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Ian Nathaniel Cohen

Location: Washington DC
Joined: 08 Feb 2010

Posts: 4

PostPosted: Mon 08 Feb, 2010 9:08 pm    Post subject: Historical fencing questions         Reply with quote

Hey all,

I'm doing research for a book I'm working on, the opening scene of which takes place in a fencing academy in England in 1721 (possibly in Bristol, although other locations would work). I'd like to make sure that my terminology and choice of equipment is accurate for this specific time period, particularly

* The naming conventions of what an academy would be called,
* The name of the room where fencing classes were conducted,
* What specific equipment would be used (foils, epees, sabres, blunted rapiers, protective gear)
* What styles would be taught

If this helps any, the main character is an assistant fencing instructor on his last day on the job before he leaves Great Britain for Kingston.

Do you guys have any answers to questions like these, or know of a good resource I could look into? I want to make sure I don't have any anachronisms or inaccuracies in this scene.

Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


"Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."

Dream, Neil Gaiman's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
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David Teague

Location: Anchorage, Alaska
Joined: 25 Jan 2004

Posts: 409

PostPosted: Mon 08 Feb, 2010 10:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

May I suggest cross-posting this over at Sword Forum International.

Lots of WMA instructors hang out over there including a lot of Brits who might have a more accurate viewpoint of their history.

With that said:

Depends a bit on the social class, small swords for the gentleman with a well rounded fencer also studying the Backsword, shearing sword aka spadroon, and the quarterstaff. Other weapons were around in the early 18th century in the UK like the Broadsword, hanger, cutlass, and the secondary arms such as the dagger, dirk, bucker, target and targe. Polearms were still in use like the locharber axe & lance. The Scottish Swordmaster Donald McBain even has a section on the Spanish Rapier in his manual.

A proper English Fencing school would use the French fencing terms made popular with the advent of the French small sword. They were know to call the fencing room a "gymnasium" but the French term Salle d'armes would be appropriate.

The time period you have chosen has a number of period manuals available for research on the small sword, backsword, broadsword, saber, quarterstaff, et al. A very rich period indeed.

If you would PM me your e-mail addy I can send you my old Highland Broadsword (the only 18th century weapon style I've taught) class notes which include my list of French fencing terms.



This you shall know, that all things have length and measure.

Free Scholar/ Instructor Selohaar Fechtschule
The Historic Recrudescence Guild

"Yea though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou's sword art is with me; Thy poleaxe and Thy quarterstaff they comfort me."
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