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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Sun 17 Nov, 2019 9:29 pm    Post subject: Peasant's arms at 12 Articles Print         Reply with quote

I was reading some stuff about the 16th century and found this 1525 print of the Twelve Articles, portraying a contemporary German peasant army. I would like to share with you the image and my thoughts on it:





Fist, gambeson and mail shirts are being portrayed in a time that I never found any reference of that in contemporary German Manuscripts. It indeed showed that the rebelling peasant were recycling outdated armor, though it does seen that some of them are wearing plate skirts and the leader (which I believe is Muntzer) has a sort of odd-shaped cuirass.

Besides the articulated flails, bidents, spears and other peasant arms, all the men in the front have messers as sidearms. I know there is a lot of discussion about messers sometimes being as just as of good-quality or superior than some normal swords, but the printer does seen to imply that those arms were usually associated with poor-quality armed men. By the way, the Messer in the left has such a long handle that it might be considered a Langesmesser (hand-and-half) or a Kriegsmesser (two handed)

Also, the last time I saw a chapel-de-fer similar to this leader's helmet was from Dolstein's drawings on the Swedish Farmer-Soldiers at 1504-06

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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Mon 18 Nov, 2019 1:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wouldn't disagree that the Peasant soldiers are wearing older styles, but I would say that all three in the front rank are wearing plate armour. This is clear in the figure to the left, who is wearing a breastplate with medial ridge and attached fauld, common at the time. The figure to the right appears to wear a plain breastplate. The cuirass of the central figure is odd but continued wearing of mail armour parts, or even complete mail shirts, isn't. Kettlehats were perhaps unfashionable but they must have remained commonly available and are shown elsewhere is 16th century prints by the likes of Hans Burgkmair.
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Mark Millman





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PostPosted: Mon 18 Nov, 2019 2:12 pm    Post subject: Re: Peasant's arms at 12 Articles Print         Reply with quote

Dear Sr. Gaião,

On Monday 18 November 2019, you wrote:
. . . Besides the articulated flails, bidents, spears and other peasant arms, all the men in the front have messers as sidearms. I know there is a lot of discussion about messers sometimes being as just as of good-quality or superior than some normal swords, but the printer does seen to imply that those arms were usually associated with poor-quality armed men. . . .

It sounds as though you're making the common but inaccurate assumption that peasants are poor and cannot afford good-quality equipment. What this image shows us is that the sidearm most used by peasants is the Messer, and it doesn't show us much else. The image gives no hint of the weapons' quality. We only know that this is an army of peasants, not of professional soliders, nor urban militia. Many of them seem to be wearing fashionable clothes, so there may well be a large number of rich peasants, who could easily afford good-quality equipment, in the group being portrayed.

Best,

Mark Millman


Last edited by Mark Millman on Tue 19 Nov, 2019 4:05 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 1:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It is a bit difficult given the composition and the crudity of the image, but there is a potential class difference on display. As Mark says, the two men right and left of the front row are quite fashionably dressed, wear armour and have swords. Wealthy peasants or perhaps ex-soldiers. From what we can see of the second rank, some at least are wearing older fashioned peasant clothes with a longer tunic gathered at the front into folds. The weapon mix is a typical convention that these are rebels in scenes like this - the agricultural instruments, improvised weapons, boar spears, the odd halberd and so on.

If you want to study peasant clothing of the time, numerous woodcuts showing peasants were made - it was a popular subject for men like Durer. This one, by Hans Sebold Beham, is from approximately the time of the peasant war, notably only for the messer sword

Anthony Clipsom
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 8:05 am    Post subject: Re: Peasant's arms at 12 Articles Print         Reply with quote

Mark Millman wrote:
Dear Sr. Gaião,

On Monday 18 November 2019, you wrote:
. . . Besides the articulated flails, bidents, spears and other peasant arms, all the men in the front have messers as sidearms. I know there is a lot of discussion about messers sometimes being as just as of good-quality or superior than some normal swords, but the printer does seen to imply that those arms were usually associated with poor-quality armed men. . . .

It sounds as though you're making the common but inaccurate assumption that peasants are poor and cannot afford good-quality equipment. What this image shows us is that the sidearm most used by peasants is the Messer, and it doesn't show us much else. The image gives no hint of the weapons' quality. We only know that this is an army of peasants, not of professional soliders, or an urban militia. Many of them seem to be wearing fashionable clothes, so there may well be a large number of rich peasants, who could easily afford good-quality equipment, in the group being portrayed.

