Arming the Periphery: The Arms Trade in the Indian Ocean by Emrys Chew (auth.)

By Emrys Chew (auth.)

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74 Annual Proof Returns from Birmingham, 1892–1910 Year African Barrels Military Barrels (Breech-loaders) Total Proofs 1892 81,820 11,779 379,086 1893 115,146 7,058 335,271 1894 75,313 9,219 299,273 1895 80,819 24,188 328,791 1896 51,725 32,025 324,898 1897 66,643 40,171 402,115 1898 119,834 18,613 392,939 1899 139,642 11,443 375,513 1900 124,155 5,706 390,268 1901 77,220 8,094 262,361 1902 83,640 4,635 282,749 1903 109,158 4,157 330,800 1904 69,661 8,177 304,969 1905 110,615 7,094 337,457 1906 62,632 16,964 370,528 1907 57,431 29,538 371,435 1908 37,244 25,037 326,697 1909 18,058 13,615 340,176 1910 65,693 8,564 420,239 Source: Arms and Explosives, June 1893 to June 1911.

The gun has a compact appearance, can be taken to pieces and easily carried about, can be applied to military or naval use, and the mechanism of that is simplicity itself. 41 The Maxim gun of the 1890s then proved to be an ‘epoch-making’ weapon, as Basil Collier has noted, spawning a whole generation of automatic The Arms Trade and Global Empire in the Indian Ocean 23 weapons which rendered prepared positions ‘well-nigh proof against orthodox infantry assaults unless they were first reduced by exceptionally severe or prolonged artillery bombardments’.

The revenue and military entrepreneurs, the big bankers, and the warrior peasant lords of the villages all derived wealth from commodity trade and speculated in money profit; most needed cash to buy muskets, cannon, elephants, and other symbols of power and status. The advanced nature of indigenous military technology and production did not preclude the hiring of European military advisers or the purchase of Western military equipment. Internal arms races on the subcontinent drove native rulers to seek whatever perceived organizational or technological advantages they might derive from external 36 Arming the Periphery sources of power in order to acquire an edge, however marginal, over local rivals.

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