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Kenjy Miyake




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PostPosted: Mon 14 May, 2012 2:22 pm    Post subject: spears and peasants         Reply with quote

Hello my dear forum dwellers!
For a long time i've shunned the humble spear, thinking it literally sucked... How was i wrong! Well, since my change of mind, another thing came to my mind: how much spread was the spear? i mean, if i was a peasant in let's just say, 1200's europe, i could get a spear? or it was just used by few?
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Mon 14 May, 2012 4:44 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The spear in the form of a long pointy stick is probably along with a picked up rock the oldest human weapon around and I would think the most common weapon one can find at any pre-firearms period. ( But only before the bayonet and certainly before fast loading breach loading firearms made hand weapons mostly obsolete in technologically advanced cultures i.e. mid 19th century in Europe and America ).

Uses a minimum of metal for the head and at it's most elemental one can improvise a spear of sorts by sharpening any long stick and fire hardening the point. Also modified farm tools can be made into improvised spears or polearms if one doesn't have a purpose made war or boar hunting spear around.

In most cultures the spear was the main battle weapon with the sword being mostly a backup.

Without a point a long stick is a quarterstaff or a " BO " and all polearm fighting techniques start with the staff.

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





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PostPosted: Mon 14 May, 2012 6:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't think there was a law against peasants owning spears, although I also doubt they were encouraged to carry them around. it depends on the nation and time period, and the status of the peasant. I think in most cases the weapons peasants used in battle were provided by their lord, who would store them in his armoury (which is really the best way to ensure they are properly maintained). Spears were used for hunting game that was only allowed to the nobility. Also, I have read that serfs, were not required to fight, I am not sure if that is true.
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Matthew Amt




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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 5:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Right, the spear was THE most common weapon since before metals were used. And don't write them off in the 18th century! Bayonets are simply a way to make a gun into a spear, and modern assault rifles still have them. There are regulations from 12th and 13th century England (and other times and places) that make it clear that spears were the standard weapon of the lower class. I doubt many of these were "improvised"--there simply wasn't any reason to do that. Anyone who couldn't make or afford a real spear was too poor to be included in militia duty, OR would be issued his weapons as needed.

In earlier cultures, it was common for any free man to carry his spear in public. In other places, such as early Rome, citizens were required to own weapons, but were typically not supposed to carry them unless on military duty.

Obviously, things varied a lot! But a LOT of ancient people relied on spears for a LONG time. They worked.

Matthew
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 7:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The availability of arms to the peasantry varied widely from place to place and time to time.
However, if a peasant had a weapon, it would most likely be a spear.

Some countries, like England and Scandinavia, used leavied freemen, and required these to buy their own weapons.
In areas where the peasantry where unfree serfs (for instance eastern europe), private ownership of weapons was less likely.

"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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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 7:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I think in most cases the weapons peasants used in battle were provided by their lord, who would store them in his armoury (which is really the best way to ensure they are properly maintained).


That's pretty inaccurate, at least for most rural settings in the Middle Ages.

Look at the various assize of arms - Take the English Assize of 1181 for instance.

"all burgesses and the whole community of freemen shall have [each] a gambeson, an iron cap, and a lance."

This is all freemen. I guess part of this depends upon what you consider a "peasant". But this included all freemen, I would guess meaning all but those who were in serfdom.

I think it has to be thought of not as knights and peasant, but a social structure with various striations.

However, to my recollection serfs were generally not require to fight or serve in the feudal muster, so I doubt these would be going off to war anyway. Service was required of landholders per the assize.
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Ryan S.





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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[quote="Gary Teuscher"]
Quote:

This is all freemen. I guess part of this depends upon what you consider a "peasant". But this included all freemen, I would guess meaning all but those who were in serfdom.


Peasants are the rural non-nobility, which would include freemen. Nobility including the non-titled gentry.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 8:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In the high middle ages, the military paradigm was foucsed on knights and their professional men at arms.
As far as I can see, not having to rely on the leavies for military power is one of the main advantages of this system.
Especially since one of the main tasks was to maintain controll of the realm and it's inhabitants.

Another part of the paradigm was the notion that cavalry and professional troops where grossly superior to leavied infantry. A notion that often held true. Thus feeding and housing a large number of ineffective troops was not a good way to spend your resources when on campaign. (A posible explanation the english brought so many archers to France during the 100 years war: They could contribute to the fight witout being a liability in the battle line.)
But since the subjects paid for their own arms, having leavies back home cost the lords nothing.

