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Cole B





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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 3:39 pm    Post subject: Disagreement with Professor over weight of armor         Reply with quote

Hey guys. My European history professor was doing his lecture and essentially said that a knight's armor weighed more than he did, and if he fell down he was pretty much useless and required people to help him up.

Of course this set the armor enthusiast in me twitching but I waited til the end of class to let him know that it was a myth, armor was actually very practical, I had seen people run, cartwheel, somersault in armor, as well as tapestries of fully armored men mounting horses on their own, etc.

He immediately disagreed and said that was modern armor I had seen, and old armor pre-alloys was extremely heavy, that he had researched it a lot and read old english accounts where men had to be helped up by multiple people. The next class was coming in so I didn't get much of a chance to present my arguments (armor that heavy is impractical and no one would sacrifice that much mobility, the gradual change from mail to full plate etc.)

Anyway, is there any truth to his claims or is he just very convinced about a myth? All I can think of is that maybe he was thinking of the heavier, purely for tournament jousting armor.
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D. Phillip Caron




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 3:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have observed that people fight to not let go of what they believe. Logic and fact become useless. The trick is to not let your life be changed by someone else's beliefs.
The first casualty of battle is bravado, the second is macho.
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Cole B





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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 3:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

D. Phillip Caron wrote:
I have observed that people fight to not let go of what they believe. Logic and fact become useless. The trick is to not let your life be changed by someone else's beliefs.

Of course. It's just hard to disregard someone with a PHD as easily as your average internet kook. I'm just curious what has him so convinced that he's right.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 4:00 pm    Post subject: Re: Disagreement with Professor over weight of armor         Reply with quote

Cole B wrote:

Anyway, is there any truth to his claims or is he just very convinced about a myth? All I can think of is that maybe he was thinking of the heavier, purely for tournament jousting armor.


" or is he just very convinced about a myth? "

Yup that would be it. Sad

Modern steel doesn't weigh more than period steel if the dimensions are the same.

Maybe your professor should ask more questions from qualified museum curators who specializes in period arms: If he is basing his ideas on obsolete Victorian " notions " in old books or Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court or the 1980s version of King Arthur, his facts are wrong.

Now you might get into trouble if you insist on " being right ", but if you can find some " scholarly " opinion he can't dismiss easily you might be able to prove your point, but if you quote this site he will probably dismiss it as " Internet " unreliable errors.

Maybe someone here with all the requisite diplomas could direct you to the kind of sources that would make it difficult to reject out of hand.

Another way you might get into trouble would be to ask him for the source or sources of his information, but usually it might be considered rude to ask a professor to fact check his assertions. Wink I guess I have the luxury of not having to care about what a mis-informed professor thinks ..... Being old has it's perks .... Razz Laughing Out Loud

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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Tim Lison




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 4:01 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cole B wrote:
D. Phillip Caron wrote:
I have observed that people fight to not let go of what they believe. Logic and fact become useless. The trick is to not let your life be changed by someone else's beliefs.

Of course. It's just hard to disregard someone with a PHD as easily as your average internet kook. I'm just curious what has him so convinced that he's right.


Clearly he has the PHD and NOT you! Sounds like a case of ego. It's pretty well documented that period armor was actually very functional and museums have weights listed on many pieces that are very much lighter than the people who wore them. Sounds like a crock to me.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 4:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Spotlight topic: Medieval armour weights.

This lists weights pulled from published sources by noted authorities and museum catalogues.

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Cole B





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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 4:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

After that class I sent him a link to the very nice MET video debunking the heavy armor myth but haven't heard back Laughing Out Loud

Is ~90lbs about the heaviest joust armor would get (what I'm seeing in above link)?

I am mostly curious what he is on about with pre-alloy armor. Steel was well established by the transition to full plate, yes?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cole B wrote:
After that class I sent him a link to the very nice MET video debunking the heavy armor myth but haven't heard back Laughing Out Loud

Is ~90lbs about the heaviest joust armor would get (what I'm seeing in above link)?

I am mostly curious what he is on about with pre-alloy armor. Steel was well established by the transition to full plate, yes?


Steel or Iron, but those weigh the same for all practical purposes and we are not talking about armour being made out of titanium or aluminium which would be lighter than iron or steel.

Steel armour can be heat treated and be of equal strength but made thinner for some weight saving compared to iron or mild steel.

