Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > longbows in Scotland Reply to topic
This is a standard topic  
Author Message
Brandon Cotter




Location: Alachua Florida
Joined: 23 Oct 2013

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sat 31 Aug, 2019 10:46 am    Post subject: longbows in Scotland         Reply with quote

Hello,

Recently Iíve found myself increasingly interested in medieval Scottish warfare and I have been wondering about the use of the longbow in Scotland, specifically in the highlands in the medieval and early renaissance periods.

I know that Scots used the longbow, but to what extent was it used? Was it comparable to England, or on a smaller scale? Were there any meaningful differences between English and Scottish bows of the period? Would it have seen more use as a lowland or a highland weapon? And how would it have been employed in battle?

Thanks.


Are there any good sources you can recommend on warfare in the Highlands, or in Scotland generally, in the Middle Ages?
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,354

PostPosted: Sat 31 Aug, 2019 4:08 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The European longbow has remained essentially unchanged since the Mesolithic period. The only difference between the English longbow and the ones used by everyone else (including the Scots) is how it was deployed on the battlefield.
Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Lin Robinson




Location: NC
Joined: 15 Jun 2006
Likes: 6 pages
Reading list: 6 books

Posts: 1,224

PostPosted: Sat 31 Aug, 2019 4:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The Scots had plenty of competent archers but were slow in learning how to deploy them effectively. Archers were common in the Highlands until c. mid-17th c. Why the Scots did not learn from the English and apply the knowledge to their battlefield tactics is a mystery. They did much the same thing with artillery, re: Flodden.
Lin Robinson

"The best thing in life is to crush your enemies, see them driven before you and hear the lamentation of their women." Conan the Barbarian, 1982
View user's profile Send private message
Pedro Paulo Gai„o




Location: Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Joined: 14 Mar 2015

Posts: 310

PostPosted: Sat 31 Aug, 2019 7:48 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
The European longbow has remained essentially unchanged since the Mesolithic period. The only difference between the English longbow and the ones used by everyone else (including the Scots) is how it was deployed on the battlefield.


Then why the sources point out how revolutionary strong welsh bows were? Also, I don't think there where bows as long as the welsh/english warbow.

Brandon Cotter wrote:

I know that Scots used the longbow, but to what extent was it used? Was it comparable to England, or on a smaller scale? Were there any meaningful differences between English and Scottish bows of the period? Would it have seen more use as a lowland or a highland weapon? And how would it have been employed in battle?

Thanks.

Are there any good sources you can recommend on warfare in the Highlands, or in Scotland generally, in the Middle Ages?


So, they're certainly used in early 14th century, at least, but the problem with the Scots it wasn't (according to Heath) that they shoot lighter bows, or were less skilled than the English, the problem was mainly the fact they couldn't deploy them en masse, or at least in the same proportion the English were doing; however, scottish longbowmen are appreciated by the French, and usually employed them as mercenaries in the continent, as just as they had a Scottish Guard which included longbowmen from Scotland, men-at-arms from Scotland and crossbowmen from Germany (at least in a 15th century record).

Selkirk forest longbowmen are recognized as the most skilled of this type in Lowlands. Also, according to what I have researched, longbow wasn't even used (or at least didn't retained popularity) in the Highlands. Perhaps retinues of some highland earls who were from the Lowlands or had lands there could have some, who knows ...

As an introduction (which basically is my level on the subject) I recommend Heath's books named Armies of Feudal Europe and Armies of Middle Ages vol. 1; he mentions how the Scottish military system worked, draws from artistic or documental evidence he found and it's quite direct in the subject. The most typicall scottish army would be composed of dismounted MAA in the frontlines, pikemen, longbowmen and soldiers including poorly-armed marauders, shielded meele fighters and so on.

Another starter book series is from Osprey battles like Outterburn, Falkirk and Stirling Bridge etc. There was a thread which became a spotlight topic who quotes some Scottish Ordinances prescribing the arms for individuals based on their income, much like the English Assize of Arms and so ...

