Info Favorites Register Log in
myArmoury.com Discussion Forums

Forum index Memberlist Usergroups Spotlight Topics Search
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > possible evolution of the crossbow (in absence of firearms) Reply to topic
This is a standard topic Go to page 1, 2  Next 
Author Message
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,461

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jul, 2019 12:54 am    Post subject: possible evolution of the crossbow (in absence of firearms)         Reply with quote

so, this was spurred by a discussion oon alternatehistoryhub's video on 'if we never discoveered gunpowder/ made guns'
and of course the immediate attention for substuituted turned to longbows and especially crossbows.

but if i remember correctly, by the end of the 15th century, the crossbow had really reached as far as it could with the technology at hand in terms of power, meaning it couldnt replace the arquebus, and then the musket as a weapon to help force people to use less armour (with breastplates and bulletproof armour getting progressively more expensive and heavier)

in a world in which gunpowder was never discovered as a substance for military use, are there ways in which the crossbow could overcome the barriers it was facing that prevented it from getting more powerful without big losses in efficienty etc,

could it be that with improved steelworking and the like, we could come up with other solutions, for example, longer bows, longer powerstrokes, or even duplex bows?

(of course we know that improvements would be made to other things, for exampole the implementation of basic sights, better stocks, and things to perhaps increase accuracy and range)
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Hamish C




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 27 Jul 2016
Likes: 1 page

Posts: 46

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jul, 2019 3:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The crossbow was still developed and refined even though it was no longer a useful military weapon. As you have mentioned stocks became more like rifle stocks, trigger mechanisms smoother, high powered scopes.

Synthetic prods, then compound mechanisms, make the bow more efficient than thick steel. Still the limiting factors the short draw length, means a very powerful bow is needed for armour penetration, and the need for a mechanism to draw the heavy bow, results in a slow rate of fire.



Then you have compressed air powered devices, and numerous other mechanical devices that propel arrows. A quick video search on youtube will provide numerous wild and whacky modern takes on crossbows.
View user's profile Send private message
Eric W. Norenberg





Joined: 18 Jul 2008

Posts: 267

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jul, 2019 7:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Check out “reverse draw” crossbows for a recent innovation, something that counters some of the limitations of the 2000+ year old standard design. I’ve never handled one, but they make sense. Hard for me to get around the odd look, but we are talking performance, not traditional aesthetics.
View user's profile Send private message
Leo Todeschini
Industry Professional



Location: Oxford, UK
Joined: 12 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,607

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jul, 2019 2:40 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The obvious move they never made that would work very well with heavy steel bows would be to make them compound.

However they will never compete with gunpowder for power whatever you do to them - caveat - as hand held devices

Tod

www.todsworkshop.com
www.todcutler.com
www.instagram.com/todsworkshop
www.facebook.com/TodTodeschini
www.youtube.com/todsworkshop
View user's profile Send private message Visit poster's website
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Thu 11 Jul, 2019 9:15 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Gunpowder didn't make armor go away.
System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
William P




Location: Sydney, Australia
Joined: 11 Jul 2010

Posts: 1,461

PostPosted: Fri 12 Jul, 2019 1:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Gunpowder didn't make armor go away.


te impression i have , however is that to compete with rising power of firearms the musket especially, breastplates got heavier and thicker, with duplex ad triplex wrought iron designs to compensate, making them, over time, less appealing to people except cavalry i.e the cuirassieres. combine that with larger army sizes, it getsharder to give people armour thats effective against shot, if the power however is capped, perhaps armour can stay lighter and easier, and remain in WIDESPREAD use for longer, and more complete armours might have remained is widespread use for longer, especially as steel tech got better allowing for better quality en masse
View user's profile Send private message Send e-mail
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,207

PostPosted: Sun 14 Jul, 2019 6:58 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hamish C wrote:
Then you have compressed air powered devices, and numerous other mechanical devices that propel arrows.


Some of these are quite powerful. The Airrow Stealth, for example, manages 263 foot-lbs (363 J) with 320-grain dart. That's already enough to pierce 2.5mm of hardened steel according to the numbers from The Knight and the Blast Furnace. With a heavier dart, such a weapon could deliver even more kinetic energy, albeit at the cost of using more air. No practical steel armor could protect against such a dartgun using heavy darts.

