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M. Eversberg II




Location: California, Maryland, USA
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PostPosted: Wed 08 Feb, 2012 11:53 am    Post subject: Where does a fighting man get his equipment?         Reply with quote

So, like many others the thing that got me into the study of medieval arms, armor and society was roleplay games. One of the defining tropes is the weapon/armor shop - where one goes and buys armor off the peg, retail.

Coincidentally that was one of the first things I learned were not a model for reality.

So where DO fighting men get their goods? I know for a fact there's industries for the items of violence, and that, at least in Post-Conquest England laws required men of X property value to posess Y arms. Say I am one of those men, at some level or another, or some kind of knight. Naturally I'll want to obey the law (fines probably play into it if I don't) so in the absense of modern style retail outlets (Ye Olde Sword Shoppe Razz ) where am I getting these goods? I know the ledger of Sir John Howard mentions having paid cash for items, so clearly someone's selling.

Best I could figure was approaching the "final step" manufacturies - cutlers, scabbarders, maille-fitters (?), etc. and ask/pay them for what I need.

Any clues?

M.

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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
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PostPosted: Fri 10 Feb, 2012 1:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

You're probably already expecting this answer, but, well . . . it varies. In fact, I'd expect the average common soldier to have equipped himself from a variety of sources: parts from his ordinary civilian attire, parts as hand-me-downs from friends and relatives who had served before, parts made at home, and the rest bought from retailers. Soldiers or militiamen in the service of richer towns or magnates might also expect some limited issue of equipment from their employers' armouries. The one thing you can be (almost) certain of is that no two people were likely to have come up with all of their equipment in exactly the same way!
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
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PostPosted: Fri 10 Feb, 2012 10:35 am    Post subject: Re: Where does a fighting man get his equipment?         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Best I could figure was approaching the "final step" manufacturies - cutlers, scabbarders, maille-fitters (?), etc. and ask/pay them for what I need.


This, I think, is probably closest to the mark. Medieval wares that involved multiple parts were often made up as they went; to use swords as an example, a cutler would make the blade, then someone else would hilt it up and possibly sharpen it, a scabbard-maker would put together the scabbard and belt, and possibly a jeweler would fancy it up further... I'm sure you're aware of that, though. The question is, who kept track of it from start to finish? The smith? The customer?

I believe the answer is that almost every expensive item back then was made to order. No off-the-rack for anybody; if you were buying something more expensive than, say, a cooking pot, or wooden utensils, or a knife, shoes, things like that, you were going into a shop and having your measurements taken. This was to conserve money and resources-- you don't have to make clothes overlarge to be 'one size fits all', for example.

So, the customer would place an order at a specific establishment, and the proprietor of that establishment sets the process going to complete the customer's order, supervising the process as it goes and finally notifying the customer that it's all ready. Not all that different from what a custom sword-maker today might do-- they might make the sword and not the scabbard, but they'll take care of getting it scabbarded if you want them to, and present you with the final product when it's all done.

For the Joe Tankard of the time, though, it's a little less complicated. Professional soldiers could either loot their own armour from the battlefield, or if part of the retinue of a lord, they would be equipped from the lord's armoury. Conscripts would get equipped from the armoury, or just get the short end of the stick.

That's my understanding of the matter anyway... please correct me if I get anything wrong...
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Peter O Zwart




Location: Ontario Canada
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PostPosted: Fri 10 Feb, 2012 10:41 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think that most towns and villages of any size would have blacksmiths in them, while not necessarily practiced at making complex weapons, I am sure that most of them made edge tools on a regular basis and could be "commissioned" to make weapons for those who could pay. I also expect that it varied by the time period, I would guess, (pleas correct me if I am wrong) that as time went on and communication and transport got easier that there were blacksmiths that would make only armor.
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Jeffrey Faulk




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PostPosted: Fri 10 Feb, 2012 10:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Peter, there were definitely blacksmiths in small communities making weapons, and also specialized armour-smiths. In larger communities, the guild system used to regulate trade would have restricted common blacksmiths from making weapons, although they would have been capable of doing so if the town was put upon a war footing.

Say a young man named Jorg in a little town in Germany is notified that all single men above 16 years of age are to report for duty in his local duke's army. He probably already has utility and eating knives; he might go to a tailor and have a gambeson or jack made for him, and perhaps go to the cobbler and buy a new set of tougher shoes for marching. He can probably count on getting a helmet and simple pole-arm at least from the duke's armoury; if he gets lucky, he might get a mail jacket or a breastplate, although armour would have been assigned in an order of priority based upon which units were going to be at the front of the battle line and upon rank. He might also purchase a larger knife or dagger for fighting with.

He fights a few battles and gets some decent pay saved up; with this, he might decide to go to a cutler and order a proper sword, or a messer if he wants to save a little money. Alternatively, he could spend the money on getting more or better armour, although it might not be necessary if he's moved up in the ranks.

Something like that was the general way of things, I think...
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Matthew Amt




Location: Laurel, MD, USA
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PostPosted: Fri 10 Feb, 2012 12:37 pm    Post subject: Re: Where does a fighting man get his equipment?         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
So, like many others the thing that got me into the study of medieval arms, armor and society was roleplay games. One of the defining tropes is the weapon/armor shop - where one goes and buys armor off the peg, retail.

Coincidentally that was one of the first things I learned were not a model for reality.


