The history of the cannon spans several hundred years. It is unclear exactly where the cannon was invented, however, there are accounts of its usage in warfare as early as the 12th century. These early accounts occur in Middle Eastern, European as well as Asiatic sources. The cannon traces its development from the fire lance, the ancestor of cannons and firearms. They were among the earliest forms of gunpowder artillery, and over time replaced siege engines—among other forms of ageing weaponry—on the battlefield. Their use was first documented in the Middle East in the 13th century, and the first cannon in Europe were probably used in Iberia, during the wars amongst Christians and Muslim kingdoms in Spain, in the 13th century. English cannon were first used during the Hundred Years’ War, at the Battle of Crécy, in 1346. It was during this period, the Middle Ages, that cannon became standardized and more effective in both the anti-infantry and siege roles. After the Middle Ages, most large cannon were abandoned, in favour of greater numbers of lighter, more manoeuvrable pieces. Besides, new technologies and tactics were developed, making most defences obsolete; this led to the construction of star forts, specifically designed to withstand bombardment from artillery.
Cannon also transformed naval warfare: the Royal Navy, in particular, took advantage of their firepower. As rifling became more commonplace, the accuracy of cannon was significantly improved, and they became deadlier than ever, especially to infantry. In World War I, a considerable majority of all deaths were caused by cannon; they were also used widely in World War II. Most modern cannon are similar to those used in the Second World War, including autocannon—except for naval guns, which are now significantly smaller in calibre.
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