By contrast, 21st-century crossbows struggle reach even 175 foot-lbs with light bolts. However, with heavy bolts & allowing for less convenience, speed, accuracy, & safety, I'm confident you design a modern crossbow that could also defeat any practical steel armor. 173 foot-lbs (235 J) would already penetrate most historical armors.

Of course, those weapons both employ 20th/21st-century technology. It's unclear what would have happen to Europe & the world without gunpowder, though we can be almost certain bows & crossbows would have stayed in use for much, much longer. (They already saw military use in China & parts of the Americas through the 19th century.)

The curious thing about 15th-century European crossbow tech is that theoretically you could construct a crossbow powerful enough to use somewhat like a heavy musket, at least in the sense of piercing good armor at close or medium range. The 1,200lb-draw horn crossbow Andreas Bichler made that manages around 200 J with 81g bolts (at least in cold weather) only weighs 7.7lbs & may well perform worse than a high-quality historical example. Much heavier (20+lb) windlass-drawn steel target crossbows were apparently shot without rests for sport 17th/18th century.

A larger horn crossbow or even merely one of those giant steel crossbows might conceivably deliver enough punch to employ in approximately heavy-musket fashion. Heavy muskets were remarkably slow (1-2 shots per minute, if that) & awkward (requiring a rest to shoot), yet still key weapons in the 16th century. Big honking crossbows are less compact because of the limbs but otherwise arguably less trouble.

However, even a crossbow managing 300 J or whatever would lack the devastating close-range impact & projectile velocity of the heavy musket.

Our knowledge about the details of historical crossbows remains limited. Period sources generally indicate superior performance to anything replicas have produced. We do know that circa-1500 European crossbows were potent weapons that could at least potentially threaten a warrior in white harness.

I suspect European warfare would have looked a lot like circa-1500 warfare (minus artillery) for a few centuries or more longer in the absence of gunpowder.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Tue 16 Jul, 2019 8:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

William P wrote:
Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Gunpowder didn't make armor go away.


te impression i have , however is that to compete with rising power of firearms the musket especially, breastplates got heavier and thicker, with duplex ad triplex wrought iron designs to compensate, making them, over time, less appealing to people except cavalry i.e the cuirassieres. combine that with larger army sizes, it getsharder to give people armour thats effective against shot, if the power however is capped, perhaps armour can stay lighter and easier, and remain in WIDESPREAD use for longer, and more complete armours might have remained is widespread use for longer, especially as steel tech got better allowing for better quality en masse


Armor did eventually get much heavier and thicker - to the point that it became incredibly burdensome to wear (up to 40-60 lbs just for breast plate) but that was due to the fact that most armor in the later Early Modern period was made of far less efficient material than in the late medieval, in a word wrought iron instead of medium carbon, tempered steel. The latter is about twice as efficient in stopping missiles, meaning it could be made half as thick and therefore half as heavy for the same level of protection. Actually a little more so.

We are given a certain shorthand about all this based on the notion of inevitable and inexorable technological progress across the Centuries, but like most historical Tropes you might learn in an undergraduate College course or find on the History Channel (back when they still had History on it) it does not hold up well under scrutiny.

The reasons why most armor production changed so dramatically are complex and I would not say there is a precise consensus on it. Very broadly you can say that enormous social, political, and economic changes swept Europe in the 16th Century, the balance of power changed, and the nature of military organization was transformed. Among other things, the individual soldier had less power or autonomy relative to their rulers, and were often equipped by the latter rather than by themselves. What we can say for sure is that by the second quarter of the 16th Century, the major armor production centers such as in Augsburg, Nuremberg, and Milan, had declined and were no longer able to make relatively affordable high quality armor for mid-level markets. These industries shrank, if not to say collapsed, and began making much fewer high quality armor harnesses for a much more elite market. Cruder, simpler wrought iron armor was made in many other places.

It's also the case that cannon were more prevalent on the battlefield. And no armor could stop a cannon ball.

A few other things to point out:

* Firearms were present and a real threat during sieges in Europe from as early as the 13th Century. For example we have a description of a siege by Castilian (Spanish) forces in which the Spaniards were being wounded and killed by firearms, which they did not understand the nature of (see below at the bottom).

