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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Sun 12 Dec, 2010 6:45 am    Post subject: Info on the historical role of armourers needed         Reply with quote

Hello, doing some research for my roleplaying campaign again.

I'm trying to find information on how an armourer in a feudal pre-industrial society would have operated. My players seem to think you could just walk into a shop and buy a cuirass off the shelf, which is common in video games and so on. Somehow that strikes me as a bit.... well, too convenient and modern. I imagine good armors were expensive, custom made thing you had to order well in advance.

Even so, how were armourers organized? Did they work independantly? Under the employ of particular lords? Part of a guild, perhaps? Did they actually have shops/workshops that people could go visit? And who made the more mass-produced armors for military forces, guards and so on? Were they the same people who made the armors for the knights and nobles? This is the kind of information I could really need right now.

Also, since I've base my campaign on a fairly Asian style setting, the most common armor type is lamellar, with mail and plate being pretty rare. Would this fact affect the way the armourer works?

Any and all information about this subject would be very appreciated.

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Quinn W.




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Dec, 2010 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well in response to mass-produced armor for military forces and guards, that sort of thing didn't really happen until the beginning of standing armies, which in Europe did not begin to occur until the very late 1400s. Before that, in general people were made responsible for purchasing their own armor. During this phase, some kingdoms organized a system for funding armor, measured by the amount of land held. Hold so much land (I can give you dates, regions and figures if needed, but I don't have them on me right now) and you buy yourself weapons and armor and head to battle. If you only have half that much land, find someone else with the same amount of land, pool your resources to buy armor and weapons, and decide which of you gets to wear it and do the actual fighting, while the other stays home and works to support the other. Note that this pooling of resources among equals was only for free peasants. Nobles were always responsible for their own gear paid for via taxing of his peasants (pooling of resources by social inferiors in this case), while unfree peasants were general discouraged from taking up arms (those weapons could just as easily be turned against their lord in rebellion.)
This is a gross generalization lacking in any specifics, but should at least give you an idea of how that sort of thing worked. Basically, there was no real precedent until the Renaissance where some lord or king bought large quantities of armor and then distributed said "government-issue" armor among its soldiers before battle, like with modern armed forces. How finances were divided was dependent on class, but all levels were generally responsible for their gear in one form or another.

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Robert Hinds




Location: Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
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PostPosted: Sun 12 Dec, 2010 5:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Info on the historical role of armourers needed         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
Also, since I've base my campaign on a fairly Asian style setting, the most common armor type is lamellar, with mail and plate being pretty rare. Would this fact affect the way the armourer works?



Now i'm not as knowledgable about armour as a lot of people on here, but asian armour tends to be leather or laquered leather strips held together with leather or silk lacing. Especially before the introduction of fire arms, then its sometimes short metal strips. So yes, that would affect how they would work since it takes different skills to harden, laquer then lace together short leather strips, than it does to raise a sallet.

Even if you're putting together scale-maile, with small metal plates, the way they work changes. Not as much as in the example above, but it does change.

Ps. Thank you for trying to educate the gaming community, too many gamers have the wrong ideas about the middle ages/weapons and armour. Especially when it comes to the complete domination of katana's...

"Young knight, learn to love God and revere women; thus your honor will grow. Practice knighthood and learn the Art that dignifies you, and brings you honor in wars." -Johannes Liechtenauer

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James Head





Joined: 09 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Sun 12 Dec, 2010 6:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Juliet Barker wrote a great book about the battle of Agincourt. There is one section where she goes into great detail about the English Army's various weapon and armor preparations before the campaign. I've found the page HERE on Google books. The whole thing is great, but pay particular attention to the Earl Marshal's armor preparation in the second paragraph.
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Dec, 2010 12:32 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quinn W. wrote:
Well in response to mass-produced armor for military forces and guards, that sort of thing didn't really happen until the beginning of standing armies, which in Europe did not begin to occur until the very late 1400s. Before that, in general people were made responsible for purchasing their own armor. During this phase, some kingdoms organized a system for funding armor, measured by the amount of land held. Hold so much land (I can give you dates, regions and figures if needed, but I don't have them on me right now) and you buy yourself weapons and armor and head to battle. If you only have half that much land, find someone else with the same amount of land, pool your resources to buy armor and weapons, and decide which of you gets to wear it and do the actual fighting, while the other stays home and works to support the other. Note that this pooling of resources among equals was only for free peasants. Nobles were always responsible for their own gear paid for via taxing of his peasants (pooling of resources by social inferiors in this case), while unfree peasants were general discouraged from taking up arms (those weapons could just as easily be turned against their lord in rebellion.)
This is a gross generalization lacking in any specifics, but should at least give you an idea of how that sort of thing worked. Basically, there was no real precedent until the Renaissance where some lord or king bought large quantities of armor and then distributed said "government-issue" armor among its soldiers before battle, like with modern armed forces. How finances were divided was dependent on class, but all levels were generally responsible for their gear in one form or another.


