Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > The orgin of the longbow........... Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next 
Author Message
Leo Todeschini
Industry Professional



Location: Oxford, UK
Joined: 12 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,566

PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2012 9:28 am    Post subject: The orgin of the longbow...........         Reply with quote

I have been wondering for a couple of years now about the origins of the longbow and how it came about. What has perplexed me is that the longbow is basically the same as the bows that preceded it and yet something changed massively to move the bow from a hunting weapon and ocassional weapon of war into the incredible weapon that dominated the 100 years war and the Wars of the Roses.

I have always shot longbows in the Victorian style and as a not very frequent shooter I usually shot 65lb. 3 years ago I met a lady (Chrissie) about 5'4" or so who shot 85lb and it occurred to me that medieval longbows had a lot to do with technique and not strength. I went down to the butts that night and Chrissie and Glennan showed me how to shoot her bow. I wouldn't say it was effortless, but I shot the 85lb and thought that after a weekend of that I could move upto 100lb and then onward.

Needless to say I have been too busy to fulfill my plan, but the impression was made that over the course of a weekend I could move from a 65lb bow to 100lb through technique and not strength and that is a world difference as a weapon, although still short of the 130+ we think the war bows were.

This got me thinking and in a nutshell my theory on the origins of the longbow is simply that the bow did not substantially change, though got a little longer, but that the step change to take the bows from hunters to armour piercers was simply a change in the technique of drawing.

Thoughts?

Tod

www.todsworkshop.com
www.todcutler.com
www.instagram.com/todsworkshop
www.facebook.com/TodTodeschini
www.youtube.com/user/todsstuff1
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 424

PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2012 9:46 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It seems like you are assuming that an average Gallic longbow in 50 BCE, or an average English one in 1250 CE, was weaker than an average English one in 1450. I don't think we know that! We have only a handful of examples of European self bows before the Mary Rose, mostly long before the medieval period.

I think that the real change was cultural: the English and some Welsh started having most men bring a bow to war, and letting commoners have an important role in field battles. The last was the important one: a disciplined army that uses several types of troops together effectively will usually beat an undisciplined army that relies on one! Hardy and Strickland discuss the times that France or Scotland tried to create a large force of archers, but failed or changed their minds due to sociological reasons.
View user's profile Send private message
Ben Coomer




Location: Colorado
Joined: 06 Sep 2011

Posts: 184

PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2012 10:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

From personal experience and instruction, the draw weight often has more to do with how the bow is shaped than anything else. Assuming of course that the wood itself can take the weight. Interestingly, it's really fairly easy to shape a 30-45 lb bow from most woods, and as this will allow to to take most game pretty easily, I'd imagine that a lot of bows fell into this range by virtue of simplicity and usefulness. That being said, get useful "warbows" takes more engineering and better wood, but the basics of shaping and tillering would serve a bowyer in making heavier bows in any era.

I think a lot of the lack of archers was that there wasn't really a great many archers among the commons. The heavy day labor discouraged practice for most. Most of the hunting was done by nobility and their lackeys as well, so a bow wouldn't have been common for serfs, even discouraged. And that warfare was thought of a way to capture valuable targets and something that killed a rich knight for ransom wouldn't have been particularly well thought of. However the Welsh and their guerilla warfare tactics brought the idea of the usefulness of the bow and eventually we got massed archery.
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,203

PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2012 3:23 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The only thing that changed was the way it was deployed in battle and changes in society that made it easier to raise archers who could wield the heavier bows. The weapon itself hasn't changed since the Neolithic period.
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2012 6:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Why hunt with a 130lb bow? It isn't needed - use a bow that's easier to use. Draw with less effort, aim better, just as effective when you hit, for practical purposes.

But if you don't hunt with one, use one regularly, how will you learn and maintain the technique to use a high draw weight bow?

So, to have sufficient trained archers, solve the social problem. Ban football, force people to train; Chinese style was to reward training (e.g., higher marks on exams for candidates who drew/shot heavy bows). Not much difference in the bow itself, but you need a different training system.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Kurt Scholz





Joined: 09 Dec 2008

Posts: 390

PostPosted: Sun 03 Jun, 2012 11:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The only thing that changed was the way it was deployed in battle and changes in society that made it easier to raise archers who could wield the heavier bows. The weapon itself hasn't changed since the Neolithic period.


There were some changes to the arrow tips and the aforementioned tactics. The bow is most useful against suitable targets. Unlike cavalry, infantry with large shields could withstand the hail of arrows. There were several ways to get around these shields and the adaption of equipment for other requirements that opened a niche for bows against much reduced shields.
View user's profile Send private message
Robert Rootslane




Location: Estonia
Joined: 06 Aug 2007

Posts: 72

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 3:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, in my experience, it is relatively simple to achieve power to draw even the heaviest bows.

I used to shoot with a ~~25kg (55lb?) bow, a draw weight that IMHO every average person can pull, at least with some effort.