Not so related to warfare, I know David Pilling from the Facebook and some of the material he posts or that it's in his book treats of some armies of Scotland under Edward I jusridiction; there is a war-order the mustered in some scottish fiefdoms prescribing a minimum amount of infantry each were obbliged to bring; the funny thing, however, is that it doesn't specify any number of cavalry, just saying they should bring all the MAA they could. Scotland was known for its inability to put great numbers of men-at-arms on field (I guess they never put more than 500), King Edward was well aware of that.

Another interesting information: Scots apparently were very given to mercenary life. I read scottish mercenaries were involved in some troubles in Norway in the Middle Ages. They took part in the Siege of Lisbon alongside the English and other northern european voluntaries of the Second Crusade, but can't say if they were given lands in Portugal as some of the english barons received. Even in latter times, Scots outnumbered the English in the Protestant League's army of the 30 Years War, some highlander bowmen being even represented in comteporary illustrations.

Scots also composed a relevant portion of the Dutch Western Indian Company; the VOC garrison in New Holland (a dutch colony in Brazil) had soldiers from Scotland, England, Netherlands and Germany, quite a far destine for a Scot, right?

A small knightly retinue commanded by the Black Douglas went into a crusade in Castille while carrying Robert the Bruce's heart. The King was apparently intrigued by the knight, for the gave him the command of all the foreign mercenaries in his army (sources say it was the command of the whole vanguard, though); no Scots beside them was in that campaign, however, but it was noted there were Englishmen willing to know a famous enemy which was know their friend.

ďBurn old wood, read old books, drink old wines, have old friends.Ē
Alfonso X, King of Castile (1221-84)
View user's profile Send private message
Graham Shearlaw





Joined: 24 Oct 2011
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 93

PostPosted: Sat 31 Aug, 2019 9:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The war power longbow needed major legal force in England to keep its practice in forced.
If the highlands have as they do in 1500 to 1800's a lack of armour then there no need for stronger bows, or do they not have a force able to shoot at closer ranges as the more armoured English can?


Here's a brief video on long bows in the highlands.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKQWGQFEwks
View user's profile Send private message
Dan Howard




Location: Maitland, NSW, Australia
Joined: 08 Dec 2004

Spotlight topics: 2
Posts: 3,354

PostPosted: Sun 01 Sep, 2019 12:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gai„o wrote:
Then why the sources point out how revolutionary strong welsh bows were? Also, I don't think there where bows as long as the welsh/english warbow.

Like who? Gerald of Wales? He is hardly unbiased. Produce a single source that actually tells us how long a Welsh bow was.

Every country on the planet had archers who could shoot bows as heavy as those in English armies. England differed in that it instituted a state-wide regime to produce enough of these archers to fill the army's ranks.

Strickland and Hardy's book is the best authority on this subject. It is well worth reading.

Author: Bronze Age Military Equipment, Pen and Sword Books
View user's profile Send private message
Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 43

PostPosted: Sun 01 Sep, 2019 2:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Then why the sources point out how revolutionary strong welsh bows were? Also, I don't think there where bows as long as the welsh/english warbow.


The Welsh origin of the longbow is one of those things where if you repeat it often enough it becomes true. This is not to say that the Welsh don't play a part but it can't be taken as read that they developed a super weapon. I think it is Adam Chapman who suggested the popularity of Welsh archers under Edward I was not because of the weapon but because they were much more practiced and capable than the English of the time. As Dan says, we have no solid evidence about Welsh bow length. The couple of pictures we have show a short weapon, but are not necessarily accurate.

On why the Scots didn't develop archers capable of fighting like the English, the obvious answer is they did. The bow is mentioned as a possible weapon for the poor in Robert Bruce's weapon laws.


