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Dashiell Harrison

Location: California
Joined: 14 Jun 2014

Posts: 62

PostPosted: Mon 15 Oct, 2018 5:51 am    Post subject: Context of sword and buckler fighting         Reply with quote

Hi All,

I'm wondering if anyone knows of historical counts of sword and buckler fights taking place in medieval and early modern europe.

One thing about that particular weapon set that I've always been a bit curious about is why it seems to have been so darn popular.

As I understand it, towns and cities frequently legislated against the open carry of sword-and-buckler in their streets, with some places even legislating specifically against bucklers even if the carry of swords was permitted (I can't remember where I heard this though, so I suppose it could be hearsay.)

Out on the roads, sword-and-buckler seems to be been popular, but a staff just strikes me as a much better option. Not only is it more advantageous in combat, it can also serve as a useful walking stick, while the sword-and-buckler is an encumbrance.

In battle, a sword-and-buckler could be a useful sidearm for a solider who needed both hands free to wield a polearm or a missile weapon, but it also seems like one would be at a significant disadvantage against anyone with a polearm or missile weapon.

Later period soldiers such as the Scottish Highlanders opted for larger shields which seem to provide much better defense against polearms and missile weapons, even when their primary weapon was the musket, and the shield was used as an accompaniment to their sidearm. Why did it take so long for the target to replace the buckler? Why was the buckler so popular when it seems so disadvantageous in so many situations and was frequently legislated against in the main context (urban self-defense) where it seems most useful?
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Mikko Kuusirati

Location: Finland
Joined: 16 Nov 2004
Reading list: 13 books

Posts: 1,084

PostPosted: Mon 15 Oct, 2018 8:39 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Same reasons people carry pistols instead of rifles for self defense, essentially. It's just all around convenient.
"And sin, young man, is when you treat people like things. Including yourself. That's what sin is."
Terry Pratchett, Carpe Jugulum
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Andrew Gill

Joined: 19 Feb 2015

Posts: 150

PostPosted: Tue 16 Oct, 2018 12:35 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think Mikko hit the nail on the head, but I'll add a few extra comments/points.

Firstly, a sword and buckler are very versatile. You can't easily use a 7 foot halberd or staff indoors (if an argument in ye olde tavern turns nasty, for instance), and even in narrow alleys (such as are common in the older parts of many European towns) your ability to use a polearm is somewhat restricted. The sword and buckler is much less restricted in use in a confined space. You can also use the sword from horseback if you're out riding (which you can't do with a quarterstaff).

Then there's the psychological effect of having a dinner-plate sized piece of wood and/or steel to put between yourself and your opponent, which is rather comforting (having faced down a half-hearted mugging attempt while carrying a buckler home from fencing practise, I can attest to this personally). And even if it's small, it's still better than a staff-weapon against incoming missiles.

Regarding the laws against bucklers, the only one I'm familiar with attempted to limit the operations of sword-and-buckler schools in London around 1100-1200 (others can correct me if my date is wrong). One can well imagine that a bunch of over-enthusiastic young men coming out of such a school might behave in a rowdy and potentially dangerous fashion and would probably want to "try it at home" (especially after a dram or two of something alcoholic). Also one could see such an establishment as related to all manner of undesirable activities such as illegal dueling (as opposed to formal judicial duels, when those were used), faction-fights and affrays and so on.

regarding s&b as a sidearm for archers, billmen, etc - if the soldier switches to these, it is probably a sign that using the main weapon is no longer an option for some reason, in which case it is a lot better than, say, just a dagger.
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