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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Context of Late 16/Early 17c English Longs/Two-Handed Sword? Reply to topic
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M. Eversberg II

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PostPosted: Thu 27 Jul, 2017 12:37 pm    Post subject: Context of Late 16/Early 17c English Longs/Two-Handed Sword?         Reply with quote

I have lately returned to George Silver's work (which among many things covers the bastard / two-handed sword), and recently watched a video by Paul Wagner about the tactical and technical principals of two-handed swords in the English school of thought. Silver's first work is 1599, and his Brief Instructions was a few years later (though unpublished at the time).

This has me thinking: What exactly where the English using two handed swords for in and about 1600?

The rapier was the fashionable sword of choice, though of course the English were using others, such as "hangers" and various forms of "basket" hilts, and even some blades that don't look all that far removed from the classic "arming" sword. But, these are all one-handed, with the rapier seemingly dominating civilian and some degree of "military" swordsmanship (in the general sense, mostly with the officers), and backswords, broadswords, basket hilts, and hangers being the common military sidearm (where pike and shot are the main arms, with a bit of billmanship holding in there).

England doesn't seem to be famous for longsword duels the way the Germanic folks were, though I don't know what the dueling culture was like. I do know the "Masters of Defense" had you learning five weapons, which included the longsword. And these "longswords" were - according to Silver, anyways - shorter in the blade than I'd expect, at around 36" in length.

Cutting to the point, where are these two-handed / hand-and-a-half swords finding use around the year 1600 (let's say plus or minus a decade or so)? Do they show up in a military context somewhere? Are there still old-school style duels? Is it just Silver being his usual quasi-medievalist self when talking about this weapon, which only really persisted in the "Masters of Defense" as a hold-over?

When do we see these sorts of swords just kind of fade away?



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Lafayette C Curtis

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PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2017 3:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not so sure about England, but Roger Norling has collected many images of longswords and two-handed swords in later contexts in HROARR. And up north in Scotland, the Scots were arguably just starting to pick up two-handed swords in earnest.
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Mark Moore

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PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2017 4:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

FWIW... I believe that the two-handed Claymore was used as late as the '45 Rebellion in Scotland. If that's just a myth, someone correct me, please. Worried ..... Wink .....McM
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Craig Peters

PostPosted: Wed 06 Sep, 2017 9:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although it's not directly relevant to England, Grzegorz Zabinski discusses the contexts and uses of true two-handed swords on the continent in his book The Longsword Teachings of Master Liechtenauer: The Early Sixteenth Century Swordsmanship Comments in the "Goliath" Manuscript. I recall he indicated that as of circa 1550 AD, battle field usage of these swords had become uncommon, and the swords played an increasing ceremonial role. Assuming that England wad not behind the continent in military trends, I suspect that Silver's work is in part serving to preserve teachings on a sword form that was in danger of being lost. As you probably know, one finds similar sentiments behind Mair's obsessive cataloguing of weapons and techniques, and similarly in the writings of Chinese masters writing in the late Ming/early Qing Dynasty, who had to recover some of the Chinese armed martial art forms from Korea in order to preserve them.
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