Anyway, the talks about super heavy draw weight longbows got me into making one. I ofcourse didn make it from yew, since a) im a real noob in bowmaking business and b) i really just wanted a quick and easy solution to try if i manage to draw some of those bows.

Instead i just taped together 9 sticks fiberglass sticks, that some farmers here use in electric fenses. Many people here make cheap bows that way, although usually fom 2-3 sticks. Im not sure if the shooting capabilities of that bow are the same as the ones of a real longbow, since i have never tried a real heavy longbow.

However, the draw weight was about 55kg (121lb?) I didnt manage to draf full lenght on my first attempts. I think it took about a week or two of triing. However we should keep in mind that intense training was not involved in that week. I just tried to pull the bow a bit further every time. About 5-10 times a day, so nothing fancy.

Anyway, i havent shot with the heavy one for a while, but im pretty sure, i would be able to.

My point is, that one can achieve the power, to draw the heavy bow in a short time. Probably 1-2 days if intense training is involved. However, shooting as fast and accurate as real archers could, is completely another thing. At least for me.

Just my 5 cents about getting used with harder bows.
View user's profile Send private message
Gary Teuscher





Joined: 19 Nov 2008

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 704

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Why hunt with a 130lb bow? It isn't needed - use a bow that's easier to use. Draw with less effort, aim better, just as effective when you hit, for practical purposes.


I think one mistake people make is to look at the pound draw recommended for hunting different sizes of game and to take that and correspond it with draw weights of bows from antiquity. The issue here though is that modern bows (meaning arrows, strings, etc.) are far more efficient. A modern 90 pound bow may hit like a 140 pound longbow.

Quote:
There were some changes to the arrow tips and the aforementioned tactics.


A rather interesting thing - Viking arrowheads from the 9th-11th centuries look much like the later bodkins.

From what I have seen regarding draw weights of bows - the Mary Rose bows are on the high end. Unfortunately, we have very little (nothing I think) of Western European bows from the 12th or 13th, possibly even 14th centuries.

The few bows that have been found - the viking age bows found are in the 100+ draw estimated range, though again, not the 150 pound range of the Mary Rose bows. But there have been a handful of other renaissance bows found, and these while of lonbow length are of substantialy lesser draw than the Mary Rose Bows. were these Hunting Weapons? One according to it's "history" was used at Flodden.

Problem is we have so few finds to assume anything regarding what was the normal draw weight, length, etc. What we do know is the 15th century longbowmen of the English flagship used bows that seemed to average around a 150 pound draw, and that the few Viking bows found were 100+ (this is as specific of information as I know on these bows, I'm assuming maybe 120 pounds or so?), and these viking bows were of about 6' in length.
View user's profile Send private message
Ryan S.





Joined: 04 May 2012

Posts: 132

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 1:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Longbows just have two parts, stave and string. Yew seems to have been the preferred wood and size probably varied with the strength of the user, although they probably became standardized at one point? what about the string?

I have seen some primitive bows from contemporary primitive cultures, and while they look like regular bows, they wear out and less effective.
View user's profile Send private message
Gary Teuscher





Joined: 19 Nov 2008

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 704

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 1:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I have seen some primitive bows from contemporary primitive cultures, and while they look like regular bows, they wear out and less effective.


The main thing IMO that differentiates between these types of bows - the "longbow" part of the tree of bow evolution has a "D" shaped stave - it's either a D shaped stqave, or a flatbow. And in Europe, even in pre-history, the "D" shaped bow was apparently more common with the archaeological finds we have to work with.
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,203

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 3:12 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gary Teuscher wrote:
Quote:
There were some changes to the arrow tips and the aforementioned tactics.


A rather interesting thing - Viking arrowheads from the 9th-11th centuries look much like the later bodkins..

There are bronze age examples too. With a few exceptions like the "compact broadhead" the same arrowhead typologies have been used for millenia in various times and regions.
View user's profile Send private message
Leo Todeschini
Industry Professional



Location: Oxford, UK
Joined: 12 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,566

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 4:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks for the input. I suppose my point was that the rise of the bow as a massively important weapon seemed quite sudden and I was wondering at the step change that happened. There is also the way in which they were deployed, but this could be a 'chicken and egg' situation.

Did deployment changes bring on bow development or did bow (technique) development bring on deployment changes?

It was the sudden rise that got me thinking as to how and why it happened.

Tod

www.todsworkshop.com
www.todcutler.com
www.instagram.com/todsworkshop
www.facebook.com/TodTodeschini
www.youtube.com/user/todsstuff1
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,203

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The weapon didn't change. English commanders saw a new way of deploying it. That's all. In the scheme of things it wasn't all that successful. The weapon only saw use in a small region of the world for a relatively short period of time. And even then it was really only effective when you had time to prepare the ground and managed to convince the enemy to charge your position - preferably on unarmoured horses. On top of that you had to impose restrictions on society to produce enough men to use this weapon on the battlefield. It is a little like the Spartan system where the whole community had to be strictly controlled to gain a small advantage in battle. It can't be sustained long term.
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 7:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

East Asian societies (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) managed to produce plenty of archers long-term, by making the bow a "knightly" weapon, and making skill with the weapon a path to social climbing (in Korea and China, via the military exam alternative to the regular Confucian exam).