Later high end plate was at times hardened or surface hardened but earlier on most armour would have been iron or un-heat treated mild steel.

90 lbs would up close to the maximum weight for jousting armour, but still not so ponderous as to immobilize a fit Knight with the weight being well distributed on the body.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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D. Phillip Caron




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 4:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As I recall in 1965 every dinosaur was green to greygreen and slow moving . The holders of PhD told me so.
I have seen a picture in history books of an engraving showing an armored man being winched up to and on his horse.
Much of what was thought is now known to be not so. I simply said that some folk do not what to let go of what they believe.
The answer for a test may be one thing while the reality might be another in these cases.

The first casualty of battle is bravado, the second is macho.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 4:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Cole B wrote:
I am mostly curious what he is on about with pre-alloy armor. Steel was well established by the transition to full plate, yes?


His argument seems to be centered on one of two premises: 1) that iron was much heavier than steel of equivalent dimensions (kind of silly and easily disproved) or 2) that iron, being softer, would need to be thicker than harder steel and therefore heavier. Look at the weights in that thread and see if we see a transition to significantly lighter pieces.

By the mid to late 14th century we certainly have material that appears to be more than iron but less than what would be properly considered good steel today. It's iron with hit and miss attempts at carburisation. Some of this carburisation seems to have been imparted from attempts at heat treating more than initial qualities of the material.

Good, pretty reliable heat treating of armour is something the 16th century Greenwich armourers worked at. There's a theory that their use of anime and smaller plates was due to an inability to heat treat larger pieces. By the armour of George Clifford and others, that had been largely worked out. In fact, I believe there is a theory that the deep blue and purple colours found on some of them are not just decoration but a by product of the heat treat.

I'm operating from memory and may have some details wrong, which someone will noisily correct, I'm sure. Happy

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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 5:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The origin of the myth of armour so heavy people needed help to mount their horse has a core of truth.
By the time armour was abandoned in the 17th century, the armour was not made to withstand melee weapons but bullets. These bulletproof armours where so heavy as to be impractial.
And predictably prompted them to fall from use.

In the middle ages and early renaisance, however, armours where made to withstand melee attacks. Thus it could be made much lighter, and was practical for both foot and mounted combat. Promting its continued use, untill circumstances changed.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Tom King




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 5:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If you feel like trolling your professor, find a local reenactment group and see if you can borrow a kit from a guy of similar dimensions. Then wear it to class one day.
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Josh MacNeil




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 5:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In a recent trip to Higgins Armory Museum, I personally saw several suits of three-quarter and full plate and the heaviest was listed at about 60 pounds, give or take a few. So nothing terribly burdensome; far less than a modern soldier's gear load. As others have said, it's part ego and part reluctance to let go of what one believes to be true. And when I say ego, I'm not putting the guy down. If I worked my butt off for 8+ years on a Ph.d only to have a student come tell me I'm wrong, I might be reluctant to admit it myself. Wink I'm not saying it's right, but there it is. There's nothing wrong with admitting you're wrong, especially if you've simply been misinformed. The question is whether one has the class to admit it or not.
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 6:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If he is a good teacher he will double check his info if it has been called into question or he is unsure. No man, PhD or not, can know everything. The real show of a wise man (person) is to keep developing education whether BA, MA PhD or without professional degree.

The issue is that many people, even if they studied the medieval period may not know that much about armour. This really is a nitchie we are in here. Military historians of the period are much more likely to know over some one who studies something like lit., like poetry. I could not tell you everything about Gower as I did not specialize in that. I know more than the average gent on the street though.

And if he feels the info need come from a PhD on this subject send him my email. I love to discuss this and have a PhD in Medieval Hist. and Arch.

Do keep in mind he still is your teacher. I think you handled it well after class but do not make the issue a big one, just not worth it.

RPM
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J.D. Crawford




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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 6:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't have a PhD in History, but I have been a research professor for 18 years, and have headed some university programs.

What you describe is really unforgiveable; you are likely paying a lot for your education and deserve to be taught by people who know their material. I don't know anything about the fellow and what his area of expertise is, but once he claims to know a lot about armour, then he should know what he is talking about.