That's interesting in itself, though I'm specifically interested in the people who made and sold the armors, not the people who wore them.

Robert Hinds wrote:
Now i'm not as knowledgable about armour as a lot of people on here, but asian armour tends to be leather or laquered leather strips held together with leather or silk lacing. Especially before the introduction of fire arms, then its sometimes short metal strips. So yes, that would affect how they would work since it takes different skills to harden, laquer then lace together short leather strips, than it does to raise a sallet.

Even if you're putting together scale-maile, with small metal plates, the way they work changes. Not as much as in the example above, but it does change.


Pretty much, lamellar is the big thing, and you might find some scale as well. I actually learned a lot about the armors themselves that I didn't know before doing this research, but I found almost no information on the armorers. Hency this thread.

Quote:
Ps. Thank you for trying to educate the gaming community, too many gamers have the wrong ideas about the middle ages/weapons and armour. Especially when it comes to the complete domination of katana's...


Ha, I'd be lying if I claimed I cared much about historical accuracy, especially since I'm running a fantasy game, but I want to keep things as realistic as I find it makes the world I'm describing feel more real.

James Head wrote:
Juliet Barker wrote a great book about the battle of Agincourt. There is one section where she goes into great detail about the English Army's various weapon and armor preparations before the campaign. I've found the page HERE on Google books. The whole thing is great, but pay particular attention to the Earl Marshal's armor preparation in the second paragraph.


Well, I might try to find it if I'm at the library any time soon, but I don't think I'm that serious about my research. Usually if the mighty internet brain trust (read: you guys) can't help me, I'll just make something up that seems sensible instead.

The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

"This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
-Homer Simpson.
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N Cioran




Location: Toronto
Joined: 21 Nov 2010

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Dec, 2010 12:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'd have to dig up the sources, but there are numerous references to great fairs where people could buy armour in bulk or individual pieces off the rack. Numerous wealthy merchants also rented out armour with a suitable deposit.

The problem with off the rack armours is that they just don't fit as well as custom-made armour, and not really cost any different.

One method you as a GM could model this is by imposing a penalty for wearing off the rack in terms of the players initiative, offfensive, and defensive capability.

Have fun!
Cole
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James Head





Joined: 09 Mar 2008

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PostPosted: Mon 13 Dec, 2010 1:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:


James Head wrote:
Juliet Barker wrote a great book about the battle of Agincourt. There is one section where she goes into great detail about the English Army's various weapon and armor preparations before the campaign. I've found the page HERE on Google books. The whole thing is great, but pay particular attention to the Earl Marshal's armor preparation in the second paragraph.


Well, I might try to find it if I'm at the library any time soon, but I don't think I'm that serious about my research. Usually if the mighty internet brain trust (read: you guys) can't help me, I'll just make something up that seems sensible instead.


I gave you the google books link in my post. Just click it and check it out.
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A. Elema





Joined: 09 Nov 2010

Posts: 38

PostPosted: Mon 13 Dec, 2010 3:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The classic place to start is Charles Ffoulkes' book The Medieval Armourer and his Craft, particularly the later chapters about the founding of the Armourers' Company of the City of London and the biographies of several armour makers.

You can read the whole thing online here: http://www.archive.org/stream/armourerhiscraf...1/mode/2up.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Tue 14 Dec, 2010 3:36 am    Post subject: Re: Info on the historical role of armourers needed         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:
Also, since I've base my campaign on a fairly Asian style setting, the most common armor type is lamellar, with mail and plate being pretty rare. Would this fact affect the way the armourer works?


It depends on which part of Asia you're basing it on. Asia is HUGE (trust me, I've been living there since I was born, so I know). If you came from India, the arms and armour of China would have been as alien to you as those of Europe. It's worth noting, too, that mail was historically quite popular in several important parts of Asia. The most important example, of course, would be the south-western end of Asia, where Arab, Iranian, and Kurdish principalities made extensive use of mail in their armies. Mail was also fairly common among upper-class warriors in India. Tibetans also wore mail reputed to be very hard to pierce (maybe because they wore multiple layers), although in this case I'm a bit less sure about whether the word "mail" really signified an armour of interlocked rings or just a (mis)translation for armour in general.