* By the later 14th Century both cannon and firearms were a routine threat at any siege, on either side. By the 1420s (with the onset of the Hussite Wars) both firearms and cannon had moved into the open field where they remained. So by 1500 firearms had been a threat in sieges for ~200 years and on the battlefield for at least 80 years in Europe. Roughly the same time period when plate armor was in use up to that point.

* Most firearms used by soldiers or warriors in European armies reached an early peak of efficiency in the very early 16th Century, and then started to actually decline in quality by the 17th. For example, in the 15th Century breach-loading firearms and rifling were available. There were revolvers made in the 16th Century. The wheellock was invented some time around 1500, the snaplock by 1540, the snaphance in the 1560s, and the flint lock by 1600. But for most of the 17th and 18th Centuries, and in fact right up to the American Civil War, the far more crude smoothbore, matchlock muzzle loaders remained the primary weapon for infantry. Breach loaders and revolvers didn't become widespread until the 1860's. In short, while in absolute terms firearms technology, if not armor, continued to develop, in terms of what troops were using in battle it had not only stagnated but gone backward to a large extent.

* While early muskets were indeed potent armor-piercing weapons, as Benjamin alluded they were fairly rare, cumbersome weapons, in fact specialized for contending with armor. This was because most troops were armed with far less formidable arquebus and caliver type firearms.

* However, the best armor of the late medieval type was still available well into the 16th Century, just to a much smaller and much more boutique market, i.e. to princes for the most part. The armorers from towns like Milan and Augsburg were imported to princely armor making centers like Vienna and Greenwich England where for several generations they continued to produce armor of the best quality. The recent Nova Special "Secrets of the Shining Knight" which I believe is on Netflix right now, showed how just such a harness, based on and meticulously reproduced from one owned by an English prince, was able to deflect a musket ball shot from a very short distance. Even Alan Williams, who was involved with the project, was shocked by the results.



in 1262, when King Alfonso X of Castile was besieging the Moorish stronghold of Niebla in what is now Spain. The Moors used the new “boom stick” weapon effectively, to the dismay of the besieging Europeans:

“..The Arabs threw many (iron) balls launched with thunder,
the Christians were very afraid of, as any member of the body
hit was severed as if with a knife; and the wounded man died
afterwards, because no surgery could heal him, in part
because the balls were hot as fire, and apart of that, because
the powders used were of such nature that any ulcer done
meant the death of the injured man...
.. and he was hit with a ball of the thunder in the arm, and
was cut off, and died next day: and the same happened to all
of those injured by the thunder. And even now the story is
being told amongst the host…”

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Tue 16 Jul, 2019 11:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I should add that by some time in the 30 Years War (17th Century) in at least two different places they had come back around to using steel - in a strange form of embedding a steel plate sandwiched within a cast iron plate (or between two plates) as a solution to high powered muskets. But this was very crude compared to an Augsburg harness circa 1480.


As for crossbows, they did indeed make very large crossbows basically just for sieges. The Germans called these 'wall crossbows', directly analogous to the very large / oversized 'wall guns'. Bichler made a replica of a weapon of this type albeit not as huge as some of the historical ones, and in a 2015 test (which is online) achieved 57 m/s for 488 joules with large 260 gram bolts. I believe larger antiques could have done a bit better than that.

I think the reason these did not see wider use is that by the third quarter of the 15th Century they were both more expensive and more fragile than equivalent light cannon. And also probably a bit more cumbersome and complex to use and maintain. Once cannon started being made with cast barrels, especially cast iron, they became much cheaper. Cast bronze was a bit better for a few reasons but while not as cheap, it certainly became more reliable. Training to shoot cannon also became more streamlined gradually through the 16th Century.

Ultimately the cannon and the firearm had become suitable for essentially unskilled labor, whereas the crossbow found a niche or a range of them in various specialized subtypes - as a hunting weapon for wealthy aristocrats and patricians.

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,207

PostPosted: Tue 16 Jul, 2019 3:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Most firearms used by soldiers or warriors in European armies reached an early peak of efficiency in the very early 16th Century, and then started to actually decline in quality by the 17th.


This strikes me as only partially true. Certainly there were at least a small number of clever & masterfully made personal firearms in the early 16th century, but they weren't necessarily effective outside of defending walls & coexisted with many simpler/cruder pieces.