Best,

Mark Millman


I agree with this - the tendency today is to assume that all peasants were kind of 'medieval cavemen', but the reality was far more complex.

At the time of the German peasant wars many peasants actually did fairly well financially and some were rich. This is what the war was actually about, the princes were putting the squeeze on the peasants in a number of ways financially, using new laws and new legal interpretations (with the assistance of a growing class of professional lawyers) they were restricting peasants rights to things like hunting and logging on the land and increasing their obligations.

I think the first thing we need to keep in mind about that image is that it represents a broadsheet, which is a stylized portrayal of these rebels and not necessarily something meant to be purely realistic.

The messer is indeed portrayed as a common peasant sidearm as a kind of trope in period art. It's part of how you would identify someone as a peasant. You can see this from many German artists in the late 15th and early 16th Century. I don't think there is any reason to assume that a grosse messer or kriegs messer is inferior to a longsword or arming sword as a sidearm.

A lot of the art of the period was done by burghers who kind of looked down on peasants and considered them thuggish and ill mannered (literally boorish, from bauer, the German word for peasant). But we can assume there was some degree of exaggeration. For a more realistic portrayal, albeit from a bit later on in time, I'd say look at the paintings of Pieter Bruegel the Elder.



You'll notice these guys - in a peacetime not a war context- are carrying bauernwehr, essentially smaller messers. You can get some idea of their clothing etc. This too is kind of a trope though as it portrays a kermis festival (I think) and gives a sense of the peasants as kind of rowdy and uncouth, albeit with a more sympathetic eye.

The other weapons portrayed in the broadsheet, like the long handled articulated flail (flegel), the awl-pike, the halberd and the morgenstern, were all weapons that had a proven efficacy against armored troops, as pioneered by the Bohemians and the Swiss. You'll notice their banner depicts a crude halberd blade which is a type used as a symbol of a heavy skirmisher unit in the Swiss militias. Part of the reason the peasants thought they might be able to succeed in an uprising was that Bohemian and Swiss mercenaries, many of whom were of similar background to their own, were successfully fighting battles across Europe for much of the 15th Century.

Also keep in mind, the peasant uprising wasn't just made up of peasants. Their armies also included burghers, knights and even clergy.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 8:17 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
It is a bit difficult given the composition and the crudity of the image, but there is a potential class difference on display. As Mark says, the two men right and left of the front row are quite fashionably dressed, wear armour and have swords. Wealthy peasants or perhaps ex-soldiers. From what we can see of the second rank, some at least are wearing older fashioned peasant clothes with a longer tunic gathered at the front into folds. The weapon mix is a typical convention that these are rebels in scenes like this - the agricultural instruments, improvised weapons, boar spears, the odd halberd and so on.

If you want to study peasant clothing of the time, numerous woodcuts showing peasants were made - it was a popular subject for men like Durer. This one, by Hans Sebold Beham, is from approximately the time of the peasant war, notably only for the messer sword


This is another by Beham, who did a lot of interesting depictions of peasants, also a Kermis festival. This is a detail of a much larger woodcut or etching you'll see around but is hard to find in high res. You'll notice people in the foreground dancing, but in the background up above, a group of men fighting with messers. This is meant to show how erratic the peasants are



Notice one of the guys in the foreground has a katszbalger. A lot of peasants (especially in Swabia) were Landsknechts some or all of the time.

This is a low res image of the original



Another detail with dancers bearing sidearms, mostly large messers


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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 9:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
You'll notice people in the foreground dancing, but in the background up above, a group of men fighting with messers.


You have to love the idea that a sword fight breaks out over a game of skittles.

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Michael Beeching





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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 9:50 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean,

Fantastic writing as always.

...I am continually reminded that history does not change all that much, and many parallels can be drawn between life today and life in the HRE, at least from the perspective of someone living in the United States. In the case of the peasantry in question, I am not sure they differ all that much between modern rural peoples in terms of the class system at large. Note that in today's world, you have relatively few economic opportunities when you live in a farming community - you still have to go to the cities for more technical or industrial work, etc. How often are farmers portrayed as inept or slow in the media, yet in reality they are often very much the opposite? Likewise, how often do said farmers get to represent themselves as they are, rather than have a caricature of themselves created for the rest of the world to see?
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 10:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Michael Beeching wrote:
Jean,

Fantastic writing as always.