Scottish mercenary archers were present in later 14th century English armies and early 15th century Burgundian ones. The Scots expeditionary army in France in the 1420s was about 1/3 archers. A lot less of them than the English, of course, but sizeable forces.

By the time James I gets round to issuing regulations in 1426, we read

And honest yeomen having sufficient power that wish to be men of arms shall be harnest sufficiently after the discretion of the sheriffs, but all other yeomen of the realm, between sixteen and sixty years of age shall be sufficiently bowed and shoed with sword, buckler and knife.


Amplified in 1430 as

And all others of £10 in goods [shall] have a bow, sheaf, sword and buckler. And the yeoman that is no archer, and cannot draw a bow, shall have a good sure hat for his head and a doublat of fence with sword and buckler, and a good axe, or else a pointed staff [or then a short spear].

As to Scots highland archery, it may be a mistake to assume it was an ancient tradition. We lack a great deal of evidence for Highland Warfare before the 16th century. It may be that there was an increase in archery in line with the greater interest (and legislation ) regarding archery in the 15th century.

Anthony Clipsom
View user's profile Send private message
Brandon Cotter




Location: Alachua Florida
Joined: 23 Oct 2013

Posts: 5

PostPosted: Sun 01 Sep, 2019 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

So, from what Iím hearing it sounds like the chief difference between English and Scottish medieval archery was that the Scots lacked the deliberate military innovation that allowed the English to make longbowmen into the effective force that they did.

It seems like, that while the English recognized the potential of longbowmen relatively early, and revamped their military systems accordingly, the Scots were either to militarily conservative, lacked the strong central authority to implement the changes necessary or simply didnít realize the potential for archers en masse to do so themselves. That last one seems somewhat unlikely to me as the Scots were trounced by English archery more than once in the 14th century and it seems like the success of English armies in the period would have made it very difficult to deny the power of longbowmen.

Also, am I correct in assuming the Scots, while in Scotland, never had anything comparable to English mounted archers (I.e. professional retinue archers who were mounted for speed on the march) as it seems the bow was generally always considered to be a peasants (or already a militia) weapon? I do recall reading that the French Scottish guard archers were mounted the way English archers were, and presumably any Scottish archers with an English forces would be outfitted comparably to the english, but did that sort of professionallism only exist in Scottish mercenary forces or did it spread back to Scotland itself.
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Anthony Clipsom




Location: YORKSHIRE, UK
Joined: 27 Jul 2009

Posts: 43

PostPosted: Sun 01 Sep, 2019 7:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Also, am I correct in assuming the Scots, while in Scotland, never had anything comparable to English mounted archers (I.e. professional retinue archers who were mounted for speed on the march) as it seems the bow was generally always considered to be a peasants (or already a militia) weapon?


Not necessarily. Even in the early 14th century there are records of land holding in return for archer service and the English recruited bodies of archers in Scotland on a paid basis. We can't be sure they were mounted but they may have been. Perhaps more importantly, we have Jean Le Bel's view (and he had faced the Scots in action) that Scots raiding forces were nearly all mounted, so unless we think that they left all their archers at home, this would suggest some mounted archers were available. I've not studied Scots archers in French service that much, but it wouldn't surprise me if at least some of the Scots expeditionary army's archers were mounted.

Anthony Clipsom
View user's profile Send private message
Henrik Zoltan Toth




Location: Hungary
Joined: 18 Feb 2007

Posts: 200

PostPosted: Thu 05 Sep, 2019 12:52 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Found this:

http://ceathairne.blogspot.com/2012/01/gaelic-archery.html
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Off-topic Talk > longbows in Scotland
Page 1 of 1 Reply to topic
All times are GMT - 8 Hours

View previous topic :: View next topic
Jump to:  
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum
You cannot attach files in this forum
You can download files in this forum






All contents © Copyright 2003-2019 myArmoury.com — All rights reserved
Discussion forums powered by phpBB © The phpBB Group
Switch to the Basic Low-bandwidth Version of the forum