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Dan K. F.




Location: Calgary, Alberta
Joined: 12 Aug 2013
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Aug, 2013 12:06 pm    Post subject: "Sword control"         Reply with quote

I've been following the gun control debate in the U.S. for a while now and it got me thinking... did European societies in the medieval and Renaissance ages have "sword control"? I believe the Japanese had restrictions on who could own a sword but this seems to have been based more on class distinction than public safety and order.

Societies back then probably would not have been as obsessed with public safety and protecting people from themselves as we are but nonetheless I think it would have been a good idea for the local authorities to have an idea of how many weapons were floating around, if for no other purpose than to figure out how many armed men they could muster if needed.
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Colt Reeves





Joined: 09 Mar 2009

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PostPosted: Sat 17 Aug, 2013 1:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Off the top of my head yes. The messer is alleged to be the result of peasants getting around laws stating only nobles could carry swords. "This ain't a sword! It's me eatin' knife!" (For those who are not aware: Messer is German for knife and in this instance is referring to large sword-like knives: http://pics.myArmoury.com/view.html?messer_kit01.jpg )

As an aside, gun control came about pretty much the same time as guns. There were laws debated and enacted over wheellocks. (Of course, since only the rich could afford such things, this was obviously directed against the nobles.)

"Tears are for the craven, prayers are for the clown.
Halters for the silly neck that cannot keep a crown.
As my loss is grievous, so my hope is small.
For Iron, Cold Iron, must be master of men all..."
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Tom King




Location: florida
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Aug, 2013 3:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Short answer is yes; there are records from many areas (and townships-they were good at keeping records) detailing weapon carrying and the size of knives and swords, some being sumptuary laws, some being meant to quell street violence, and most to keep the underclass downtrodden (in specific periods like early norman england, english scotland, etc.)
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Theo Squires





Joined: 23 Jul 2012

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PostPosted: Sat 17 Aug, 2013 4:31 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, yes there were. The English were particularly fond of disarming the Irish and banning them from doing pretty much everything, including owning swords, even horse-ownership was restricted etc. I can't find a source for that at the moment, unfortunately.

I'm not sure about other areas of Europe, though I have heard the same about messers as previously mentioned.
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Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Sat 17 Aug, 2013 7:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many towns did indeed do this but it is unlikely shires and county level had them. Being armed on the road was often a part of life.

In Southampton there is not a single case of them charging a person for simply carrying arms except tied to a violent crime, fighting being the most common. I cannot recall any from London or York either.

So even if the law is on the book the chance of them bringing you to trial or punishment for it is little unless you cause a problem.

In Southampton they do like to disarm foreigners though. The law states they must leave the weapons they have with the person or place they are staying.

My feeling is these laws have little to do with keeping the lower class low as much as trying to avoid the issues that come when fights start and someone pulls a sword.

IN Soton one mayor has a sword pulled on him during a heated exchange and the guy goes to court, very small punishment considering what would happen if that happened now.

One of my fav's is during voting in London a gent shows up in nearly full armour with a pole ax to ensure his voice is heard....

RPM
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Joel N





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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug, 2013 2:51 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One of the other parallels to the gun control debate that they had regarding swords was whether "open carry" was permissible. Some weapons are socially acceptable to carry around, some are not. Kind of like today.
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Daniel Wallace




Location: Pennsylvania USA
Joined: 07 Aug 2011

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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug, 2013 9:44 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

sword control was probably a lot like what we have the in states now. different laws for different regions. Pa's policies differ from West Virgina, you can break it down further as NYC has a much stricter policy.

history doesn't repeat when it comes to people and their attitudes, i believe that much like today in the states, with the rise in violent crime (at least in my area of the state) people feel much less safe than they did just 5 years ago, as a result, many people have got their permit to carry. they feel that they can't rely on the local law enforcement to handle an immediate threat to their life. same is probably true during the middle ages, people felt the need to protect themselves rather than to rely than their local law.

I'd like to hear more evidence about what was 'restricted' during medieval and Renaissance ages.
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Dan K. F.




Location: Calgary, Alberta
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug, 2013 10:10 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I found this interesting site: http://www.hurstwic.org/history/articles/manu...erview.htm. It had an article talking about the role of weapons in Viking culture and how every Viking kept a weapon within arms reach at all times due to honour duels and retaliatory attacks being legal.

Quote:
One of the other parallels to the gun control debate that they had regarding swords was whether "open carry" was permissible. Some weapons are socially acceptable to carry around, some are not. Kind of like today.


It'd be interesting to see how it was decided which weapons were socially acceptable for civilian carry and which were not. I know rapiers and side swords were considered acceptable for daily wear at one time and even required for attendance at the king's court in Spain.

I wonder if weapons would just have been classified based on aesthetics rather than lethality. Guns can vary in their action (automatic/semiautomatic/bolt action, etc.) and ammunition capacity but it seems the only constraint on a melee weapon's lethality would be the skill of the user, or lack thereof.