Its not always obvious to undergrad students, but there is a huge variation between people who call themselves professors. What are his qualifications? Does he indeed have a PhD? What has he done since then? Does he publish regularly in good journals? Collaborate with top people? Does he supervise graduate students, hold grants, prestigeous awards, etc? Not all Profs are equal.

Quite often, unfortunately, universities don't have enough research professors to teach all their courses and end up hiring contract faculty who may sometimes be excellent, but other times may be poorly qualified and/or simply do not know the course area very well at all. Another situation I have observed is some people who have been around a long time - many are outstanding, but a minority lost the fire long ago, and arejust going through the motions until retirement comes.

Unfortunately there is a power imbalance between a student and any professor. You can try showing him some facts, even offer to write your course essay on the topic, but if he does not respond well you don't want to piss him off. Better to wait until you do the course evaluation and then provide honest feedback.

Bottom line is that you can't take anything anyone tells you at face value. Do your own research and think for yourself. That's the only really important thing you will get out of a university education.
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 7:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We're getting off-topic in debating the expertise and qualifications of someone not known to this forum who may have no chance to defend himself. It's not wise to do so. Let's get back to the more important subject: educating people who hold fast to incorrect ideas.
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Jojo Zerach





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PostPosted: Tue 01 May, 2012 8:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Cole B wrote:
I am mostly curious what he is on about with pre-alloy armor. Steel was well established by the transition to full plate, yes?


His argument seems to be centered on one of two premises: 1) that iron was much heavier than steel of equivalent dimensions (kind of silly and easily disproved) or 2) that iron, being softer, would need to be thicker than harder steel and therefore heavier. Look at the weights in that thread and see if we see a transition to significantly lighter pieces.

By the mid to late 14th century we certainly have material that appears to be more than iron but less than what would be properly considered good steel today. It's iron with hit and miss attempts at carburisation. Some of this carburisation seems to have been imparted from attempts at heat treating more than initial qualities of the material.

Good, pretty reliable heat treating of armour is something the 16th century Greenwich armourers worked at. There's a theory that their use of anime and smaller plates was due to an inability to heat treat larger pieces. By the armour of George Clifford and others, that had been largely worked out. In fact, I believe there is a theory that the deep blue and purple colours found on some of them are not just decoration but a by product of the heat treat.

I'm operating from memory and may have some details wrong, which someone will noisily correct, I'm sure. Happy


Steel in armour is much older than mid to late 14th century.
The 13th century Dargen helm tested as medium carbon steel, and most of the other helms I saw in the same list were at least low carbon steel.
A similar range of iron, low and medium carbon steel is also encountered in Roman armour.
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Jan J. Gahy




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PostPosted: Wed 02 May, 2012 1:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I remembered one story with my art teacher when we were on excursion in gothic churches in Slovakia. There was huge painting with knights. I said thats not really a painting from gothic era and she asked me how did i know that. I told her about those knights wearing outdated and post-gothic armours and weapons. She was surprised, because that was really a neogothical painting from romantism era and she thought i realized the art style Big Grin Cool Big Grin

You should ask your teacher about weight of two-handed swords too. I recall i heard in one local museum from attendant, that two-handed swords weights from 10 - 15 Kilograms and normal swords around 5 kg... Evil
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Johan Gemvik




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PostPosted: Wed 02 May, 2012 3:03 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Late medieval full plate field armour - Not excessively heavy! You could jump on and off horses, climb ladders even do cartwheels. Pretty amazing really but still all true.

Modern made plate armour is usually heavier, not lighter because most armourers don't have the skillset or for those few who do, the luxury of getting paid enough to put the effort in to move the metal around during forging to make weak spots thicker and excessively strong points thinner to save weight.

Yes, Iron is softer than steel and will give a somewhat lower protection to weight ratio. That doesn't change the fact that a man can only wear so much weight and be practical in battle.

"The Dwarf sees farther than the Giant when he has the giant's shoulder to mount on" -Coleridge
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Wed 02 May, 2012 4:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jojo Zerach wrote:
Steel in armour is much older than mid to late 14th century.
The 13th century Dargen helm tested as medium carbon steel, and most of the other helms I saw in the same list were at least low carbon steel.
A similar range of iron, low and medium carbon steel is also encountered in Roman armour.


I don't doubt you; I used the date range I did because I know that for certain based on articles I've read. I haven't seen much published on earlier things. Do you have a citation for that info?

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