...I am continually reminded that history does not change all that much, and many parallels can be drawn between life today and life in the HRE, at least from the perspective of someone living in the United States. In the case of the peasantry in question, I am not sure they differ all that much between modern rural peoples in terms of the class system at large. Note that in today's world, you have relatively few economic opportunities when you live in a farming community - you still have to go to the cities for more technical or industrial work, etc. How often are farmers portrayed as inept or slow in the media, yet in reality they are often very much the opposite? Likewise, how often do said farmers get to represent themselves as they are, rather than have a caricature of themselves created for the rest of the world to see?


Yes I agree, good points. It's kind of like today, if you see a depiction of a man with a hat, cowboy boots, a flannel shirt, a folding buck knife on his belt and a shotgun in his pickup truck, that is kind of a cliche of a rural person. Neither the shotgun or the buck knife are military grade weapons but they are indications that this person may be risky to challenge personally. And we also know rural people at least in the US also frequently have more military type weapons as well.

But more importantly we also know that all rural people do not dress this way necessarily and for the most part farmers aren't particularly violent. It's a broad brush. A person dressed that way might not even be a redneck at all it could be a hipster. In other words that 'look', though it is real, is also definitely a cliche / trope and I indeed don't know of any cases I can think of where medieval peasants were really able to depict themselves as they saw their own reality. Breugel is one of the few artists who depicted them with some sympathy. Peasants did sometimes become artists of course but usually as part of a process of moving into the town as young apprentices, or at least the close orbit of the town, thereby basically shifting estates from Bauer to Burgher (and for the most skilled and luckiest, sometimes from Burgher to Courtier).

Driving around Europe this spring I noticed quite a few small castles and fortified buildings which upon doing some research I learned were farmers castles. Obviously someone with that kind of fortified home had some wealth and some resources.

The whole phenomenon is interesting and worth looking into

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Refuge_castle

Historically it seemed like whereas broadly speaking the best heavy cavalry came feudal nobility, the best gunners and marksmen from towns, and the best light cavalry from nomads, though city states also had good infantry, a lot of times the best infantry seemed to originate from peasants. Most Landsknechts were recruited from peasants in places like Swabia. A lot of the Swiss infantry, though controlled by towns such as Bern and Zurich, was made up of rural dwellers. Same for a lot of the Bohemian infantry. So we know peasants could fight if they were armed and organized right. This was particularly true of peasants who were still habitually armed and 'warlike' to use the medieval euphemism. This is in part what those peasants are saying by wearing their big messers even while dancing: we still have the right to bear arms. That is a different class of peasants than those in some other parts of Europe (certain parts of France for example) where they were no longer habitually allowed to bear arms in such a manner.

The main problem the peasants had in their various uprisings was a lack of leadership and a lack of strong fortifications. The only places peasants seemed to be able to maintain autonomy was in rough terrain of deep forests, swamps, hills or mountains in which the natural landscape aided in the defense. There were a few places like that where they turned out to be quite formidable for a long time on their own merits like in Sweden, in the Dithmarschen in lower Saxony and in the forest cantons of Eastern Switzerland. Maybe arguably in the Scottish highlands too though that is outside of my area of any real knowledge.

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Last edited by Jean Henri Chandler on Tue 19 Nov, 2019 10:27 am; edited 2 times in total
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 10:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Quote:
You'll notice people in the foreground dancing, but in the background up above, a group of men fighting with messers.


You have to love the idea that a sword fight breaks out over a game of skittles.


Yes, it's unnerving the way a lot of people seem to be ignoring the strife which looks very dangerous. I think the artist was trying to portray an unpredictable and erratic scene, but though detailed and probably realistic in some respects, it represents a burghers perception of this event. Very much an outsiders view. The fight may have been part of a long-running feud between two peasant clans, it may not have been as violent as portrayed (I think in the big woodcut you can see someones hand has been cut off). But then again maybe it was. It's hard to say, as Michael noted we don't often get to see portrayals like this by the peasants themselves.

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Tue 19 Nov, 2019 10:47 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Couple more images

This is another famous image of the German Peasants uprising, in which a baron or knight is surrounded by peasants, in this case the peasants appear to be rather indifferently armed, but the attention is on the knight and his somewhat ridiculous looking outfit



This is another flyer from the Peasants war which shows an image of peasants (on the left) and burgher or noble soldiers, probably forces from the Swabian League, on the right. If you click twice you can see it close up enough to get a clear view. It gives a more realistic looking portrayal of the fighters and their kit, which in both cases looks like Landsknecht gear though the Swabian League guys seem to have armor while the peasants don't.

