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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 11:10 am    Post subject: With all due respect to Oakeshott         Reply with quote

Hi all,
I attended a historic conference. A well-known professor of history, said: With all due respect to Oakeshott, I disagree with the classification of swords, this is good for ceramics. A sword must be seen differently. Lionello Boccia is perhaps the only one to have understood this.
I was very surprised and bewildered by this. Your comfort is welcome.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 11:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think the professor of history fully misunderstands the intent of Oakeshott's typology. He's assuming it to be like other systems of classification, whereas it is actually intended as a framework -- a basis on which to form a conversation. The intent and limitations of the typology are described in our article:


Oakeshott: The Man and his Legacy

An article by myArmoury.com

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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 11:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

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Arne Focke
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 11:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As an archaeologist i can't help you there, sorry.

Swords offer to wide a variety to be easily pressed into any kind of typology.
Even Oakeshott himself said that his typology was more like a guideline than a strict rule.

Archaelogists who work with swords try using more than one typology (Oakeshott/ Pettersen/Geibig beeing the most famous three) to get more accurate results.

But that is not diminishing Oakeshotts work.

So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 11:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Arne Focke wrote:
Swords offer to wide a variety to be easily pressed into any kind of typology.
Even Oakeshott himself said that his typology was more like a guideline than a strict rule.


I think this sums it up completely. Scholars and historians specializing in other subjects don't realize that the subject of swords is quite different than most other subjects.

Oakeshott saw the development of the sword much less like an evolution as it was a highly complex interaction between the forces of function and design. It was influenced by art, fashion, regional variation, martial needs, material quality and availability, and so many other factors. He attempted to design a system that was flexible and created a vocabulary in which to discuss and describe a sword, rather than to pigeonhole it into tidy little boxes.

I suspect his biggest error was to actually call it a typology. If it weren't for that word, we'd likely not have this discussion.

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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 11:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:


Oakeshott saw the development of the sword much less like an evolution as it was a highly complex interaction between the forces of function and design. It was influenced by art, fashion, regional variation, martial needs, material quality and availability, and so many other factors. He attempted to design a system that was flexible and created a vocabulary in which to discuss and describe a sword, rather than to pigeonhole it into tidy little boxes.

I suspect his biggest error was to actually call it a typology. If it weren't for that word, we'd likely not have this discussion.



I try to translate the thoughts of the professor:
"In my view can not be classified schematically weapons. I believe that a typological classification (as for pottery) for swords is almost impossible to do because they are too tied to the subjectivity of the individual that was used and the that was manufactured. The swords are related to time, place, to the mode, even to places and people, materials, expertise in certain places rather than other places, even for the same period.
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 11:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

That is pretty close to Nathans description, with which i agree by the way. Happy
So schön und inhaltsreich der Beruf eines Archäologen ist, so hart ist auch seine Arbeit, die keinen Achtstundentag kennt! (Wolfgang Kimmig in: Die Heuneburg an der oberen Donau, Stuttgart 1983)
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 12:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maurizio D'Angelo wrote:
I try to translate the thoughts of the professor:
"In my view can not be classified schematically weapons. I believe that a typological classification (as for pottery) for swords is almost impossible to do because they are too tied to the subjectivity of the individual that was used and the that was manufactured. The swords are related to time, place, to the mode, even to places and people, materials, expertise in certain places rather than other places, even for the same period.


Maurizio,
If you use the typologies together (not just blades, but pommels, guards, and grips), you can more easily see what a sword's origin is. Looking at one element alone is often not that helpful. Unfortunately, most people only use the blade typology alone and don't see it as a system. Did the professor describe the pommel and guard typologies and how they form a system with the blade typology? If not, then I say, with all due respect, that the professor doesn't fully understand the work or its point.

Of course, the system only covers straight, 2-edged medieval swords. And many swords don't fit the system neatly (or at all). But it gives a common frame of reference to use when discussing things.

I could describe a sword thusly: a long sword with a multi-faceted, wedge-shaped pommel and curving guard, with a blade of hexagonal section, fullered in its top half.

