In 1776, the Scottish economist Adam Smith offered, in his
Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
(which was to prove the foundational work for modern economics), an analysis of the sociology of warfare in which he adopted the standard Western stadial (stages) approach, and contrasted nations of hunters and shepherds with the ‘more advanced state of society’, in which industry was important. These advanced societies were seen by Smith as providing a hierarchy of military organisation and sophistication in which ‘a well-regulated standing army’ was vital to the defence of civilisation. Firearms, Smith claimed, were crucial in the onset of military modernity and as a measure of military capability:
Before the invention of fire-arms, that army was superior in which the soldiers had, each individually, the greatest skill and dexterity in the use of their arms … since the invention … strength and agility of body, or even extraordinary dexterity and skill in the use of arms, though they are far from being of no consequence, are, however, of less consequence. … In modern war the great expense of firearms gives an evident advantage to the nation which can best afford that expense; and consequently, to an opulent and civilised, over a poor and barbarous nation. In ancient times the opulent and civilised found it difficult to defend themselves against the poor and barbarous nations. In modern times the poor and barbarous find it difficult to defend themselves against the opulent and civilised.