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/80/Flugblatt_Bauernkrieg.jpg

The image in the O.P. by the way was part of a famous pamphlet which was probably drawn up by a journeyman furrier (therefore a relatively high status burgher, though not yet in a secure economic position) named Sebastian Lotzer who became the 'clerk' of the Baltringer Haufen one of the Peasant gangs or mobs. That particular pamphlet was seen far and wide, no less than 25,000 copies were made and distributed around southwest Germany.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sebastian_Lotzer

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltringer_Haufen

Lotzer seemed to have been a somewhat crafty character and was never caught and executed like a lot of the other leaders of the uprisings. He most likely ended up in one of the Swiss towns.

It's also possible he was more or less forced to help the peasants, much like Gotz von Berlichingen was and some other people who were sort of pressed into involvement. A lot of burghers and low-ranking nobles were sympathetic to the peasants but then were put off by the atrocities they committed after capturing some castles and abbeys. The towns usually bargained their way out of trouble as they didn't really want to fight the bauern, though due to their alliances with the princes in the Swabian League they were obligated to help put down some of the risings.

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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Wed 20 Nov, 2019 10:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
I wouldn't disagree that the Peasant soldiers are wearing older styles, but I would say that all three in the front rank are wearing plate armour. This is clear in the figure to the left, who is wearing a breastplate with medial ridge and attached fauld, common at the time. The figure to the right appears to wear a plain breastplate.


Makes sense

Quote:
The cuirass of the central figure is odd but continued wearing of mail armour parts, or even complete mail shirts, isn't.


Mail Shirts, in 1520's Germany? When I see a mail in 16th artistic evidence is usually by means of mail collars, bishop's mantle and things like that. I know some armories in Germany were known for having mail-production tradition (Innsbruck, I guess), but by so late I find odd that those are mostly unseen in contemporary art so I considered they stopped doing that by that time.

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
At the time of the German peasant wars many peasants actually did fairly well financially and some were rich. This is what the war was actually about, the princes were putting the squeeze on the peasants in a number of ways financially, using new laws and new legal interpretations (with the assistance of a growing class of professional lawyers) they were restricting peasants rights to things like hunting and logging on the land and increasing their obligations.


This might be mainly a historic question, but the whole thing about the war wasn't the crippling state of the serfs who were explored to the bone? Richer peasants, which I believe would be free-farmers or villans (I don't know if that semi-servitude even existed in Germany) weren't as much as the most affected, right? I know knights and the townsfolk took a part on it, but I don't know whether to consider that as opportunism or a more general state of affairs (Beloc simply says as opportunism, though he's a religious polemicist). Some of the 12 Articles complain most about servitude (as Christ redeemed all men equal) and over stolen communal lands, feudal rights and things like that.

Quote:
The messer is indeed portrayed as a common peasant sidearm as a kind of trope in period art. It's part of how you would identify someone as a peasant. You can see this from many German artists in the late 15th and early 16th Century. I don't think there is any reason to assume that a grosse messer or kriegs messer is inferior to a longsword or arming sword as a sidearm.


But could a normal serf afford these weapons in the same way they were generally portrayed in art? I guess it was you who said that in some 15th-century german cities a sword could cost as much a pair of shoes, but that meant a normal arming sword or a messer-like bauernwehr?

To finish for now, what's the difference between a Grossemesser and a Kriegsmesser? I know the Langesmesser is a hand-and-half sword, and the Kriegs' a two-handed one. Also, in a Osprey's Book about the War of Roses the english foot is sometimes represented with this styles of messers, do you think this Bauernwehr had some popularity outside Germany or it's just an illustrator error?

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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Thu 21 Nov, 2019 5:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Mail sleeves are a bit of a commonplace in the Codice de Trajes from 1547, and are not unknown elsewhere.

http://warfare.gq/Renaissance/Codice_De_Trajes-41v-large.htm

I suspect these are the sleeves of an arming garment, however, rather than a full mail shirt. The peasant who started this off appears to wear a mail fauld or skirt, still used in early 16th century armour.

Quote:
Also, in a Osprey's Book about the War of Roses the english foot is sometimes represented with this styles of messers, do you think this Bauernwehr had some popularity outside Germany or it's just an illustrator error?


Are you sure you are not confusing the short falchions or early hangers that English infantry carried? The hilt style is more elaborate.


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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2019 9:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Good questions Pedro.

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:


Quote:
The cuirass of the central figure is odd but continued wearing of mail armour parts, or even complete mail shirts, isn't.


Mail Shirts, in 1520's Germany? When I see a mail in 16th artistic evidence is usually by means of mail collars, bishop's mantle and things like that. I know some armories in Germany were known for having mail-production tradition (Innsbruck, I guess), but by so late I find odd that those are mostly unseen in contemporary art so I considered they stopped doing that by that time.