Quote:
In short, while in absolute terms firearms technology, if not armor, continued to develop, in terms of what troops were using in battle it had not only stagnated but gone backward to a large extent.


What's the evidence that quality the common soldier's firearm went backward in the 17th century? It's not my period of focus, but the impression I've gotten from texts such as a Donald Lupton's 1642 A Warre-like Treatise of the Pike is that 17th firearms were pretty effective. Lupton argued that the power & prevalence of firearms made the pike obsolete.

Quote:
The recent Nova Special "Secrets of the Shining Knight" which I believe is on Netflix right now, showed how just such a harness, based on and meticulously reproduced from one owned by an English prince, was able to deflect a musket ball shot from a very short distance. Even Alan Williams, who was involved with the project, was shocked by the results.


That is a shocking test. Thank you for spreading the word about it. Do you know the details of the musket they used? Having read late-16th century military manuals, I'm skeptical that they charged it with as much powder as period sources recommend. Sir John Smythe, who owned at least one Greenwich harness, Humphrey Barwick, & Sir Roger Williams all agreed that the heavy musket could defeat any wearable armor. It's possible they were exaggerating or confused. Smythe adored armor & held a low opinion of firearms overall, so in his case exaggeration seems unlikely.

Anyone who's interested can see this thread for further discussion of circa-1600 firearms.

Quote:
I should add that by some time in the 30 Years War (17th Century) in at least two different places they had come back around to using steel - in a strange form of embedding a steel plate sandwiched within a cast iron plate (or between two plates) as a solution to high powered muskets. But this was very crude compared to an Augsburg harness circa 1480.


Dan Howard has written that this was because of the difficulty of hardening steel, especially at the thickness required. Though the Greenwich approach of using a plackart seems more efficient than involving softer iron.

Quote:
Bichler made a replica of a weapon of this type albeit not as huge as some of the historical ones, and in a 2015 test (which is online) achieved 57 m/s for 488 joules with large 260 gram bolts. I believe larger antiques could have done a bit better than that.


I'm not sure, but I suspect the higher-quality historical ones were made a bit better & thus more efficient. That's just a guess based on how most period sources describe crossbows. In any case, at 10.5kg (23lbs), that great crossbow isn't much heavier (if at all) than a 16th-century musket. In theory, a person might be able to use it like a musket, shooting it with a rest in the field, though the bulk & weight distribution might prevent that.

Quote:
I think the reason these did not see wider use is that by the third quarter of the 15th Century they were both more expensive and more fragile than equivalent light cannon. And also probably a bit more cumbersome and complex to use and maintain.


That makes sense.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Wed 17 Jul, 2019 8:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:

This strikes me as only partially true. Certainly there were at least a small number of clever & masterfully made personal firearms in the early 16th century, but they weren't necessarily effective outside of defending walls & coexisted with many simpler/cruder pieces.


I was careful with my words. Some exquisite firearms did exist, and certainly some of the cavalry had very nice pieces. However even cavalry did not typically carry weapons at or near the peak of technological development at the time, which is a change from earlier eras. My main point though is that the average soldier, i.e. "most" firearm carrying soldiers or warriors by the mid 17th Century were carrying smoothbore, muzzle loading match-locks. Which are crude in terms of design features. How well they were made is another issue I haven't really looked into. Though I will say that with swords you can clearly see a serious decline in quality from the 17th -18th Century compared to say, the 15th or 16th.

Quote:
What's the evidence that quality the common soldier's firearm went backward in the 17th century? It's not my period of focus, but the impression I've gotten from texts such as a Donald Lupton's 1642 A Warre-like Treatise of the Pike is that 17th firearms were pretty effective. Lupton argued that the power & prevalence of firearms made the pike obsolete.


Again, I was referring primarily to the use of smoothbore matchlocks certainly by the mid-17th Century. However I think you can also make comparisons to earlier eras in terms of outcomes. You have read many military manuals and are aware of the general expectations for accuracy / effective range of handgunners in those eras (usually pretty low). If you compare this to the expectations in shooting competitions in Central Europe, Italy and Flanders in the 15th and 16th Century, there is clearly a decline in terms of the general assumption of accuracy / effective range.