"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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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 11:58 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Peasants are the rural non-nobility, which would include freemen.


Well then by this definiton of peasant, they would provide their own arms in most cases. Serfs would likely have no better than makeshift weapons, but they were not really called up for war.

Quote:
Another part of the paradigm was the notion that cavalry and professional troops where grossly superior to leavied infantry. A notion that often held true. Thus feeding and housing a large number of ineffective troops was not a good way to spend your resources when on campaign.



Very accurate point. If you have to march, feed and house an army you want it as efficient as possible. Middle ages commanders were aware of this, though with varying degrees of effectiveness.

There are accounts of musters where "musterers" were turned away due to poor equipment, staves, clubs and the like.

But a "paid professional" army in the middle ages was rare, at least in the size desired, so most often there were levied troops with the household core. They could be levied knights, freemen, etc., but because of the logisitical reasons Ellen states a "serf" type class was not in the levies for the most part, even though nations had it in their laws the ability to levy every able bodied man, the Arriere Ban in France, though these were more hypothetical than enforced.
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Y. Perez





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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 7:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As previously mention it depends on nation/country and time period. In England under the Statute of Winchester (1285) every man between 15 and 60 must have arms of some sort. The spear must have been on the list though most commonly for a "peasant" were the sword and/or knife.
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William P




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PostPosted: Tue 15 May, 2012 8:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

the spear was, as was said before, extremely cheap, it ALSO has alot of combat potential, it works quite well in formations of men with shields.
its also been noted by many reenactment groups tobe a very lethal weapon by even inexperienced men, and that the potental to get someone in the face, say, is very easy.

that said, it depends the time period,
for example, if people with to correct me on this, during the 2nd half of the hundred years war, the common soldeirs primarily carried either bows or the billhook, secondly ive heard from a few places tht longbowmen ad increased luck owning a sword (or falchion) and buckler as a sidearm by, roughly the middle of the 15th century..


of course in other cultures, mainly N african and meditteranean/ arab cultures poor men sometimes occuped the role of being slingers or other types of skirmishers.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 8:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
In England under the Statute of Winchester (1285) every man between 15 and 60 must have arms of some sort.


Here is the specific list:

Quote:
And further it is commanded that every man have in his house harness for to to keep the peace after the ancient assize; that is to say, every man between fifteen years of age and sixty years, shall be assessed and sworn to armor according to the quantity of their lands and goods; that is to wit, for fifteen pounds lands, and goods of forty marks, an hauberke, an helm of iron, a lance, a knife, and a horse; and for ten pounds of lands, and twenty marks goods, an hauberke, an helm of iron, a lance, and a knife; and for five pounds of lands, a doublet, an helme of iron, a lance, and a knife; and from forty shillings of land and more up to one hundred shillings, a lance, a bow and arrows, and a knife; and he that hath less than forty shillings yearly shall be sworn to falces, gisarmes, knives, and other small arms; and he that hath less than twenty marks in goods, shall have swords, knives, and other small arms; and all other that may shall have bows and arrows out of the forest, and in the forest bows and pilets.


My question here - a serf with a few acres - are this considered "their" lands, since they lease them?

Looks like falces and gisarmes are the weapons of the lower class, and bows. I wonder if the falces and gisarmes are more peasant weapons thna the true military versions?

A falx could be nothing more than an agricultural scythe, and a gisarme and it's simplest form is a pruning hook on a shaft. I'd rather have a spear than either of these.

I might also add that even these "assizes" are more the theoretical desires than what actually showed up - I read (forgot where) that England had problems coming up with enough men wearing gambesons, that they considered it fortunate if at a muster, 20-25% of those required by lands to wear gambesons actually had such.
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 12:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3J-10KfRe8&feature=related

Above is a Youtube one on one sparring, spear vs shield. It looks pretty good actually (I wonder if the "Jake" mention is the ARMA enthusiast who wrote riddle of steel?).

From what I have seen, one on one a two handed spear vs a sword and shield are somewhat evenly matched, though overall I'd give the edge to the sword.

Funny though, all one on one sparring that I have seen has the spear used in two hands.

It would make one think perhaps the shield and spear are better in melee but not as effectice one on one.

There are some link on the above however to a bit more of a mass combat, the sword users seem to win handily as it breaks into smaller melees.