Mail shirts were definitely still around, and the curious thing is that they could be extremely expensive - in some cases a single mail shirt could cost more than a Milanese harness. For example up to 10 gulden in Poland. There are some mail shirts which have survived that have extremely fine links, there is one in the Smithsonian which (it is claimed) you can't fit a pin into. This is hard to believe but it does sound like there were some finer mail available. Also tempered mail became a thing at some point in the late14th or 15th Century. That too obviously could be quite expensive.

The specialization and expense seems in some part to be for the use of mail as semi-civilian attire. For example in Italy if you knew you had a vendetta on your hands or there was general trouble afoot, it was not unusual for people to wear a mail shirt under their clothing. Some fencing manuals advise to give a potential adversary a hug to ascertain if they have mail under their clothes. George Silver railed against the practice as part of his characterization of Italian fencing systems as reckless and dangerous. Benvenutto Cellini mentioned several times wearing mail under his clothes while in the midst of various disputes.

Quote:

This might be mainly a historic question, but the whole thing about the war wasn't the crippling state of the serfs who were explored to the bone? Richer peasants, which I believe would be free-farmers or villans (I don't know if that semi-servitude even existed in Germany) weren't as much as the most affected, right? I know knights and the townsfolk took a part on it, but I don't know whether to consider that as opportunism or a more general state of affairs (Beloc simply says as opportunism, though he's a religious polemicist). Some of the 12 Articles complain most about servitude (as Christ redeemed all men equal) and over stolen communal lands, feudal rights and things like that.


This is a good question and the short answer is we don't know for sure.

The medium answer is - due to the highly documented nature of the 15th Century in places like Germany, we do have data but there is considerable wiggle room in it's interpretation and there are various factions so to speak in explaining the peasant war. It was discussed by Marx for example so there are marxist and anti-marxist interpretations of it (neither, in my opinion, very accurate or erudite in terms of examining the actual phenomena) it's kind of a "hot" issue in academia. It's also a Catholic vs. Protestant fault line too.

To form my own (cautious) opinions on it, I have read primary sources such as letters and and also relied on some 19th Century sources like Johannes Janssen and Jacob Burckhardt who seem to have done a pretty good (and fairly dispassionate) analysis.

The issues are:

1) Were free people being made into serfs and were there even serfs in Germany at the time?
2) Was the cause of the uprisings legitimate problems for the peasants or opportunistic?
3) Were the uprisings widely popular or did they represent a minority of the population?

My answers to these obviously must be taken with a grain of salt like anyone else's, since it is subject to different interpretations. That said -

The first issue depends on how you define a serf and how you define a peasant. This can be surprisingly complex. The second seems to be that the cause was real. There were rights being taken away, taxes being raised, and other financial impacts like fines and fees imposed on both peasants and others including nobles and burgers, by the princes. There were also wars, droughts, outbreaks of disease and constant feuding which were causing problems in the countryside.

On the other hand part of the disruption was the religious disturbance caused by the onset of the Reformation. Luther nailed the 95 Thesis on the Church door in Worms in 1517. When Luther was excommunicated in 1521 the Reformation was in full swing. The German Peasants war started in 1524. So some people argue that these religious disturbances were the real cause. I would say they were certainly a factor.

The third question is mixed. I would say that it was widely popular but the way the uprisings went, with atrocities committed by the bands, ultimately alienated their support in other estates.

Generally from my perspective, the problem was mainly due to a squeeze being put on all estates by the princes, in terms of taking away their rights, increasing their obligations, and taking their money and land. Even the knights and lower nobility felt this. One primary source which helps contextualize the problem from their point of view is a letter written by the educated Humanist knight Ulrich von Hutten, associated with the so called Poor Barons Revolt of 1523 which happened in the wake of the Peasants War. It provides some insight into how the knightly estates viewed the 'pinch' so to speak:

"The people from whom we earn our livelihood, are very poor
farmers, to whom we lease our lands, vineyards, meadows and
fields. The return from them is very low for the amount of effort
involved, but the farmers look after them and toil away to
produce as large a return as possible, because we have to be
extremely prudent economically. We also serve a prince, from
whom we hope for protection; I do not provide that, so everyone
thinks he can get away with anything and everything against me.
In addition, for the prince's liege man, this hope is combined
every day with danger and fear. For if I put just one foot out of
the house, there is the risk that I will come across people
with whom the prince has had disputes and feuds, and that
they will attack me and take me away as a prisoner. If I am
unlucky, I could lose half my possessions to pay the ransom
and so the protection I am supposed to enjoy would turn out
to be quite the opposite.