Reward, and they will come. How to do that while keeping it a lower-class weapon?

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 424

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 8:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Timo Nieminen wrote:
East Asian societies (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) managed to produce plenty of archers long-term, by making the bow a "knightly" weapon, and making skill with the weapon a path to social climbing (in Korea and China, via the military exam alternative to the regular Confucian exam).

Reward, and they will come. How to do that while keeping it a lower-class weapon?

Early modern Chinese, Japanese, and Korean bows are very different from European longbows. Dan was talking about the later, not bows in general (which are about as diverse as "rifles in general" or "knvies in general").
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,203

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 9:03 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Every culture has accounts of men who could shoot powerful bows, but has anyone other than the English ever managed to put together enough of these individuals to deploy the weapon en masse and developed specific tactics for it?
View user's profile Send private message
Timo Nieminen




Location: Brisbane, Australia
Joined: 08 May 2009
Likes: 1 page
Reading list: 1 book

Posts: 1,494

PostPosted: Mon 04 Jun, 2012 10:34 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As already said, East Asian states could. Compared to English armies, Japanese armies could field similar number of archers; perhaps more; Chinese armies could field many, many more. Deployed en masse, and with specific tactics.

Yes, the Asian warbow was different in detail, but the problem of training soldiers to use a high draw weight bow remained the same.

Chinese armies had the advantage of drawing on a much larger (and diverse) population. Korean and Japanese cases, I don't know the demographics for. They were also removed from the steppe "everybody can use a bow" peoples. Perhaps some interesting comparisons to be found.

"In addition to being efficient, all pole arms were quite nice to look at." - Cherney Berg, A hideous history of weapons, Collier 1963.
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,203

PostPosted: Tue 05 Jun, 2012 1:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Is there a study that concludes that a typical bow in these armies was 120+ lbs?
View user's profile Send private message
Matt Easton




Location: Guildford, Surrey, UK.
Joined: 30 Jun 2004

Posts: 238

PostPosted: Tue 05 Jun, 2012 2:36 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I agree with Dan, more or less (though we disagree slightly on the effects of types of arrows against types of armoured targets).

I believe that the obvious effectiveness of English/Welsh archers from c.1330-c.1440 was down to two main factors:
1) Deployment
2) Law

The latter point is incredibly important - in lands under English rule it was law to practice archery for males between the ages of 16 and 60, at least once per week, from Edward 1's reign onwards (it was only repealed under James I, I believe).

If you look at the latter stages of the Hundred Years War, in fact you will see that the French, Burgundians, Bretons and Flemish were using large numbers of their own longbowmen (the Burgunians even copied English deployment with wooden stakes and pits).

The idea that the English had longbowmen and the 'French' had crossbowmen is in part a myth - the English used crossbowmen as well (they are listed on muster rolls) and the 'French' also had archers - in large numbers by the 1450's. The French force that Talbot slaughtered just before Castillon was made up mostly of French archers...

However what is notable is that the 'French' never had as much success with longbowmen as the English did, despite also having them. What was the main difference? Well surely the weapon and arrows were much the same in design, but a critical difference was the law. Englishmen were raised in the bow, with sports like golf, football, skittles and cockfighting being made illegal! This law was repeatedly enforced under Edward II, Edward III, Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V and Henry VI.... This legal enforcement of archery almost certainly resulted in far more effective archers.

I find it ironic that some modern archers seem to see the English warbow as a proletarian item, a symbol of the success of the working classes over the aristocracy... when in fact the success of the English warbow is almost certainly largely a result of English monarchical and government policy and the oppression of national sports (like football). Happy

Matt

Schola Gladiatoria - www.fioredeiliberi.org
YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/scholagladiatoria
Antique Swords: www.antique-swords.co.uk/
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website MSN Messenger
Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
Joined: 07 Jun 2006
Reading list: 5 books

Posts: 2,098

PostPosted: Tue 05 Jun, 2012 5:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Matt,

I would not say never. A great part of their later success against the English was the English Monarchy being disinterested in their French lands but also the moves of Henry VII with the Ordinance Companies and Franc Archers. People seem to miss this because so much ink has been spilt on artillery but Castillon and many of the later battles had thousands of French archers present who played an important job in out doing the English. Anne Curry more than a decade ago made the statement that while the English were floundering in the war the French were on the move, a major part being improved recruitment and organization of archers which they had often lacked earlier. I honestly think the restructuring of the French military was far more important that artillery as by the end of the HYW most of the towns surrender at the approach of the army with no shots being fired. Why hold out when Henry VI has not sent help and is not going to send help, not much of a king.

The English may have used crossbowmen but no where near on the lever of every one else. So of course stating they did not use crossbowmen is as wrong as saying the rest did not use archers but I think this it he likely origin of that concept.

RPM
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > The orgin of the longbow...........
Page 1 of 3 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2018 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum