Fireworks are among the oldest inventions in the world. This amazing entertainment form has been providing humans with joy since around 200 B.C. While most know the Chinese were the first to introduce these ‘firecrackers’ for the world, the history of fireworks in Europe remains a bit more unknown.
So what do we know about fireworks in Europe and when did the first fireworks make their way to the continent?
The Introduction of Gunpowder
The story of fireworks in Europe begins with the introduction of gunpowder. The early Chinese fireworks were little crackers that were made by adding gunpowder to bamboo tubes. The news of this magical new product, gunpowder, came to Europe in the middle of the 13th century. Gunpowder had travelled to the Middle East and from there, Europeans became familiar with the fascinating black powder.
Dominican and Franciscan friars introduced gunpowder, as well as Chinese firecrackers, to Europe. Immediately friars and monks began experimenting with the magical product and introduced it to the far regions of Europe.
One of the early pioneers in the field was an Englishman called Roger Bacon. He studied and wrote about the products and he well understood the darker uses of gunpowder.
Indeed, instead of focusing their efforts on developing entertainment with the new powder, Europeans first mastered the use of gunpowder for military use.
Marco Polo Sparks Italian Development
During his travels around China, explorer Marco Polo was fascinated by firecrackers. He bought these wonderful fireworks back to Italy during his travels around 1292.
During the Renaissance period (between 1400-1500), the Italians really took to developing fireworks. The scientist and craftsmen turned fireworks into an artwork in Europe, adding many today’s inventions to the products. It was then when new colours and burst styles became common.
Development of fireworks, especially of different shell types, also continued in China. The colours of the fireworks remained almost the same for 1,000 years, until eventually, Italian scientist in 1830s were able to create different colours with the help of chemistry.
Increasing Demand for Displays
While fireworks became more colourful and eventually took off ground – as many early fireworks were simple ground fireworks – the public interest towards these new shows increased as well.
But like many things at the time, fireworks remained an entertainment for the royalty or those with money. But the audiences were growing and special firemasters began conducting the shows.
Around the 1730s, England saw an increase in displays and eventually these events turned into public rather than private occasions. People used to travel from all across Britain to witness these events – no wonder we are a nation who loves fireworks to this day!
Fireworks have been around for a long time and Europeans have truly fallen in love with these magical things. In fact, Europe’s love for fireworks is evident in the many records the continent holds. The Swiss – who else? – have created the largest chocolate firework, while the largest firework rocket, measuring at 13 kilograms, was launched in Portugal in 2010!
If you are looking to honour this old tradition, the head down to our website and pick your favourite fireworks!