearms history got shorter and shorter. That's a tradition that continues until this day, when innovation and invention is happening so quickly that it can be tough even for seasoned experts to keep up!