To what extent this is due to training / skill and to what extent equipment is not always clear, but we do also see a marked difference in capability on the battlefield. For example during the sieges of Rome, Malta and Rhodes, there was a dramatic contrast between 'typical' musket or arquebus armed infantry and a much smaller number of 'elite' shooters or marksmen, and the latter were typically armed with their own bespoke weapons of higher quality (and also interestingly, quite often making their own powder). The difference during the siege of Malta was quoted as between an effective range of roughly 50 meters for typical marksmen and 200-300 meters for the elite. The latter jibes much better with the expectations for shooting competitions in the late 15th Century.

Quote:
That is a shocking test. Thank you for spreading the word about it. Do you know the details of the musket they used? Having read late-16th century military manuals, I'm skeptical that they charged it with as much powder as period sources recommend. Sir John Smythe, who owned at least one Greenwich harness, Humphrey Barwick, & Sir Roger


No I don't know the details though I do know some of the people who were involved in that experiment and could probably find out. You could probably write them yourself if you are really interested to know, I'm sure you wouldn't be the only one.

For that matter I'm sure you could find a heavier musket and / or put in a heavier charge, or use cast iron bullets for example, and pierce that armor at point blank range such as they were at in their test in the NOVA show. However I think the test does show us that top quality armor could defeat what was probably a typical musket at most likely battlefield ranges, let alone a pistol or a caliver. Beyond that I'm really not interested in getting into one of those endless armor vs. weapon debates. Let's just say the NOVA show was not as surprising to me as it was to many others.

My main point is that armor of that quality - far lighter than what came later and substantially more effective- was much more affordable and far more widely used in the period roughly 1480-1520* than it was in say, 1600 or 1650. The Late Medieval armour making craft artisan guilds in Augsburg and mercantile manufacturing companies such as those of the Welser family were oriented toward essentially a middle class market - burghers had to buy armor like that to become citizens, mounted soldiers or knights had to have it to be paid as a lancer.

By the third quarter of the 16th Century the expert artisans like the members of the Helmschmied family were hired away from Augsburg by Monarchs to places like Innsbruck and later Greenwich to work for royal armouries for which the market had shrunk to those princes and their courtiers and picked henchmen.

Quote:
Dan Howard has written that this was because of the difficulty of hardening steel, especially at the thickness required. Though the Greenwich approach of using a plackart seems more efficient than involving softer iron.


It's also the case that once the last of the descendants of the guild armorers from centers like Augsburg, Milan and Nuremberg had died out, the last traces of the skill and sophisticated organization created in the old craft guild system which were needed to make armor like that Greenwich armor on any kind of affordable scale, or even at all, had basically disappeared. The armor of the 17th Century was far more crude than what had come in say, the 1520's or even 1550's.

Quote:
I'm not sure, but I suspect the higher-quality historical ones were made a bit better & thus more efficient. That's just a guess based on how most period sources describe crossbows. In any case, at 10.5kg (23lbs), that great crossbow isn't much heavier (if at all) than a 16th-century musket. In theory, a person might be able to use it like a musket, shooting it with a rest in the field, though the bulk & weight distribution might prevent that.


I think Bichler is one of the first to begin being able to replicate performance we have long read about for late medieval and early-modern crossbows. I don't think he is all the way there yet nor should we expect him to be, as once again what he is trying to emulate is the output of an entire very sophisticated industry at it's peak. But he is clearly moving in the right direction.

Quote:
That makes sense.


It just became possible to crank out very large handguns / smaller cannon at a much more affordable rate and they were less fragile and required less skill to use (once the basics of gunpowder were more widely systematized and understood, albeit with some inevitable and unavoidable risks)

The workshops of Nuremberg and the Venetian Arsenal for example were able to mass produce firearm barrels at an ever more efficient rate as early as the 1460s and you can see in some papers that have been published how the cost rapidly declined.



* I am referring here to the more formidable bullet proof armor capable of dealing with muskets i.e. with the plackarts etc., slightly thinner but still very effective tempered steel armor was available from Augsburg, and at comparatively affordable rates, from as early as 1400- 1420, depending on how you define it. It was so affordable in fact that to distinguish themselves from the 'rabble' (as they saw it) aristocrats increasingly had their armor gilded, embossed with silver scrollwork or in some other way artistically embellished so as to make it clear that it was beyond the means of the ordinary middle class commoner.