Or if I've read my Oakeshott, I can say a "Type XVII with a Type T2 pommel and style 4 guard."

More important, though, than assigning Oakeshott numbers and letters is knowing that those features describe a sword of the Sempach family, putting it in context chronologically and geographically. Knowing the typology makes it easier to describe things and can make it easier to see patterns.

Oakeshott's system isn't all-inclusive, but it is better than any other system I've seen proposed for the swords it covers.

Happy

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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 1:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:


Knowing the typology makes it easier to describe things and can make it easier to see patterns.
Oakeshott's system isn't all-inclusive, but it is better than any other system I've seen proposed for the swords it covers.



The professor seemed to know very well Oakeshott. In his opening address he said: "no more of the great master Oakeshott shared with the public's love for swords. None before him and after him shared their knowledge, to the great masses of people. He wrote not for the chosen few, but for the people".

This, deduction, perhaps not exactly wrong, that Oakeshott types, are fine if we classify the swords, from an educational point of view.

"A historic, otherwise considered a sword , compares with others of equal time, equal to the region, taking account of the historical moment, takes into account the economy of the region. An example given by him. Two swords in the museum of Bologna, apparently different, in fact equal. If a sword was sharpened several times changed its profile originally had another. It is not uncommon to see that under the sword guard have a profile that leaves us perplexed. It 'was built, or have suffered so much sharpening? Too many things competing for swords, Oakesshott classifications are not scholars and historians."

Perhaps we are so many peaple, here, and much depends on the Grand Master Oakesshott, love for the swords to the masses depend on him, and who knows if him did not done all this for this purpose.

"Sword in Hand, seems to speak with him at the bar, a great ability to communicate to the masses. Oakesshott knew to whom he wrote. The masses are in need of classifications and typologies to understand. With this, you do not want detract at all, the work of the great master, so it's exactly the opposite."

I do not know if these concepts are well expressed in English.
Maurizio


Last edited by Maurizio D'Angelo on Sat 06 Jun, 2009 4:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 1:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maurizio D'Angelo wrote:

I do not know if these concepts are well expressed in English.
Maurizio


Actually, some of your statements are difficult to make sense of in English.

Did the professor propose anything as an alternative? The bottom line is that no system will be able to neatly quantify the vast diversity of forms. Oakeshott knew that and said so in his works. He called the typology "merely a scaffolding to bring some order into the otherwise amorphous and infinitely varied mass of medieval blade, cross, and pommel forms."

Does the professor recommend any other typologies? Wheeler and Peterson look at hilts only and are therefore less complete than Oakeshott. Same with Bruhn-Hoffmeyer. Geibig's has a pommel and blade classification, but I don't think it has a guard classification. It covers only viking swords, so a guard system may be unnecessary.

Oakeshott's is the most complete that I know of, but is far from complete by design. It's a great starting point, it's not designed to be an ending point.

Here's what I wrote in myArmoury's Oakeshott article:

Quote:
Oakeshott's blade typology, as with his typologies for pommels and crosses, is meant to be a starting point. As he knew all too well, many swords do not fit neatly into a type.


and later:

Quote:
For some, this system may seem limiting, as many examples do not neatly fit into these categories. When viewed from Oakeshott's perspective, however, this is how the system is to be used. The typologies are not meant to pigeon-hole a sword into a particular group, but rather to provide a descriptive framework for generalized groups of swords.


If someone else has a different or better system, I'd be glad to hear about it. Happy

Happy

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JE Sarge
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 3:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I believe that if your professor does not agree, then he should put forth his argument to the acedemic community and perhaps show us his logic, conclusions, improvements, or changes on a formal level. It's easy to naysay the current classification system, but perhaps not so easy to make a change or create a different system entirely without putting forth a lifetime of research and dedication to the study of the medieval sword.

I believe that most people here (including myself) would be quite interested in seeing the detailed arguments against the Oakeshott system.