"We therefore keep horses and buy ourselves weapons, and
surround ourselves with a large retinue, all of which costs a
great deal of money. We cannot leave even two acres of land
unguarded for very long, we must not visit a farm without
being armed, and, when hunting and fishing, we have to
wear armour. The quarrels between foreign farmers and our
own never cease, no day goes by without reports of
quarreling and strife, that we try to settle with the utmost
care. For if I defend myself or pursue wrongs too vigorously,
there are feuds. But if I am a little too patient or even give up
what is due to me, I am encouraging unjust attacks against
me from all sides, because whatever I abandon to one
person, is immediately seized upon by all as a reward for
their injustice.

"No matter whether a castle stands on a hill or on the plains,
it is definitely not built for comfort, but for defense,
surrounded by moats and ramparts, inside oppressively
small, packed with livestock and stables, its dark chambers
crammed with heavy rifles, pitch, sulfur and all other kinds of
weapons and warlike equipment. Everywhere, there is the
whiff of gunpowder; and the smell of dogs and their muck is
not sweet, I think. Horsemen come and go, including
robbers, thieves and highwaymen, because our houses are
usually open to all sorts of people, and we do not know the
individual particularly well or do not especially look after him.
And what a noise! Sheep bleating, oxen bellowing, dogs
barking, workers in the field shouting, wagons and carts
creaking, and, at home, we can even hear the wolves
howling. Every day you worry about the next, you're always on
the go, always anxious.”


So you can see that even the knights felt a certain amount of pressure, fishing in their armor Wink

Without staking out a hard opinion on the precise nature of serfdom in Germany, I would say that the various rights and obligations which made someone a serf were increasing against all of the lower ranking estates in the period 1480-1520 (and beyond) and this was certainly noticed and was part of the reason for the uprising. The larger towns were better able to resist it but they too in many cases suffered after things came to a head in the Schmalkaldic War in 1546 (since most German towns went protestant).

Quote:

But could a normal serf afford these weapons in the same way they were generally portrayed in art? I guess it was you who said that in some 15th-century german cities a sword could cost as much a pair of shoes, but that meant a normal arming sword or a messer-like bauernwehr?


Another good question.

Yes I think they could, depending on what you mean. Swords seem to be one of the few artifacts in late medieval Europe with a fairly consistent price - usually a new one could be had for about half of mark. Many peasants also owned more expensive weapons like crossbows (roughly 1 mark, obviously depending on the type) and armor which could be anywhere from 2-10 marks or more, not to mention horses and so on.

Depending on the rules in the county or region (remembering there were effectively something like 500 or 1,000 different governments in the Holy Roman Empire alone) a wealthier class of peasant might own anywhere from 2-4 hides of land typically - each hide is 40 acres. Some wealthier peasants even had coats of arms in some areas. Conversely, a lot of Gemran knights were considered serfs (see ministerialis)

A poorer peasant (yokel) might own 1/2 hide to 1 hide. One hide was considered sufficient to support a family. Even a churl or serf could own some land, either a small garden plot or up to 1/2 hide. Today by contrast most of us own very little land so what does that make us in terms of wealth?

The poorest class of peasant were day-laborers and sharecroppers who really had nothing. They might be too poor for a sword, but it's unclear how many there were in that state. Wars put people into those kinds of circumstances when they became refugees for example.

The other factor determining serfdom was do you really own your land or not and could it be taken away, and also how much rent or tribute, and how much obligatory labor were you required to provide to the regional Lord in order to work the land. This is one of the things that was changing in the early 1500's.

The final factor is rights to which arms (and so-called 'armiger' status) was a major aspect. In some areas the peasants had been more or less disarmed and were no longer 'warlike' - these peasants or serfs would be much poorer and might not have armor but even they seemed to be able to afford a sword or a messer. I'm not sure a messer would cost a lot more than a bauernwehr anyway, it depends on how well made they were, how old etc. A lot of times the expense seemed to come from things like fancy scabbards and so on.

Quote:

To finish for now, what's the difference between a Grossemesser and a Kriegsmesser? I know the Langesmesser is a hand-and-half sword, and the Kriegs' a two-handed one. Also, in a Osprey's Book about the War of Roses the english foot is sometimes represented with this styles of messers, do you think this Bauernwehr had some popularity outside Germany or it's just an illustrator error?


I think all those are more or less modern terms, or at least in the sense of how precisely we try to use them to make strict categories. Many times they would just be called 'messer' or 'sword' in period documents. Sometimes people are more precise but not that often to my experience.