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Wed 17 Jul, 2019 10:12 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One other thing - while I agree crossbows potentially could have filled a niche that was taken by muskets or even light artillery (for an example consider Roman era torsion 'artillery') not having black powder and related chemicals would have caused a pretty major change in warfare.

In terms of what I mean, I recommend reading a detailed account of one of the really major Early Modern sieges like at Malta in 1565 such as this one. Aside from firearms and cannon, the defenders made extensive and highly effective (one could also say quite ghastly) use of a wide array of bizarre pyrotechnic weapons, many of which had nothing to do with any kind of handgun but they still took an immense and often decisive toll on the attacking Turks.

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 495

PostPosted: Wed 17 Jul, 2019 10:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yes, keep in mind that most of the fancy European crossbows and plate armour are contemporary with hand-held firearms. Without firearms, all kinds of arms and armour would have developed differently in the 14th-16th centuries. You can't just remove firearms and imagine that everything else would have stayed the same.

If weapons design was just about shooting the heaviest projectile the fastest, soldiers today would carry .50 calibre semiautomatic rifles.

People who have handled hundreds of pieces of 16th/17th century plate armour say that cavalry armour tends to be heavier than infantry armour, and high-end armour tends to have the mass more carefully distributed than medium-quality and low-quality. So from the same load of steel, a high-quality cavalry breastplate will stop things which a typical-quality infantry breastplate won't.

www.bookandsword.com
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 495

PostPosted: Wed 17 Jul, 2019 12:37 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I don't know if I would call typical mid-to-late 16th century off-the-peg armour like the following "crude" or "simple."

http://www.allenantiques.com/A-15.html
http://www.allenantiques.com/A-17.html
http://www.allenantiques.com/A-26.html
http://www.allenantiques.com/A-35.html

There definitely was a trend for falling prices and softer materials though.

www.bookandsword.com
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Wed 17 Jul, 2019 2:24 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Sean, I think I owe you an email.

I don't believe I ever said "16th Century armor was simple"

My comments as to the decline of armor were primarily to 17th Century armor, particularly in the 30 Years War by which time the processes that perhaps started in the later 16th Century reached their zenith.

Perhaps not 'simple' but clearly simpler, and we can say generally speaking, of lower quality in terms of metallurgy.

https://live.staticflickr.com/4019/4299143143_5f0c519208_b.jpg
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/15/10/da/1510da66d7257013b5396d879682389f.jpg

15th Century

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/a4/Elements_of_a_Light-Cavalry_Armor_MET_DP-12881-004.jpg/499px-Elements_of_a_Light-Cavalry_Armor_MET_DP-12881-004.jpg

early 16th Century

https://i.pinimg.com/474x/9a/98/cb/9a98cba1a7b4f39546a30f94d0bd0b3d--th-century.jpg
https://i.pinimg.com/originals/a7/51/b8/a751b8cacac06bbdf528a8f5bd18d095.jpg

mid 17th Century

Of course you can find cruder armor in the 15th and nicer armor in the 17th, but I'm again referring to what was typical. I can show Gothic harness like that worn by ordinary burghers in period artwork from circa 1450-1500. Most good quality armor by the 17th Century would only be owned by fairly high ranking aristocrats.

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
Benjamin H. Abbott




Location: New Mexico
Joined: 28 Feb 2004

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,207

PostPosted: Wed 17 Jul, 2019 6:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Though I will say that with swords you can clearly see a serious decline in quality from the 17th -18th Century compared to say, the 15th or 16th.


I'm increasingly skeptical of this with each Matt Easton video I watch. Not too long ago, in this video & others, Matt argued that improving manufacturing techniques enabled the smallsword & that 15th-century swords were probably overbuilt because they didn't trust the metal, etc. I've challenged that narrative & I definitely believe that lots of superb steel weapons & armor were produced in the 15th century (especially its second half), but Matt does have a point that smallswords & other thinner-bladed swords of the 18th/19th centuries must have been forged from quality steel. At least some mass-produced late 18th-century swords were excellent; the 1796 light cavalry sabre may well be overrated, but everything I've seen indicates they were fine swords that would have been perfectly acceptable on a 15th-century battlefield.