This is not to say skill makes no difference with firearms but I would think it'd be much easier for a novice with a gun to cause a lot of damage compared to a novice with a blade.
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Henrik Granlid




Location: Sweden
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug, 2013 1:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A Halberd, or a zweihander sword would both be incredibly lethal weapons outside the range of practicality for merely self-defence. These weapons can cause huge ammounts of damage either from a long distance or to a larger group of people, where a weapon such as a katzbalger or a large dagger, although vicious, cannot take out trained lawkeepers with longer weapons (such as halberds) with the same efficiency as larger, non-duel weapons.

Essentialy, if the sword is not a duel weapon (longsword or smaller), or a weapon carried for self dence (daggers, shorter swords etc), it is most likely a battlefield weapon, and thusly on a higher end of the destructive scale. Same as with modern guns. 12 shots in a 9mm semi automatic gun is VERY different from 36 shots in a high-powered combat rifle able to punch through engine blocks of cars.
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug, 2013 2:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, Caravaggio was arrested for carrying an unlicensed sword and dagger. The article even features the original police report!
The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Randall Moffett




Location: Northern Utah
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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug, 2013 6:00 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mikko,

I am sure time period plays a role. In Italy and other places where duels had gone up in frequency towns tried to curb violence however they could. I tend to think this trend made urban life far more violent than it had been before but that is just a guess after looking over court records.

That said the fact is they still carried them and dueled and killed each other so we know such laws may have helped but did not work entirely.

RPM
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Michael Parker




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PostPosted: Sun 18 Aug, 2013 8:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What was weapon control like in the urban centers of Italy, like Florence and Milan during the 14th century? I read that in the mid 13th century one of the popular governments of Florence instituted a reorganization of the army and created a militia to police the city and to curb the violence of the noble families. This kind of implied to me that there were both a lot of weapons floating around and a lot of need to control them. Of course it was all very political, besides the fact that crime is always a political topic. Whether its the popular government in power trying to restrain the old families from killing citizens in the streets or trying to bring back the old government, or something different, I wonder if the weapon and sword laws must have changed every time a new regime took over the government.
"This is a sharp medicine, but it is a physician for all diseases and miseries."
-Sir Walter Raleigh, upon being allowed to see the ax that would behead him, 29 October 1618
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Christopher Treichel




Location: Metro D.C.
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 6:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many towns had knives on a chain by the gate showing how large a knife you could openly carry. Not having any luck trying to find an example right now.
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Mikko Kuusirati




Location: Finland
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 7:02 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall Moffett wrote:
Mikko,

I am sure time period plays a role. In Italy and other places where duels had gone up in frequency towns tried to curb violence however they could. I tend to think this trend made urban life far more violent than it had been before but that is just a guess after looking over court records.

That said the fact is they still carried them and dueled and killed each other so we know such laws may have helped but did not work entirely.

RPM

Oh, absolutely, it depends entirely on specific place and time - e.g. a 13th Century Swedish rural town would be worlds apart from 17th Century Rome. There were times and places where free men were actually obligated to own and bear arms, others where it was outright forbidden, and pretty much everything imaginable in between.

The subtle tongue, the sophist guile, they fail when the broadswords sing;
Rush in and die, dogs -- I was a man before I was a king.
-- R. E. Howard, The Road of Kings
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Dan K. F.




Location: Calgary, Alberta
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 7:54 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think I read once that open carriage of arms was prohibited in many cities in classical Greece and Rome up to the fall of the Western Roman Empire. In the case of Rome, even the Praetorian guard weren't allowed to bear arms or wear armour within city limits. I can't remember the source though. Does anyone know if this is true?
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Glen A Cleeton




Location: Nipmuc USA
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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 8:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Randall probably knows access to the statutes and I will go looking in a minute but here is a topical folio from the London pages