I think messer like weapons existed all over Europe though there appear to have been regional variations. Don't forget German artisans (especially during their journeyman years), merchants nobles and clerics traveled widely around Europe and beyond.

J

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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Fri 22 Nov, 2019 9:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

One other way to look at this, is the difference between property rights today vs. in the 15th and 16th Centuries.

Today, if you own say 80 acres of land, you probably own everything about the land. You can hunt and fish in it, you can use firewood you gather there, you can log the trees, dig a well on it, farm the land or allow animals to forage on it. You can build anything you want on it (within reason). You can mine under it. Today it's possible you might have sold the mineral rights to someone else but that is pretty rare.

In the early 16th Century it was rarely so cut and dry. You, a peasant or a low ranking noble, might 'own' 80 acres of land, but the abbot of a distant convent controls a chapel on your land and he is entitled to half of the proceeds from two apple orchards on the chapel grounds. By "owning" the land where the chapel resides you owe this abbot the equivalent of five days of labor per month to tend to the orchard and the associated apiary. Someone else - another convent perhaps, owns the wax and honey produced by the bees which once again you must supply labor to collect. A count who lives in a castle on a nearby hill ('count A') is by long tradition owed a half share of all logging in the forests on 'your' 80 aces - as well as the right to control how many trees are cut.

So if you want to build a new barn you have to ask his permission first and then give him half the logs you felled. Or he may claim half or all the hunting and fishing rights on the land. In addition, that count has the right to claim from you as the land owner of these 80 acres, an armed and armored man (maybe you, maybe one of your sons or nephews) during times of strife, to remain in the field for up to 21 days per year. For another two weeks per year, every year, you are obligated to provide laborers to work on this counts defenses, to help shore up his walls and dig out his moats. Meanwhile a nearby town claims the right to travel down a path which crosses your land. And the right to some of the water that might come out of a spring on it (to power a water mill). If you dam it up to make a carp pond and / or run your own mill, they will send the militia to visit you. Another more distant count 'B' claims (again, by long tradition) the rights to anything mined from under your property. All of these could be controlled partly or wholly by several different other people or institutions.

If some salt is found under your land, count A and B may get into a fight about their competing rights to it, and either one of them might burn your house as part of a feud. Or either or both of them might get into a feud with the town by robbing merchants on the path that crosses your land, which could escalate into a regional war in which the whole area is devastated and you then become a refugee.

Meanwhile, if and when you finally manage to harvest this years crop of rye on your land, you are obligated to use the counts mill to grind it into flour, which charges twice as much per bushel as the towns mill does a bit further down the road.

What ownership actually meant was shifting at that time, in the early 16th Century. Obligations of 4 or 5 days of labor were being changed to 8 or 10 days. Military obligations were increasing or being turned into cash payments. In particular common land traditionally shared by rural communities, like forests and hilltop grazing areas, were being claimed by princes armed with lawyers. Relatively minor obligations were changed into more draconian ones. The burdens associated with land 'ownership' increased, the benefits and revenues decreased. And that all made it harder to make a living. And gradually turned a free peasant, even a fairly rich one, back into a serf.

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Pedro Paulo Gaião




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Nov, 2019 9:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
Peasants did sometimes become artists of course but usually as part of a process of moving into the town as young apprentices, or at least the close orbit of the town, thereby basically shifting estates from Bauer to Burgher (and for the most skilled and luckiest, sometimes from Burgher to Courtier).


What exactly was a courtier? Like in the sense of a noblemen and his court of followers?

Quote:
Historically it seemed like whereas broadly speaking the best heavy cavalry came feudal nobility, the best gunners and marksmen from towns, and the best light cavalry from nomads, though city states also had good infantry, a lot of times the best infantry seemed to originate from peasants. Most Landsknechts were recruited from peasants in places like Swabia. A lot of the Swiss infantry, though controlled by towns such as Bern and Zurich, was made up of rural dwellers. Same for a lot of the Bohemian infantry. So we know peasants could fight if they were armed and organized right.


That could explain why most of the descriptions of Landsknecht usually show them armed with just a pike and a katzsbalger? Reading some Osprey's books I thought most of the human resources for the Landsknechts came from universitarian, burghers and people who could have both the means and the discipline to be in their formation, so I fought their main background was "middle class".