Quote:
You have read many military manuals and are aware of the general expectations for accuracy / effective range of handgunners in those eras (usually pretty low).


I would assess these expectations as quite varied. Raimond de Fourquevaux's 1548 manual describes arquebusiers as needing better training & notes how one crossbower at a siege in the 1520s far outpreformed the best arquebusiers. In the late 16th century, Martín de Eguiluz & of course Sir John Smythe maintained this position on the mediocre accuracy of firearms. They highlighted the advantages of shooting at rather close range. By contrast, Humphrey Barwick, Barnabe Rich, & Sir Roger Williams recommended shooting at incredible distances: for musketeers firing at foes in formation, up to 600 yards. & Barwick flatly asserted that firearms were more accurate than crossbows & bows, assumed a gunner would be able to hit a single person at 120 yards (at least within two shots), & stressed how time-intensive training good arquebusiers/musketeers/etc. was.

I suspect the difference in effective range was mostly a matter of skill, though also partially a matter of equipment choices that optimized for either speed or accuracy (rifling, reloading style, fit of bullet, etc.). Recall how Napoleon I famously decided not to employ rifliers despite the rifle's superior range/accuracy, because rifles cost more to make/maintain & shot more slowly than smoothbores. Even with simple & precise modern firearms, it's not trivial for a soldier to shoot well in combat. From really the 16th century through into the 19th, commanders of troops armed with smoothbores apparently had different opinions on whether it was better to try for long-distance shots or unload at closer range & then charge with swords &/or bayonets (de Eguiluz suggested this latter tactic, mentioning how arquebuses get too hot & fouled with lead to be very effective after a certain number of shots).

In this sense, both narratives told about 16th arquebusiers/musketeers were true: some had a limited effective range while others could engage at impressive distance.

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!
View user's profile Send private message
Sean Manning




Location: Austria
Joined: 23 Mar 2008

Posts: 495

PostPosted: Thu 18 Jul, 2019 12:45 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Jean,

if you ever have time for another email that would be great. You said:

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
What we can say for sure is that by the second quarter of the 16th Century, the major armor production centers such as in Augsburg, Nuremberg, and Milan, had declined and were no longer able to make relatively affordable high quality armor for mid-level markets. These industries shrank, if not to say collapsed, and began making much fewer high quality armor harnesses for a much more elite market. Cruder, simpler wrought iron armor was made in many other places.


Many of the old armouring centres were in trouble by the mid to late 16th century, as the going price was just too low to pay a big-city wage, but the shapes and constructions were just as sophisticated as ever. And I could show an Almain rivet as my example of an early 16th century armour and it would be just as dreadful as your 17th century close helm.

As you know, people in most parts of Europe were significantly poorer in 1650 than in 1450, so of course many of the things that ordinary people used fell in quality. Heroic Armour of the Italian Renaissance argues that most 16th century armouring shops, even the famous ones, did most of their business making standard types of armour wholesale, and that fits what I read in earlier periods. If Alan Williams is right that the price of plate armour continually fell, that suggests that plate armourers were skilled at giving their main customers what they wanted, which was cheaper and cheaper armour.

Edit: I agree about technological change not heading in one direction or always improving the same things!

www.bookandsword.com
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Thu 18 Jul, 2019 8:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Benjamin H. Abbott wrote:
In this sense, both narratives told about 16th arquebusiers/musketeers were true: some had a limited effective range while others could engage at impressive distance.


This is basically what I said - there were certainly some very nice firearms still being made in 1650, but what the typical soldier was equipped with was fairly crude, and certainly far less sophisticated in terms of technological features than the most sophisticated early 16th Century firearms.

With armor I think the decline is more precipitous though it's still the same pattern. Certainly by the end of the 17th Century armor of good quality was very rare indeed and was no longer being made on any kind of scale anywhere that I know of. Not because it wouldn't be useful but for other reasons.

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
Jean Henri Chandler




Location: New Orleans
Joined: 20 Nov 2006

Spotlight topics: 1
Posts: 1,165

PostPosted: Thu 18 Jul, 2019 8:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sean Manning wrote:
Hi Jean,

if you ever have time for another email that would be great.


I'm sorry my friend, I will follow up this weekend. I went out of town for almost three weeks after our last exchange and got distracted with work afterwords.