The specific social position and relationships experienced by armourers would also have varied over such a great geographical span even before we start accounting for the similarly great temporal span of Asian history. Generally, though, just as in Europe, there were armourers who did "bespoke" work for high-class customers, and there were others who turned out somewhat less refined munitions-grade pieces for the lower orders, and sometimes both services were available from the same shop. In some places with strong economies and viable large-scale production of armour materials (say, steel, but rawhide was also used a lot in East Asian armour), you probably could walk into a shop and buy a piece of munitions-grade armour right away--though if the shopkeeper had any decency he would have told you to try it on first and maybe even offer minor alteration services to get a (slightly) better fit at an affordable cost.

But really, just read Fffoulkes, at least if your connection can handle the size of the download. I know how much it'd suck if you only had dial-up; in that case, I guess you're stuck with the text-only version, which is available (along with several other versions, including PDFs) here: http://www.archive.org/details/cu31924030681278
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Tue 14 Dec, 2010 5:10 am    Post subject: Re: Info on the historical role of armourers needed         Reply with quote

Anders Backlund wrote:

Also, since I've base my campaign on a fairly Asian style setting, the most common armor type is lamellar, with mail and plate being pretty rare. Would this fact affect the way the armourer works?


As already mentioned, Asia is a big place. But if you're talking lamellar-armour continental Asia (certainly Central Asia, and maybe China, mainly), there were some major iron/steel making centres, e.g., Merv, Ferghana, China, and consequently lots of armourers.

Some points that might be of interest come to mind:


  • Armourers were valuable, and were often captured as war booty.
  • Armourers were sometimes (often? mostly?) concentrated in specialised districts. In some cities, the "armourers' quarter" could be a very large industry. Following on from the previous point, some of them were not there voluntarily, but had been settled there by the state after capture.
  • Some states had very larges stores of arms in their armouries. Some fires in China were recorded as destroying very large quantities of arms, iirc, enough to equip over a million soldiers. Even allowing for some exaggeration, it would still have been an extensive armoury. So states bought arms, or employed armourers. From the previous 2 points, some of the armourers' districts probably worked directly for the state.
  • There was extensive trade in arms. Arms were made for export. So arms were available for purchase by merchants etc., in large quantities (at least at some times and some places). Imported arms were also available.


State-run armourers and armouries don't seem to have monopolised production and ownership. Maybe they did in some places, but generally it looks like individuals could buy arms. Sometimes they were expected to, for military service, either because the state didn't provide anything or everything generally, or because officers were expected to own their own.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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Anders Backlund




Location: Sweden
Joined: 24 Oct 2007

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PostPosted: Tue 21 Dec, 2010 12:13 pm    Post subject: Re: Info on the historical role of armourers needed         Reply with quote

James Head wrote:

I gave you the google books link in my post. Just click it and check it out.


I can't find the part you are talking about on the page you linked to. It seems to be just a summary of the book and a few reviews. It's possible it's simply not accesible in my country.

A. Elema wrote:
The classic place to start is Charles Ffoulkes' book The Medieval Armourer and his Craft, particularly the later chapters about the founding of the Armourers' Company of the City of London and the biographies of several armour makers.

You can read the whole thing online here: http://www.archive.org/stream/armourerhiscraf...1/mode/2up.


Thanks, will check that out.

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

It depends on which part of Asia you're basing it on. Asia is HUGE (trust me, I've been living there since I was born, so I know).


Stylistically, we're looking at a lot of Japanese and Chinese influences. The actual culture is entirely made up, though, and the enviroment is more like continental Europe.

Quote:
The specific social position and relationships experienced by armourers would also have varied over such a great geographical span even before we start accounting for the similarly great temporal span of Asian history. Generally, though, just as in Europe, there were armourers who did "bespoke" work for high-class customers, and there were others who turned out somewhat less refined munitions-grade pieces for the lower orders, and sometimes both services were available from the same shop. In some places with strong economies and viable large-scale production of armour materials (say, steel, but rawhide was also used a lot in East Asian armour), you probably could walk into a shop and buy a piece of munitions-grade armour right away--though if the shopkeeper had any decency he would have told you to try it on first and maybe even offer minor alteration services to get a (slightly) better fit at an affordable cost.


Interesting.

Timo Nieminen wrote:
As already mentioned, Asia is a big place. But if you're talking lamellar-armour continental Asia (certainly Central Asia, and maybe China, mainly), there were some major iron/steel making centres, e.g., Merv, Ferghana, China, and consequently lots of armourers.

Some points that might be of interest come to mind:


  • Armourers were valuable, and were often captured as war booty.
  • Armourers were sometimes (often? mostly?) concentrated in specialised districts. In some cities, the "armourers' quarter" could be a very large industry. Following on from the previous point, some of them were not there voluntarily, but had been settled there by the state after capture.


That's an interesting tidbit. Probably won't be able to use it, though, since the local religion has enforced a ban on slavery.