J.E. Sarge
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"But lack of documentation, especially for such early times, is not to be considered as evidence of non-existance." - Ewart Oakeshott
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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 6:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Some background:


1) I am here less than a student.
2) Who is the beginning of a journey, he understands that there is a lot of confusion, the outside. I think that was right Joseph Roland: "That there are persons of mistaken ideas in almost every Art or Science, is what few will deny. Yet I am inclined to believe there are more erroneous opinions entertained with regard to using the Art of the Sword than on most other subjects. "
3) Talk to a professor of history, I assure you it is not easy, he has a degree in history, I do not.
4) He says that for the scholar, a sword is unique, you must know everything about the sword studied, a classification that does not make sense.
Example: the St. Maurice of Turin, La Spadona of Brescia, the St. Maurice of Vienna, all here, we know everything about these swords. The Sword St. Maurice of Turin is a XII, the St. Maurice of Vienna is a XI, but this is not the first thing I think. We know so well the sword that include everything from memory. Well we do not need to classify. We are a step beyond the classifications. A historian who does this as a profession, so does not classify, the sword is unique with its own history, its own path. The classifications are fine for us. For us, I mean who is not a professional historian.
This does not mean throwing the work of Oakeshott. As Chad, Oakeshott is perhaps an important point of departure.
When at the beginning of his speech, I heard this, I was surprised, almost a heresy for me. Now his point of view I can understand, I do not know if it is right, but I can understand.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 6:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would seem that the professor is saying much the same thing we are.
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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 7:22 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
It would seem that the professor is saying much the same thing we are.


Nathan, believes that you confuse me, now.
Our thinking is the same as that of teacher. Is this right?
So depends on what I know on a sword. The sword of Vienna, for me is not important which is a type XI. Many other things I think when I see it. This happens because I know well. If I know not well I need to classify.
Oakeshott has written for the ignorant like me, because "I need to classify.
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Nathan Robinson
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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 7:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It would seem that the professor is simply pointing out the limitations of the typology and the difficulty involved in trying to type swords. Oakeshott acknowledged this and so created a system that is flexible and intended to create a descriptive vocabulary to aide in such a difficult task. It would seem that in that regard, we are all on the same page. If there is any disconnect, I'd guess that perhaps the professor doesn't fully understand Oakeshott's intended use for the system.
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Nat Lamb




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 7:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Nathan Robinson wrote:
Oakeshott saw the development of the sword much less like an evolution as it was a highly complex interaction between the forces of function and design. It was influenced by art, fashion, regional variation, martial needs, material quality and availability, and so many other factors. He attempted to design a system that was flexible and created a vocabulary in which to discuss and describe a sword, rather than to pigeonhole it into tidy little boxes.

I suspect his biggest error was to actually call it a typology. If it weren't for that word, we'd likely not have this discussion.


I agree with most of what you say there, but I'm unsure how that is diferent from an evolution.
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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Sat 06 Jun, 2009 7:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I take note of this debate. Sunday, 100 km, another historic conference. The title "The Normans in Apulia. The professor is the rapporteur. I will be present. Some little words I want to say to a professor. Now I go to sleep in this part of the world, sleeping 5 hours. Good continuation to you all.
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Joe Fults




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PostPosted: Sun 07 Jun, 2009 12:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Maurizio D'Angelo wrote:
3) Talk to a professor of history, I assure you it is not easy, he has a degree in history, I do not.


People win Nobel prizes precisely because their work is clearly understandable. The most talented people in any field are able to describe their area of expertise in way that makes it accessible to a very wide audience.

Pretenders and people driven by hubris often seek to place themselves above their audience in order to suppress discussion (which holds great risk for them). This is done by masking meanings in jargon, arguing technicalities and using complex constructs (often hypotheticals) to answer questions instead of speaking plainly and directly.

There is probably more at play here than I'm able to appreciate in this medium, however, I would suggest that your historian is either not very knowledgable, or did not want you to understand him, if you felt intimidated by his degree.