Out of curiosity, how did you learn this? Because it seems to me that some sort of retailer is exactly the place Joe Grunt would get his gear! Using post-Conquest England just as an example: every year, every young man who turned 16 would have to get equipped for militia duty, depending on his level of wealth. I seriously doubt every one of these kids had to hunt around to find someone to custom-make a gambeson for him, plus another to custom-make a spear, plus another to custom-make a helmet. Dad's still using his stuff, of course, and do you really want the gambeson that Grandpa has been sweating in for 30 years? Sure, the local smith could probably handle spears and kettle hats, but (like most armorers who want to survive today), he would crank out a batch of each and have them in stock. And one of his apprentices would have a table full of stuff at the town market every week! Pots and pans, skewers, nails, hoes, hatchets, hooky-doos, cart parts, kitchen knives (though maybe not if only cutlers were permitted to make those!), and some helmets. Or, minding my own parenthetical, maybe Joe Grunt would have to hit that table for the helmet, the cutlery booth for spearhead and knife or sword, and the tailor for a gambeson (also in stock!). I had thought it was pretty well-established that the average peasant militiaman did NOT make his own gambeson, nor did his wife or other family members?

Certainly by the late middle ages, there was a booming industry in munition arms and armor. And we know that even in the Viking era there were blades and other things being imported and exported around Europe. Heck, even the Romans were exporting weaponry to Germany, Denmark, and other places. These were not custom orders or one-off items. Obviously we need to check on guild rules and such, but it's hard to believe that no one saw a niche like ready-to-use weaponry and didn't fill it, simply by buying up parts from various craftsmen and putting them together. Or maybe the swordmaker got a batch of scabbards from the scabbard-maker so he could sell completed sets?

If lords and kings were able to issue gear, they had to be buying it in bulk. A craftsman making 200 helmets could relatively easily make a few extra and sell them off himself, or to a retailer. But I have to say that relying on battlefield loot is a certain recipe for defeat! Sure, there was some, but in some eras (especially earlier) that all went to the guy in charge--grunts only got it doled out as special gifts. And I think the whole idea of Young Joe going out to seek his fortune as a soldier, with only a stick and a knife for starters, and working his way "up through the levels" by looting bodies or getting pay raises, is probably a little over-blown. In any case, there's no way the average militiaman was simply told to fight with a stick or a pitchfork if he was too poor to afford the minimum gear, or didn't have time to wait for commission work! Militia laws and requirements evolved over centuries of experience in a harsh environment, and would not have existed if they were unrealistic.

So, I guess I'm not saying there was a one-stop shopping place for the whole kit, but there *had* to be sufficient off-the-shelf arms and armor for militia and mercenaries to equip themselves readily. But I haven't done the deep research on this! Surely SOME helpful person around here has, please?

Matthew
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Robert Rytel




Location: Pittsburgh
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PostPosted: Fri 10 Feb, 2012 2:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

By the 15th century, didn't cites like Nurnberg have entire streets of armorers and weaponsmiths where pretty much anyone who wasn't Jewish or a peasant could buy whatever armaments they needed as long as they had the cash?
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sat 11 Feb, 2012 7:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In London they had an entire guild selling plate armour and other selling textile armours so it was an industry much like any other.

In the London Letter Books and Plea and Memoranda there are a plethora of accounts dealing with the sale of domestic and foreign armours in England.

If you had the money commoner or noble you could get armour there. You could find guys selling helms or breastplates and aketons and shields and all sorts of stuff as well as gents making harnesses. It seems import armour was sold all over Europe so you can imagine this was big as well. Plates for armour were also sold. Not sure they are blanks but in London there are accounts calling plates sold as for breastplates, helmets etc.

You also have iron and steel sold to England.

So we likely had domestic production from local iron and makers. Foreign ore or plates used by English armourers. foreign armour finished and sold in England. I am not sure how this worked as far as sizing. I strongly figure knights getting armour from outside the country either had to have it done with measurements and fit upon arrival. Since many of the white harnesses coming in at Southampton do not seem to be conveyed by the armourer I assume a local man did this but I cannot be sure. For commoners I assume it was what they could get to work. I do not believe we have evidence that armour was always or usually fit for commoners in particular.

RPM
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Sat 11 Feb, 2012 8:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Aha! Thanks, gentlemen, that's exactly what I was looking for. Militias and mercenaries date back to very ancient times, so I doubt the idea of an arms and armor merchant was a new thing in the 15th century. But that helps!

Matthew
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Feb, 2012 1:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Domenic Mancini who lived in England in the 1480s I think wrote a very detailed account with what trades owned which streets and quarters but I could find nothing in my notes and do not own a copy of his work.

He, being an Italian in England made some very interesting claims about English trades and it is very detailed. He notes unlike other countries the ENglish merchants did not sell their wares in the street but had them inside large warehouses inside.

RPM
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William P




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PostPosted: Sun 12 Feb, 2012 9:50 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

and as for the 'one size things' while yeah, everyone's different, i the average Joe blog wont be THAT different to the guys in the house next to him of the same age.
due to the fact that bio-mechanically, humans are very similar. about 80% of people will find that sword, or knife, or shield, or helmet satisfactory.
i think it makes more sense for a blacksmith to make a whole heap of helmets, and if someone finds it doesnt fit too well, HE goes and gets it modified.
it would save a craftsman time to just make a standard design over and over.

for maile in particular, you guys on myArmoury have repeatedly expressed the need for maile, properly fitting to be tailored, but the nature of chainmaile that makes it want, due to being pulled by gravity, causes the trunk of a maile shirt to contract around a persons body.
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