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Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > Weapon types used in medieval combat Reply to topic
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Walter S




Location: Czech Republic
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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2010 11:46 am    Post subject: Weapon types used in medieval combat         Reply with quote

I did some more research about medieval combat and I want to ask if you find anything incorrect about my conclusions.

All warriors carried a hand-and-half sword and a dagger. For expected battle they would equip themselves with larger weapon (and possibly additional armor if they had it), more effective in combat than the sword, but usually too big to be carried sheathed on person (unlike 1.5-hand sword) and had to be discarded if the user needed his hands free. These primary weapons were usually spears, poleaxes, (cross)bows for infantry and lances for cavalry.

1.5-hand sword was used should the primary weapon be rendered useless by damage or change in battle situation. These swords were usually about 110cm/43" and about 1.3kg/3lb heavy with more taper as middle ages progressed.

Dagger was used to finish off enemies during the battle and even after the battle over (as only nobles were taken prisoners for ransoming).

I was also trying to find some info armor and shield usage, but I wasn't very successful at that, if you could provide some info or point me in the right direction where to look, I would be grateful.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2010 2:14 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There are several Western Martial Arts type associations now that research medieval era combat techniques. Illustrations in historical manuals are worth browsing through. Most of them illustrate one on one combat though. http://www.thearma.org/

Your conclusions seem reasonable. Although, many others here will tell you and show you illustrations depicting multiple types of swords (falchions, single handed swords, etc.) in the context of a single battle also showing some longswords or "hand and a half" proportion weapons. I like to believe that the type of sword may have varied depending upon the tactical role (cavalry, infantryman, pikeman, archer, etc) and possibly even terrain. (Imagine breaking into a fort with siege work and then trying to fight shoulder to shoulder with friends against a wall of opponents in potentially narrow corridors with a long weapon.)

I lost some of my old bookmarks due to a hard drive failure. I did have a handful of eye witness accounts of figures such as Henry The Young Prince, the Black Prince, and a couple of other famous figures described as striding out into late stages of ending battles and having their "long sword" (type not specified, although at least one account said "uncommonly long") handed to them by body guards. While many here are satisfied with wearing scabbards, I tend to dislike them in drill work, and won't spar with one on. It is possible that there were also "arming swords" (specific form is very debatable) that could have been worn as the back up weapon. Hand and a half proportions could have been affixed to saddles, or worn for mounted situations, while some other form of weapon may have been chosen for foot combat or crowded close quarter situations. Lots of unproven ideas or theories here. But "hand and a half" typical longsword probably was not absolutely universal.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2010 5:25 pm    Post subject: Re: Weapon types used in medieval combat         Reply with quote

There are some generalizations in your statement that can't be proved. Not everyone who carried a sword carried a hand-and-a half one. There are plenty of single handed swords that have seen battle use, so we can say that the hand and a half theory is certainly not correct.

Not everyone carried both sword and dagger. Archers may have only carried their bow and a long dagger. Billmen may have had no sword either.

Some people may have had a lance, longsword, arming sword, and dagger. Some archers may have have just their bow, arrows, and a maul.

It really depends on:

-Era
-Location
-Military function of the warrior (in view of contemporary tactics, hiring strategies, army composition)
-Social class of the warrior

Happy

ChadA

http://chadarnow.com/
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Andrew Maxwell




Location: New Zealand
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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2010 6:43 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Walter,

I must say I'm curious as to where your information is from, as there is way too much generalisation in what you are saying. It's worth bearing in mind, I think, that the medieval period encompassed major political, cultural, religious and technological changes in Western Europe alone- never mind the rest of the world. Don't get me wrong, the weapon combination you are describing was used, AFAIK- in certain places, at certain times, and by particular groups of soldiers. It certainly wasn't some sort of universal standard though, no such thing existed (again, AFAIK, but I'm pretty confident of the veracity of that statement).

I know a lot of the 15th-16th C German fechtbucher show that kind of weapon combination for judicial duels (spear, longsword, dagger)- is that what you were thinking of?

Men do not care how nobly they live, but only how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man's power to live long. - Lucius Annaeus Seneca
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Mon 10 May, 2010 9:32 pm    Post subject: Re: Weapon types used in medieval combat         Reply with quote

Hi Walter,
The "middle ages" covers quite a lot of time span. In the same way that you can't say 21st century soldiers are armed like 19th century soldiers, neither can you say that 14th century soldiers were armed like 12th century soldiers.

Walter S wrote:
I did some more research about medieval combat and I want to ask if you find anything incorrect about my conclusions.


What kind of research?

Quote:
All warriors carried a hand-and-half sword and a dagger.


What led to this conclusion? "Hand and a half" swords didn't even exist for about half of the medieval era, and even after its existence, there were so many forms of combatants with armed with various weapon combinations based on strategic and tactical purposes.

Quote:
These swords were usually about 110cm/43" and about 1.3kg/3lb heavy with more taper as middle ages progressed.


Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Certainly many of the later period longswords did not have drastic taper (many examples of the Oakeshott type XX, for example)

Quote:
Dagger was used to finish off enemies during the battle


If you think about it, that doesn't actually make any sense. Why would a soldier drop his main killing weapon to draw his dagger just to finish an enemy off? Now, its quite possible that two combatants closed in and fought so hard that they wrestled/fell to the ground, and during that time one/both dropped their primary weapon in favor of the smaller dagger, which is easier to use at such a distance. Certainly this happened in one-on-one judicial duels. Nonetheless, that likely would have been avoided on the battlefield if possible purely because your enemy had comrades, and they wouldn't have just stood around watching passively.

Quote:
I was also trying to find some info armor and shield usage, but I wasn't very successful at that, if you could provide some info or point me in the right direction where to look, I would be grateful.


Check out Christian Tobler's book Fighting with the German Longsword for a good primer on spear and longsword usage in plate armour. Christian is also coming out with a poleax DVD soon that will cover that weapon in armour.

As for shield usage, there's material for the buckler, but sadly there isn't much out there for a larger shield. For whatever reason, we have no surviving technical manuscripts dealing with the use of this, though there are martial artists out there who are extrapolating based on other weapon style of which we do have evidence. There's Renaissance material on the use of shields, though most of it isn't in English.

I also highly, highly recommend any of the books by Ewart Oakeshott regarding your other points. I'm afraid wherever you've been researching has been leading you towards several outdated myths (don't feel bad, as most of us have been there at some point). The biggest thing is realizing that the medieval era covers a lot of time and space, so you can't make huge, sweeping generalizations about it.

Virginia Academy of Fencing Historical Swordsmanship
--German Longsword & Italian Rapier in the DC Area--


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Walter S




Location: Czech Republic
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 1:25 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

My research is meant to be a basis for equiping soldiers in a computer game, so it was a bit generalized approximation. I should have made that clear - I didn't mean that everyone at everytime was equipped like this. My time focus is around 12th century.
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Artis Aboltins




PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 1:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Walter S wrote:
My research is meant to be a basis for equiping soldiers in a computer game, so it was a bit generalized approximation. I should have made that clear - I didn't mean that everyone at everytime was equipped like this. My time focus is around 12th century.


Hmm, then the main weapon will be, most likely, a spear - hand and a half sword would be a rare beast indeed un 12th century.
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Gottfried P. Doerler




Location: Tyrol, Austria
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 2:21 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

i hoped, all creatives would do some kind of research before starting their projects, e.g. i just can`t stand warriors in numerous "king arthur" depictions hoping around in 15th cent. plate armour, whilst the set should be 6th or 7th.

my best introduction, i got by a book by Liliane Funcken and Fred Funcken, who write french, but it was translatet to german.
its just named "historical arms and armour" but crosses over the complete middle ages on 300 pages, and was available for just 30 euros.

sure these two are well-established in french-speeking areas. does anyone know, if there is a english translation?
gives a good overwiew from charlemagne to thirty-years war
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Walter S




Location: Czech Republic
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 2:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Maxwell wrote:
Hi Walter,
I know a lot of the 15th-16th C German fechtbucher show that kind of weapon combination for judicial duels (spear, longsword, dagger)- is that what you were thinking of?


Yes, I was reading those, as I found little material explaining fighting in battle.

Gottfried P. Doerler wrote:
i hoped, all creatives would do some kind of research before starting their projects, e.g. i just can`t stand warriors in numerous "king arthur" depictions hoping around in 15th cent. plate armour, whilst the set should be 6th or 7th.


I'm not sure what are you getting at - I am doing research.

Artis Aboltins wrote:
Hmm, then the main weapon will be, most likely, a spear - hand and a half sword would be a rare beast indeed un 12th century.

http://www.myArmoury.com/chad_swor_arm_s4.html?8 This should be proper sword for 12th century usage, right?
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Neil Gagel




Location: Oklahoma City
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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 11:59 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Walter, if you haven't done so already I recommend you go to the Features section of myArmoury.com and check out the an article called "Eward Oakshott: The Man and his Legacy" - starting on page 2 there are excellent descriptors of the various blade types out there, including information on what time periods they were used in. I think you'll find it quite enlightening.
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Benjamin H. Abbott




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PostPosted: Tue 11 May, 2010 12:45 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

According sixteenth century military manuals, every soldier was expected to have a sword and dagger at that time. This was probably a dedicated one hander rather than a hand-and-half sword, though the manuals don't specify. The following passage from Sir John Smythe supports your claims about when warriors took to their swords and dagger:

Smythe wrote:
And as they doo mistake the conuenient arming of horsemen and footmen, so they also mistake the weaponing of them: for whereas Swords of conuenient length, forme and substance, haue been in all ages esteemed by all warlike Nations, of al other forts of weapons the last weapon of refuge both for horsemen, and footmen, by reason that when al their other weapons in fight haue failed them, either by breaking, losse, or otherwise, they then haue presentlie betaken themselues to their short arming Swords and Daggers, as to the last weapons, of great effect & execution for all Martiall actions.


I think it's fair to say that anyone who could afford it would carry a sword and dagger. Depending on the period, this may have excluded some commoners.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 16 May, 2010 4:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
I think it's fair to say that anyone who could afford it would carry a sword and dagger. Depending on the period, this may have excluded some commoners.


Who probably wouldn't have been in the army to begin with!

(That is, as a commoner, if you couldn't afford a sword then you probably were too low on the social ladder to have the right and obligation to bear arms anyway.)
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