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Maurizio D'Angelo




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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jun, 2009 5:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Joe Fults wrote:

There is probably more at play here than I'm able to appreciate in this medium, however, I would suggest that your historian is either not very knowledgable, or did not want you to understand him, if you felt intimidated by his degree.


Hello Joe,
I am not quite intimidated by the degree of the teacher. I don't know well Lionello Boccia, I am studying him, now. To understand well him I have to be first informed on the things that him says.
Then, I would depart with a position of heavy cavalry. Wink
Maurizio


...He didn't hold in hand a sword as a researcher, but as a warrior. In memory of Etwart Oakeshott
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PostPosted: Mon 08 Jun, 2009 7:40 am    Post subject: Re: With all due respect to Oakeshott         Reply with quote

Maurizio D'Angelo wrote:
Hi all,
I attended a historic conference. A well-known professor of history, said: With all due respect to Oakeshott, I disagree with the classification of swords, this is good for ceramics. A sword must be seen differently. Lionello Boccia is perhaps the only one to have understood this.
I was very surprised and bewildered by this. Your comfort is welcome.


Hello Maurizio

I would not be to concerned with the point the honored professor put forth above. There are several different aspects that may touch upon such a statement. I am certain that if you study the sources and listen to as many voices on the subject that comment with knowledge and thoughtfulness you will have an excellent view of the great subject that is Medieval Sword Studies.

As you are able to grow in your knowledge of the subject you will find some sources will grow in importance while others may not seem as good as you once thought. This is not a qualification of any author but rather the result of your own growth and understanding as your comprehension develops.

While I would recognize the short comings that any typology is saddled with, for by definition they are constructs applied over reality to help the present decipher the past. Thus they will never be perfect, but they are not designed to be. They are tools the scholar uses to gain understanding. The comment by the professor above seems to miss this aspect to what a typologies role in study of any subject. The comment on the system being just for the masses and not the learned professional would seem to be less a comment on the system and more on the way the professor views those that have not studied as he has. This is something that any academic should well guard against. It focuses your efforts in a way that starts to look like only you can understand the truth of something and the road side of Arms and Armor studies is littered with those that have stated the absolute about a certain subject and later been proven completely wrong.

A couple of decades ago when Art Historians dominated the field of Sword and Armor studies this type of comment was sometimes heard about certain areas of the study. That the "understanding" of the subject needed a specific viewpoint to be correct. I think it has been shown that the interdisciplinary approach, that is more in vogue now, far exceeds the one subject approach to such a complex area of study. In fact I would argue that Ewart himself is in fact one of those who advocated this line of study.

Maurizio D'Angelo wrote:
I try to translate the thoughts of the professor:
"In my view can not be classified schematically weapons. I believe that a typological classification (as for pottery) for swords is almost impossible to do because they are too tied to the subjectivity of the individual that was used and the that was manufactured. The swords are related to time, place, to the mode, even to places and people, materials, expertise in certain places rather than other places, even for the same period.


I would suggest that the professor in his above statement has in fact made the case for why such a typology, as Ewart designed, is important. If one reads the introduction to Sword in the Age of Chivalry he identifies some of these very challenges to the understanding of the sword and how the coming together of many areas of study are the only way to get a bigger picture that is some aspect of the reality that was the medieval sword. His point that "The swords are related to time, place, to the mode, even to places and people, materials, expertise in certain places rather than other places, even for the same period." is right on the money. If one does not have a context and relationship set to place an individual piece into all one can know about a sword is its physical presence and the minimal evidence that is associated with it. If one can have a good sense of similar items in artifact, art and literature would you not have a better understanding of that piece and its place in the whole? This is why Ewart designed the system as he did so one could make associations with similar objects and get a better view of the Medieval Sword as whole not to put the existing examples in small boxes and move on.

Hope this helps and I have not stated things in such a way as to make them difficult to understand. Please let me know if something is not clear.

Best
Craig

PS I am not sure what Lionello Boccia's opinion of the above would be but I do know his great efforts to produce some of the best printed collections of armor and weapons has made it far easier for us all to be where we are in our knowledge of this great subject.
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