Also, Switzerland wasn't just about poor and rural cantons. I can remember at least Basel, Constance, Zurich and (later) Geneva that were considered rich cities. At least there was a local relevant armor production in one of these (in Basel, I guess), though we don't have enough information on the traits and marks of Swiss/Savoyard that made them different from Italian and other European styles, like what we have with France.
The Swiss people might be different from other folks for being, as far I'm aware, mandatory training with weapons promoted by the municipal authorities. I also read from a Binz's book that an excommunication in Switzerland prevented you from serving in the army and in the militia.

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
The fight may have been part of a long-running feud between two peasant clans, it may not have been as violent as portrayed (I think in the big woodcut you can see someones hand has been cut off). But then again maybe it was. It's hard to say, as Michael noted we don't often get to see portrayals like this by the peasants themselves.


Did peasants had clans like the Scottish Nobility?
--------------------

Anthony Clipsom wrote:
Quote:
Also, in a Osprey's Book about the War of Roses the english foot is sometimes represented with this styles of messers, do you think this Bauernwehr had some popularity outside Germany or it's just an illustrator error?


Are you sure you are not confusing the short falchions or early hangers that English infantry carried? The hilt style is more elaborate.



Yes, like this one. Though it doesn't seen like falchions I'm used, ie Conyers and Thorpe falchions. I mean, this falchion has a point and the blade isn't particularly large. I not negating this existed, but the design is so different.

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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Fri 29 Nov, 2019 10:19 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
Though it doesn't seen like falchions I'm used, ie Conyers and Thorpe falchions. I mean, this falchion has a point and the blade isn't particularly large. I not negating this existed, but the design is so different.


They are sometimes called Wakefield hangers, after a famous example from the battlefield at Wakefield (though this, of course, may have no relation to the battle itself). Here are some comparative examples.


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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sat 30 Nov, 2019 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pedro Paulo Gaião wrote:

What exactly was a courtier? Like in the sense of a noblemen and his court of followers?


Yes, the courtier had become something of an estate of it's own in Latin Europe by the 15th Century, though of course it was already around for many centuries, going back to Rome and before that.

The role of the courtier was largely codified in the 16th Century, notably in a book by Baldassare Castiglione, Il Cortegiano

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Book_of_the_Courtier

Quote:

That could explain why most of the descriptions of Landsknecht usually show them armed with just a pike and a katzsbalger? Reading some Osprey's books I thought most of the human resources for the Landsknechts came from universitarian, burghers and people who could have both the means and the discipline to be in their formation, so I fought their main background was "middle class".


Though there were 'middle class' landsknechts, most were recruited, especially in the early days, from poor peasants and serfs out of Swabia specifically. Some of course came from other areas. The original creation of the landsknechts as a sort of official entity under Maximillian is well documented. He hired experienced Swiss veterans to train the Swabian peasants, and to create a system for training them. This was later exported to Iberia incidentally after the Hapsburgs merged with the Royal family of Castille -where the same methods were introduced to recruit well trained infantry, precursors to the Tercios, largely from poor regions like Estremadura.

The use of the katzbalger as a sidearm by landsknechts became a characteristic trait and an identifying mark (something which differentiated them from the Swiss who more commonly used baselards and / or longswords). But I don't think the reason necessarily had to do with social class or estates.

Quote:

Also, Switzerland wasn't just about poor and rural cantons. I can remember at least Basel, Constance, Zurich and (later) Geneva that were considered rich cities.


Re-read my post - I was referring specifically to peasants in the hinterlands of Bern and Zurich which were the two dominant city-states of the Swiss confederation for most of it's history. Some other others you mentioned were not in the Swiss confederation in the 15th Century. Swiss history is complex.

The earliest cantons, in the East, were rural, but for most of it's history the Swiss Confederation was largely dominated by a handful of self-managed towns and yes, they were fairly prosperous. Militarily successful towns like Bern had large hinterlands with many villages and rural settlements, who they in many cases considered their subjects, and they required these people to serve in the Bern militia.

Quote:

The Swiss people might be different from other folks for being, as far I'm aware, mandatory training with weapons promoted by the municipal authorities. I also read from a Binz's book that an excommunication in Switzerland prevented you from serving in the army and in the militia.


I'm not sure they were so unique in the sense of training - every town militia certainly did and most princes required their subjects to do so as well. The thing is medieval training looks very different from what we expect from a modern perspective. The first (post Roman) examples of drill, as we would recognize training by today's standards, do indeed show up in the Swiss Confederation, in the hinterland of Bern. But you have to keep in mind, each canton in Switzerland, and each town or valley, had it's own governance. It was not a monolithic State in the modern sense, or even a kingdom.

Quote:
Did peasants had clans like the Scottish Nobility?


Yes, of course. Even in Scotland Wink


J

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