Quote:

Many of the old armouring centres were in trouble by the mid to late 16th century, as the going price was just too low to pay a big-city wage, but the shapes and constructions were just as sophisticated as ever. And I could show an Almain rivet as my example of an early 16th century armour and it would be just as dreadful as your 17th century close helm.


I see what you were getting and and yes, of course we can each pick an example of very crude armor or weapon from any era that had it. But I think perhaps we can agree that in aggregate, the quality of that kind of fighting kit declined across the board and armor in particular.

Quote:

As you know, people in most parts of Europe were significantly poorer in 1650 than in 1450, so of course many of the things that ordinary people used fell in quality.


Yes, you and I know that - but most people do not. The historical shorthand or Tropes which appear in popular media or in high school or undergraduate Uni courses barely touch on this if at all, in fact the general assumption is of steady progress.

This is actually my point - conditions for the vast majority of people declined after the middle ages and that included people who did most of the fighting. Their autonomy, pay, and status slipped a notch in comparison to earlier eras, and so did their kit. I don't necessarily want to get into a huge debate about it with anyone so I will agree to disagree if this is an unpopular idea, but in my opinion this is the real reason armor like you saw in that Nova show went away, and that crude, thick, very very heavy wrought iron cuirass of the 30 Years War took it's place. Which in turn due to it's inefficiency led to almost all armor going away... for a while. Though it's back to stay now I'd wager.

There have been many detailed studies on craft guilds, for example by Stephen R. Epstein of the London School of Economics, or Jan Luiten van Zanden and Maartin Prak from University of Utrecht who have tracked the economic changes in cities from the 15th Century through the 18th. Those agile enough to stay in business, for example the glass and textile (such as silk) production in Venice, had to shift very rapidly in the 16th Century. In a word it's a story of shifting from producing for a mostly middle class market in the 15th Century (burghers, gentry) to a market split between the very very rich and the very poor in the 18th. For example Venetian glass manufacturers shifted from making window panes, drinking vessels and eyeglasses for mostly middle class markets, to making giant gilded baroque mirrors for Russian Boyars and French courtier-nobles, and vast quantities of those cheap glass beads used for trade goods such as what they allegedly traded away New York for according to popular legend*. Same with textiles, it went from middle class goods to those for the very rich and the very, very poor, i.e. servants and serfs.

Quote:

Heroic Armour of the Italian Renaissance argues that most 16th century armouring shops, even the famous ones, did most of their business making standard types of armour wholesale, and that fits what I read in earlier periods. If Alan Williams is right that the price of plate armour continually fell, that suggests that plate armourers were skilled at giving their main customers what they wanted, which was cheaper and cheaper armour.

Edit: I agree about technological change not heading in one direction or always improving the same things!


I think the emphasis was not so much for just cheaper, but for the cheapest viable armor. In other words armor that was utilitarian but met a certain minimum standard of pretty high quality. For example I can show that before roughly 1520, ordinary burghers, artisans and mid-level merchants and so on, owned and in many cases were required to own armor of proof. According to the Balthasar Behem Codex you could purchase a cuirass with pauldrons for 39 kreuzer and a half armor "of proof" in Krakow in 1505 for 60 Kreuzer. That is expensive, but well within the reach of an ordinary burgher or even a mid-level peasant in that part of the world at that time. It's roughly the equivalent of one and a half sides of bacon, two cubits of fine linen, or four pairs of shoes. Or three swords.

Fast forward 150 years and how many people could afford the 'export grade' equivalent?


* not saying that is true, just referencing the legend as such.

System D'Armes Historical European fencing in New Orleans

Essays on Hroarr

Introducing the Codex Guide to the Medieval Baltic
View user's profile Send private message
Lee O'Hagan




Location: Northamptonshire,England
Joined: 30 Sep 2003
Likes: 5 pages

Posts: 517

PostPosted: Fri 19 Jul, 2019 3:33 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Just to throw it out there,
I think by now without black powder,etc
the crossbow would've ended up spring piston air driven projectile
more so with the mention of improvements in tek and metalwork,
View user's profile Send private message


Display posts from previous:   
Forum Index > Historical Arms Talk > possible evolution of the crossbow (in absence of firearms)
Page 1 of 2 Reply to topic
Go to page 1, 2  Next 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