Quote:
  • Some states had very larges stores of arms in their armouries. Some fires in China were recorded as destroying very large quantities of arms, iirc, enough to equip over a million soldiers. Even allowing for some exaggeration, it would still have been an extensive armoury. So states bought arms, or employed armourers. From the previous 2 points, some of the armourers' districts probably worked directly for the state.
  • There was extensive trade in arms. Arms were made for export. So arms were available for purchase by merchants etc., in large quantities (at least at some times and some places). Imported arms were also available.


    State-run armourers and armouries don't seem to have monopolised production and ownership. Maybe they did in some places, but generally it looks like individuals could buy arms. Sometimes they were expected to, for military service, either because the state didn't provide anything or everything generally, or because officers were expected to own their own.


  • This is all a great help, thanks a lot. Happy

    The sword is an ode to the strife of mankind.

    "This doesn't look easy... but I bet it is!"
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    Lafayette C Curtis




    Location: Indonesia
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    PostPosted: Wed 22 Dec, 2010 7:45 am    Post subject: Re: Info on the historical role of armourers needed         Reply with quote

    Anders Backlund wrote:
    Timo Nieminen wrote:
    Armourers were sometimes (often? mostly?) concentrated in specialised districts. In some cities, the "armourers' quarter" could be a very large industry. Following on from the previous point, some of them were not there voluntarily, but had been settled there by the state after capture.


    That's an interesting tidbit. Probably won't be able to use it, though, since the local religion has enforced a ban on slavery.


    Oh, dear. You're seriously underestimating the capability of ancient and medieval peoples to find loopholes in legal and religious laws! You don't have to enslave armourers to force them to settle in a particular district or region. All you'd have to do is let them know that you'd be very, very displeased if they don't do what you want them to do, and be sure that the punishments against any defiance to your will are made promptly, violently, and publicly. That way you'd get to enslave them except in name.


    Quote:
    State-run armourers and armouries don't seem to have monopolised production and ownership. Maybe they did in some places, but generally it looks like individuals could buy arms. Sometimes they were expected to, for military service, either because the state didn't provide anything or everything generally, or because officers were expected to own their own.


    One thing that I think I need to mention about this is that the concept of "state-owned" or "state-run" is pretty broad and can include an enormous variety of arrangements. For example, in Qing China, it seems that the preferred model was for the state to sponsor or licence a number of private workshops, which did a considerable amount of munitions-grade work for state armouries but also took private commissions from military officers, government officials, and others rich enough to feel a bit uncomfortable about the prospect of being caught dead in mass-produced armour. Regulations were fairly tight in the cities so that armourers would have had to deliberately conceal any work they were doing for clients that the government might not approve of (mostly Han supremacist rebels trying to kick the Manchu royalty out), but in rural areas far from centres of urban population and Imperial power there seems to have been very little government supervision in the activities of weaponsmiths and armourers (although the skill of such rural workers were also probably not as finely-honed in the more closely-regulated urban industries).
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    Timo Nieminen




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    PostPosted: Wed 22 Dec, 2010 12:36 pm    Post subject: Re: Info on the historical role of armourers needed         Reply with quote

    Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
    Anders Backlund wrote:
    Timo Nieminen wrote:
    Armourers were sometimes (often? mostly?) concentrated in specialised districts. In some cities, the "armourers' quarter" could be a very large industry. Following on from the previous point, some of them were not there voluntarily, but had been settled there by the state after capture.


    That's an interesting tidbit. Probably won't be able to use it, though, since the local religion has enforced a ban on slavery.


    Oh, dear. You're seriously underestimating the capability of ancient and medieval peoples to find loopholes in legal and religious laws! You don't have to enslave armourers to force them to settle in a particular district or region. All you'd have to do is let them know that you'd be very, very displeased if they don't do what you want them to do, and be sure that the punishments against any defiance to your will are made promptly, violently, and publicly. That way you'd get to enslave them except in name.


    Indeed. AFAIK, slavery was banned in Japan late in the pre-Edo period, but state control over the arms industry was rigid during the Edo period. (There were also various forms of unfree labour that circumvented the anti-slavery laws.)

    The Mongols were perhaps the largest-scale involuntary movers of craftsmen, sometimes over long distances (such as from Mesopotamia or Syria to Persian Central Asia (e.g., former Kwarezm, now mostly in Uzbekistan) and China, China to Persia, and so on. Whether or not Mongol practice amounted to slavery, I don't know. The movements were generally in the aftermath of wars, and sometimes involved the destruction of the city of origin.

    Also worth noting that slavery was very diverse. Slaves could often own property, including other slaves, slaves could often buy their own freedom (so skilled craftsmen wouldn't stay (private) slaves for long). You can also think about whether or not state-owned "slaves" count as slaves under your stated religious laws (do those laws affect obligations to the state such as consciption, corvee labour, etc?).

    "In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
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