Given a world with with absolutely no access to saltpeter (a key ingredient of gunpowder), and a wide-spread society at a medieval-level of technology, how long before this society would reach a non-medieval, Renaissance-type level of technology?
- No magic, although there may be "wizards" or "magicians" (illusionists) because...
- Any other real-world chemical reactions are allowed.
- There is a feudal system in place (a potentate, nobility, peasantry, etc.)
- There are independent bodies of scholars.
- Religion plays only a minor role in society, i.e., no one is beholden to the whims of the clergy.
- Standard medieval technology
- Military: Cavalry, leather/metal armor, swords, bows, crossbows, castles, wooden catapults/siege weapons
- Civil: Horse-drawn heavy plow, architectural vaults/arches/domes, mechanical clocks, water/wind mills, basic printing
I'm working under the assumption that if gunpowder was never introduced, medieval technology would not have graduated as quickly. I'm wondering, though, what technological advances would be made regardless of access to gunpowder, and how long it might take to make those advances.
I'm interested in all technologies. Gunpowder is the only thing that's lacking in the world, so naturally, military technological advances would probably be hit the hardest. However, necessity is the mother of invention, right? Many of today's everyday goods and services were born out of modern military research, e.g., the Internet, microwaves, GPS, etc. In medieval times, if there was no gunpowder, no doubt people would still develop creative and effective ways to kill each other - but there would be no need to defend yourself from guns or cannons. A social effect I can see happening is that revolutions and uprsisings would be far less successful, since guns vs. guns is a much more even playing field than trained bowmen/swordsmen/etc. vs unskilled peasants... but what effect would this have on all technological advances during that time?