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Dashiell Harrison




Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 20

PostPosted: Mon 14 Dec, 2015 11:44 am    Post subject: The fyrd, the leidang, and the assize of arms         Reply with quote

Hi all,

I'm in the process of writing an undergraduate thesis on the evolution of the Anglo-Saxon fyrd, and I'm thinking of looking at the Norwegian leidang as a possible point of contrast.

a) How do people think they rate as roughly comparable systems?
b) Can anyone recommend any English-language sources that discuss the leidang?

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people talk about Viking armies as if they were composed entirely of professional soldiers, and use that to argue that English armies must have also been professionals else they would have been unable to defend themselves. My sense is that Vikings raids were not generally carried out by professionals, but rather by farmers who raided in the off season. That's at least my sense from the mentions of warriors doing farm labor in Grettir's Saga, Gisli's Saga, and Egil's Saga. What do you guys think?

I'm also considering looking at the 1181 Assize of Arms that Henry II passed in England, which Wikipedia refers to as as return to the traditional English militia system. Does anyone know of better sources than Wikipedia that talk about this document?

Thanks!
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Niels Just Rasmussen




Location: NykÝbing Falster, Denmark
Joined: 03 Sep 2014

Spotlight topics: 15
Posts: 796

PostPosted: Tue 15 Dec, 2015 11:38 am    Post subject: Re: The fyrd, the leidang, and the assize of arms         Reply with quote

Dashiell Harrison wrote:
Hi all,

I'm in the process of writing an undergraduate thesis on the evolution of the Anglo-Saxon fyrd, and I'm thinking of looking at the Norwegian leidang as a possible point of contrast.

a) How do people think they rate as roughly comparable systems?
b) Can anyone recommend any English-language sources that discuss the leidang?

One thing I've noticed is that a lot of people talk about Viking armies as if they were composed entirely of professional soldiers, and use that to argue that English armies must have also been professionals else they would have been unable to defend themselves. My sense is that Vikings raids were not generally carried out by professionals, but rather by farmers who raided in the off season. That's at least my sense from the mentions of warriors doing farm labor in Grettir's Saga, Gisli's Saga, and Egil's Saga. What do you guys think?

I'm also considering looking at the 1181 Assize of Arms that Henry II passed in England, which Wikipedia refers to as as return to the traditional English militia system. Does anyone know of better sources than Wikipedia that talk about this document?

Thanks!


A starting point for source-information is this thread:
http://myArmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=32114&highlight=
We discussed both Danish, Norwegian and Swedish "leding" (expeditio) in the middle ages and the possible development of "minimal" arms requirements.

Also beware to be clear whether you talk about "viking" armies or Scandinavian King and Jarls fighting for perceived inheritance rights (Throne of England in 1066), honour or overlordship.

A) Going viking could be seen as "pirate" raids done by Jarls, pretenders or ex-kings removed from their power-base back home. They try to boost funds by raiding, so to attract more followers by giving precious gifts and then eventually to go back home hopefully winning the power-struggle.
B) It could also be merchants traveling from "vik to vik" (as in Quentovic, Hamwic where the suffix means a "trading emporium") with their hired men trying to achieve the best trade there is (why pay if you can take it for free!).
Trading and raiding was probably the same in their optic. It all depended on the strength of buyers and sellers.
Neither of these groups could call for a "leding" as they didn't held any land (yet).
Some powerful merchants became "Sea Kings" as they conquered key trading-towns and controlled them.

C) Kings/Jarls at their Scandinavian power-bases called for a "leding" from some or all of their country to attack or defend against an enemy. This is actually "warfare" and not "viking"-action (in the meaning of piracy) and armies could be very strong. Danish army at full "leding" could probably be around 30.000 men.
Some warfare-attacks could look like a raid, but the point was to either awe/threat the opponent into surrendering and paying tribute or by actual force achieve it (+ acknowledging who were overlord).

These leding-army was gathered by the King to fight, whereas viking raiders would avoid combat unless they were very sure of success or surrounded - they often used guerrilla like tactics.
In the "leding" the Kings and Jarls had their own ships and "retinue of professionals" (Hird), while the bulk of the "leding" was comprised of free farmers + the ship each area was responsible for building, manning and provide supplies for the duration of the leding.
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