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Evan Jones




Location: Michigan
Joined: 25 Jul 2009
Reading list: 4 books

Posts: 25

PostPosted: Mon 13 Oct, 2014 10:07 pm    Post subject: Weapons and Class Struggle         Reply with quote

I've been trying to dig up either dirt or proof of a claim I came across in a youtube video. I-don't-know-how-many of you may or may not be familiar with the Iraqveteran8888 firearms channel on youtube. In a video discussing the stratification of firearms along socioeconomic lines, they related a their modern observation to a claim that there used to be laws limiting the strength of bows and types of arrowheads allowed in medieval civilian/day-to-day life. Unfortunately, I graduated from college and no longer have free access to JStor, so google searches on the topic have been relatively fruitless thus far. Does anybody know anything (particularly anything which can be verified with evidence) that can either support or disprove this claim regarding bows in medieval times?

Here's a link to the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m64VkUhEt9A&list=UUWJHDMgKWWvOsdyRF3HPVEw

"Love and serve your friends, hate and harm your enemies..." -Geoffroi de Charny
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William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,436

PostPosted: Tue 14 Oct, 2014 2:49 am    Post subject: Re: Weapons and Class Struggle         Reply with quote

Evan Jones wrote:
I've been trying to dig up either dirt or proof of a claim I came across in a youtube video. I-don't-know-how-many of you may or may not be familiar with the Iraqveteran8888 firearms channel on youtube. In a video discussing the stratification of firearms along socioeconomic lines, they related a their modern observation to a claim that there used to be laws limiting the strength of bows and types of arrowheads allowed in medieval civilian/day-to-day life. Unfortunately, I graduated from college and no longer have free access to JStor, so google searches on the topic have been relatively fruitless thus far. Does anybody know anything (particularly anything which can be verified with evidence) that can either support or disprove this claim regarding bows in medieval times?

Here's a link to the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m64VkUhEt9A&list=UUWJHDMgKWWvOsdyRF3HPVEw


i dont know about bows but for swords, carrying swords in a urban area was restricted to the knightly class.. in itally there were restrictions on weapons of a cetain blade length i believe, but for bows? probably not... in fact in england and germany i do believe it was mandatory for people of certain income brackets to own a minimum of a certain set of weapons... the lowest was a bow and a dagger i think...
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Stephen Curtin




Location: Cork, Ireland
Joined: 17 Nov 2007
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Spotlight topics: 1
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PostPosted: Tue 14 Oct, 2014 4:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Evan. Those two gentlemen may be knowledgeable about modern firearms, but I doubt that they have any more than a superficial knowledge of medieval weaponry. This idea about limiting the draw strength of longbows for certain social classes, sounds like their trying to project their own modern political views onto the past. I say this with no disrespect intended to you, or the guys in the video.
Éirinn go Brách
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Tom King




Location: florida
Joined: 11 Sep 2009
Likes: 2 pages

Posts: 429

PostPosted: Tue 14 Oct, 2014 10:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It sounds like a game of telephone to me frankly.

Throughout history there have been countless instances of restriction on arms ownership by some "ruling class" against other members of a society

Off the top of my head
The banning of carrying swords in london and a few other major english cities in the 15th century. If memory serves, there was also a ban on carrying daggers at night. Of course the lordly class were exempt

Many german cities having blade length restrictions on daggers in the 14th-16th centuries, for two reasons I speculate. One, to limit the effectiveness of daggers and two, to keep the lower classes from carrying messers and hauswers with sword length blades. This would be one of the closest parallels to modern gun control efforts; limiting the blade length of a dagger is akin to limiting the number of rounds in a handgun. Both were the easily carried weapon of the day for personal defense. Similarly the blade length restrictions in cities stopping the carry of messers is a parallel to how every modern "assault weapon ban" always goes after the Mini14 and rifles like it; functionally the same as banned arms, but asthetically different.

After the Norman invasion of England the Fyrd system of peasant levys and an armed populace went right out the window; weapons were essentially banned from ownership/carry for the saxons.

More recently in US history is how totally randomly the district of columbia banned open carry of firearms during the civil rights movement after the Black Panther Party exercised their rights.

Or how the 90's Assault weapon ban just so happened to come down the pipe right after the LA riots.

An easy parallel to make is how the "ruling class" that always comes up with these measures to "end crime/ensure public safety" is always exempt from the laws they suggest. A member of the english nobility walking through london with a sword on his hip is no different than Dianne Fienstein's Concealed Carry Permit.

there are innumerable other examples you could mention from the medieval period, let alone from other cultures and let alone the antics of the 20th century by the Soviets and a certain National socialist workers party. The idea of keeping the lower classes disarmed and dependent on the state for safety (or disarmed and at the mercy of) goes back a long time. History for the most part is cyclical and bad ideas tend to having staying power.
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Chris Friede




Location: Austin
Joined: 15 Mar 2014

Posts: 39

PostPosted: Tue 14 Oct, 2014 10:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Umm..politics aside, I have not encountered any requirement on the strength of bows or types of arrows by social class. Bladed weapons, yes. (Think katanas and samurai class in Japan)
Only thing I am aware of is the English mandate to practice the longbow. IIRC, there was a limit on the draw weight based on age of the shooter. And of course the minimum range to practice on....but these regulations promote use of bows.

(Source: I am a history teacher and soon-to-be grad student in military history.)

Notice I am not claiming those regulations did not exist..absence of proof is not proof of absence, of course. I'm trying to think of anything that might be connected to the claim in the video.

Oh, and there were several efforts to ban the use of crossbows against other Christians....not that anything ever came of it.
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Peter Lyon
Industry Professional



Location: New Zealand
Joined: 20 Nov 2006
Reading list: 39 books

Posts: 229

PostPosted: Tue 14 Oct, 2014 10:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Regarding bows, most of the laws we have are English, mainly because most us are English-speakers; I am sure there were other rules in France and Germany etc that are not so easily available to most of us.

I don't know of any laws limited the strength of the bow, actually the opposite, that archers were expected to draw all the bow they could handle.

There were limits on the types of arrowheads that could be used in certain places, but this was not universal. In the royal parks, commoners were allowed to hunt, but not with broadheads and other arrows that could kill dear, which were only for the gentry to hunt. This is where the famous laws like archers losing a hand (and Robin Hood etc) come in. Hunting was allowed with things like bulb-tipped arrows that would kill small game (rabbits, which made holes that were a danger to horses on the hunt; squirrels, etc) and forked arrows for birding.

If you want to know more, I recommend reading "The Great Warbow" by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy.

Still hammering away
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Jeffrey Faulk




Location: Georgia
Joined: 01 Jan 2011

Posts: 578

PostPosted: Tue 14 Oct, 2014 11:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A number of the laws prohibiting weapons are actually from town sumptary regulations, from what I understand, intended to minimize the possibility for murder or other forms of harm being committed within city limits. Others were merely a matter of convenience-- the often mentioned Elizabethan regulation against rapiers above a certain length was because the very long swords that were in vogue at the time tended to swing about upon people's hips and get in the way, trip up passer-bys, and all that.

And of course while there were quite a few regulations governing the 'commoners', whether they were actually practiced or not is another story... some areas were more lax than others.
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