Publication

Calendar of letter-books of the city of London: B: 1275-1312

~~~~~~~~~~~~
CALENDAR OF LETTER-BOOKS OF THE CITY OF LONDON.
LETTER-BOOK B.
Folio 1 (cxxx b). (fn. 1)
Saturday before the Feast of Nativity B. M. [8 Sept], 9 Edward I. [A.D. 1281], in the presence of G[regory] de Rokesle, Mayor, W[illiam] de Farendone, N[icholas] de Wynchester, Sheriffs, Henry Waleys, William de Durham, John Horn, Philip the Tailor, John Addr[ian], John de Northampton, Robert de Meldeburn, Wlmar de Essex, and Simon de Haddestoke, Aldermen.

Inquisicio de nocte vagantibus.

Henry de Wynchester, Michael de "Womburne," Oliver the Goldsmith (le Orfevere), Walter de Molesham, Richard Bonaventure, Robert Pynnote, William de Clay, Nigel Lupus, (fn. 2) John Fuatard, "barbur," Thomasin le Barber, Alan de Schoresdich, John Aufre, Edward de Canterbury, goldsmith, Thomas le Fykes, Alan de Suffolk, taverner, Reginald, son of Emma le Barbere, Roger the Cook, "pasteler," (fn. 3) Reginald le Taverner, James le Reve, "pessoner," (fn. 4) Walter de Resslepe, John Squiret, Peter le Tableter, (fn. 5) John, son of Roger le Barber, William Stonhard, Ranulph le Taverner de Wolcherchawe, Laurence "Ballok," John le Fevere, Adam de Wynchester, John le Treiere, John Burnel, and Alan de Ewelle—arrested for divers trespasses, homicides, robberies, and assaults, and for being nightwalkers after curfew in the City with swords and bucklers, and for setting up games near the City, contrary to the King's peace and the ordinance and statutes of the City of London— say that they are guilty of none of these things, and as to this, each puts himself upon the verdict of four jurors of each Ward of the City aforesaid. Accordingly let there be an inquest thereon.

The jurors say upon oath that John Fuatard, barber, Alan de Suffolk, taverner, Reginald, son of Emma le Barber, Reginald le Taverner who stands (stat) with John de Hakeburne, Walter de Risslepe, Peter le Tableter, John, son of Roger le Barber, William Stonhard, and Ranulph le Taverner are not guilty of the trespasses aforesaid. They are therefore quit.

They also say that John le Treiere and James le Reve are quarrelsome (luctatores), but are not otherwise guilty. They are therefore released on bail.

They also say that Henry de Wynchester, Michael de "Womburne," Oliver the Goldsmith (Aurifaber), Walter de Molesham, Richard Bonaventure, William de Clay, Nigel Lupus, Alan de Schoresdich, John Aufre, Edward de Canterbury, goldsmith, Thomas [le] Fykers, Roger the Cook, "pasteler," [and] John le Fevere are night-walkers with swords and bucklers, contrary to the peace, &c., and statutes, &c. Let them therefore be kept in safe custody until, &c.

They also say that Laurence "Bullok," John Burnel, Alan de Ewelle, John Squyret, and Thomasin le Barber play dice in divers taverns after curfew, contrary to the statutes of the City. Let them therefore be kept in safe custody until, &c.

They also say that Adam de Wynchester, taverner, and Robert Pynnote are bullies (bellatores) by day and night, and are in the habit of taking reward from men for making assaults contrary to the King's peace. Let them therefore be kept in safe custody.

Afterwards, by assent of the said Mayor, Sheriffs, and Aldermen, it was granted and ordained that each of the aforesaid men, with the exception of Robert de [sic] Pynnote and Adam de Wynchester, should be released each by twelve mainpernors worth individually at least 100s., so that they have their mainpernors ready to mainprise them when required, on penalty of each mainpernor losing 100s.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I would be remiss not to mention the source site and it is a wonderful portal for British history. I have wandreed away from it lately but note 27 search results on my bookshelf there I should be looking at from time to time.
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/Default.aspx

Cheers

GC


Last edited by Glen A Cleeton on Mon 19 Aug, 2013 8:59 am; edited 1 time in total
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 8:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another paragraph from a simple search.

Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London: 1188-1274



At this season, and indeed before, all aliens, both knights and serjeants, were dismissed from the City; who were afterwards placed by Sir Edward in garrison at Wyndleshore. And at this time also the citizens kept watch and ward, riding by night throughout the City with horse and arms; though among them a countless multitude of persons on foot obtruded themselves; some evil-minded among whom, under pretext of searching for aliens, broke open many houses belonging to other persons, and carried off such goods as were there to be found. To restrain the evil designs of these persons, the watches on horseback were therefore put an end to, and watch was kept by the respective Wards, each person keeping himself well armed within his own Ward.

http://www.british-history.ac.uk/source.aspx?pubid=560

I am sure similar resources exist in other countries and digging will often yield more than one might think.

Cheers

GC
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 9:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Another a bit later during a specific time in England

'The French Chronicle of London: Edward II', Chronicles of the Mayors and Sheriffs of London: 1188-1274 (1863), pp. 248-267
~~~~~~~~~

13 Edward II. [A.D. 1319, 20]. (fn. 40) Hamo de Chikewell, Mayor. (fn. 41) John de Prestone and (fn. 42) Symon de Abingdone, Sheriffs.

In this year the King passed over into France to do his homage, and the Queen with him. In this year (fn. 43) swords were forbidden, so that no one was to wear them; by reason of which, many swords were taken and hung up beneath Ludgate, within and without. At this time many of the people of the trades of London were arrayed in livery, and a good time was about to begin.
http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?...ery=swords

Endless reading and understanding

GC
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Randall Moffett




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 1:56 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think we need to read more into this passage though. 1319 Edward II is on the verge of civil war. Within the next year he'd have half England arrayed to deal with rebels. This was not simply tied to local violence but the government trying to curb the possible rebellion, which would indeed come by limiting their weapons. One also has to wonder if this worked or how it was enforced as in this period men were still required by law to own such weapons.

To me this looks like the government trying to stop the rebellion, which would rise up within the next year and some...

RPM
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Glen A Cleeton




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PostPosted: Mon 19 Aug, 2013 4:27 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well of course it is important to look at the entire context, I was simply showing a few examples of London edicts. There is another for EIII in 1328 mentioned and added to the rolls in 1327. Other sections will require a subscription, such as the Richard II rolls at the other end of the 14th century.

And so on, etc.

Cheers

GC
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