I wonder though if some of the pluses of the spear are illustrated by either of these due to a couple of issues-

1) Sparring techniques are more limited than real fighting - is this perhaps to the spear's detriment when comparing sparring results?

2) True formation fighting is not done. Even in the multi person sparring, there are onyl one line of spear users. I would think the spear has more of an advantage in formation fighting if they are a few lines deep. No backing up and dodging, but a line of spears behind you that out reach swords.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 12:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

If head thrusts are not allowed, spear in a formation loses much of its effectiveness...
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Gary Teuscher





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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 12:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
If head thrusts are not allowed, spear in a formation loses much of its effectiveness...


Head thrusts were allowed in the sparring, but my guess is not in the mass combat.

That would indeed make a difference. Although I must say in the one on one sparring, the head shot was used some but was certainly not the most overwhelmingly common tactic.
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Luka Borscak




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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 12:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
If head thrusts are not allowed, spear in a formation loses much of its effectiveness...


Head thrusts were allowed in the sparring, but my guess is not in the mass combat.

That would indeed make a difference. Although I must say in the one on one sparring, the head shot was used some but was certainly not the most overwhelmingly common tactic.


Yes, in a single combat maybe not, but in a shieldwall I think head must be a very common target...
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David Lewis Smith




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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 1:49 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

just for grins

"I think spears are perfect for peasants, you do not have to get close to them when you stick them".

Icepick; "The peasants are revolting"!
"The peasants have always been revolting, now they are rebelling"!

David L Smith
MSG (RET)
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 2:47 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We have experimented with group combat with fencing masks and spears. The morals seems to be that there is very little point in using any other weapon as long as the lines hold.
The video Gary found is pretty representative, with the exception that the spear is to short and the sword to long (If it is a standard hanweii sidesword). An experienced spearman would also be more prone to beat the opponents sword out of the way and make head strikes.


A slightly experienced spearman can make thrusts to the face that are so fast that even experienced shieldmen have trouble blocking them. This he can do a whole number of times, as long as the opponent stays at range. And in the line, friendly spearmen can easily crosstrike to take out anyone that steps out of the line to attack with a swung weapon.
Regular swordsmen usually end up hanging back hoping not to get killed before their spearmen gain an advantage so they can rush without dying. But since these rushes are essentialy alturistic suecide, they would probably be rare in the real world.

Two handed spears are faster, longer and harder hitting. Their weakness is the lack of defence against missile weapons, and rushing foes. An unarmoured man with a two handed spear would quickly be targeted by thrown spears from the enemy.
One hande spears can be held underhand for long range sniping, or overhand, for close action and defence.
A spear held overhand gives a lot better defence, which is the most likely reason this appears as the standard pose for the one handed spears.
One of the main weaknesses in our experiments is that we are all experienced reenactment spearmen, so we know how to attack, but not how to defend our faces. Resulting in very short and brutal matches.

"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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Gregg Sobocinski




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PostPosted: Wed 16 May, 2012 8:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

While watching Gary's video, I have come up with three questions about this combat matchup:
1) Is it typically more advantageous for the spearman to rotate towards the sword side or the shield side? (Or stay in front as I see in the video?) On second thought, perhaps it depends on the planned attack.
2) Many spears and pole weapons had a butt spike. When the swordsman closes quickly and pushes the spear vertical, would it be practical to strike with the butt? Even a simple foot strike would change the results of the bind into the spearman's favor. (A longer spear may help here.)
3) Does uneven ground change the style of combat much? Since the swordsman needs to close for a strike, I'd think that an ungroomed surface would put him at a disadvantage.
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Timo Nieminen




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PostPosted: Thu 17 May, 2012 12:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

1) Against closing sword-and-shield, going either shield-side or sword-side is better than going straight back. Even better can be going shield-side, and when sword-and-shield is following you around, you change direction - go left, and put the point into the face or chest.

I prefer to have the spear on the sword-side. Against a right-handed sword-and-shield, with right hand forward and left hand on the butt. Against left-handed, the other way around.

2) Trip/throw, and then buttspike them while they're on the ground is even better. If you're well armoured, you can try buttspike in the face, but without armour, you'll be hit by the sword and die. With armour, it might be better to grapple and reduce the mobility of the sword.

3) Uneven ground will hinder the spear too; tripping while moving backwards on uneven ground is bad. I think uneven ground disadvantages spear, but not much.

"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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