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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2021 12:07 pm    Post subject: Welsh longbows were a Victorian myth?         Reply with quote

I do not make this assertion myself, but it was asserted rather insistently by somebody else in another thread. I'd interested to explore this subject. Lets start with why is it a myth, and according to whom?
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2021 1:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Yew longbows have been used all over Europe since the Mesolithic period (the best early example is Oetzi). Most of the longbowmen that the English used in their armies have always been English. It wasn't a weapon or culture that was adopted from the Welsh. The Welsh certainly used the weapon but the English (and Scots and Irish) had been using it for just as long.
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2021 2:54 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Clifford J. Rogers briefly deals with the history of the longbow in a paper called: The development of the longbow in late medieval England and ‘technological determinism’

Citing some of the key paragraphs:

Quote:
In the distinguished volume on the Great warbow he co-authored with Robert Hardy, Strickland – building on earlier work by Jim Bradbury and Sir James Holt—argued that the shift from the shortbow to the longbow cannot have had any consequences whatsoever, for the simple reason that it never happened. His conclusion is that ‘the shortbow as a specific category of weapon forming an important forerunner of the longbow simply did not exist.’ He accepted Jim Bradbury’s statement that ‘longbows in the eleventh century might have been about 5 ft in length, gradually increasing to become about 6 ft by the fifteenth century’, but nonetheless believed (like Bradbury) that ‘the self-bow employed by the archers throughout the medieval period was essentially the same weapon.’ Kelly DeVries and John France have concurred with the view that longbows were the normal form of self-bow throughout the middle ages, rather than being a development of the late thirteenth or early fourteenth century. Strickland made his case sufficiently convincingly that no less an authority than Michael Prestwich, in his review of The great warbow, wrote that ‘The myth that [the longbow] was a new weapon developed in the later middle ages, replacing an earlier “shortbow”, is effectively and surely finally demolished.’ Still, having carefully considered Strickland’s evidence and arguments, I contend that his revisionist stance is incorrect, and that the longbow, which first saw widespread use only in the fourteenth century, was indeed a different and significantly more effective weapon than the shorter bows common before then.


...

Quote:
From a combination of archaeological and documentary evidence we know for certain that within the British Isles shortbows were in military use in the period around 1200; that medium bows were in use in 1297; and that both medium bows and longbows were in use in 1313. We also know that by the late fourteenth century, it could be presumed that English military archers would use ‘longbowes’ and yard-long arrows. Two questions remain open, however: whether longbows were in use in England alongside shortbows and medium bows all along, and if not, the point at which they first came into use.

From the time of the first scholarly discussions of the development of the longbow, artistic depictions of bows, for example those in the main panel of the Bayeux Tapestry, were cited as one principal reason for concluding that the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans, and the thirteenth-century Welsh employed shortbows (including what are in this article termed medium bows). Not only do the artistic depictions of the eleventh century seem to show only bows of the short and medium classes, they also usually show arrows being drawn to the chest rather than to the ear, which was rightly taken by Oman and Morris as indicating a relatively short draw, which could be accommodated by an ordinary bow, rather than a draw to the ear of over 30 in., for which a self-bow of at least the near-longbow class would be required.

Strickland, however, has argued that the iconographic evidence is so unreliable as to be almost useless before the late thirteenth century, because of the small skill and limited concern with naturalistic use of proportion of medieval artists before that time. ‘In reality’, Strickland concludes (and DeVries agrees) ‘what changed from the thirteenth century was not the bow itself, but rather the manner in which many artists depicted bows, with an increasing stress on proportion and naturalism.’ Moreover, Strickland argues, ‘depictions of bows which are proportionally longbows occur before the period of the supposed technical development under Edward I.’


...

Quote:
Historians who have argued for the prevalence of ordinary bows rather than longbows in Britain from Anglo-Saxon times past the middle of the thirteenth century have often referred in support of this view to the images of the Bayeux Tapestry, and to the depictions of Welsh bowmen in the margins of the Littere Wallie, as Strickland notes. But those are merely examples of the iconographic evidence, not the sum of it. What is needed, but still lacking in the literature, is a thorough and well-documented survey and assessment of the artistic evidence for the development of the bow in the western European middle ages. In order to write the present article a preliminary assessment of the evidence was made: I have now collected around a thousand images of bows in medieval art.99 The bow as depicted in art matches quite closely the pattern suggested by the limited archaeological and documentary evidence. Before the fourteenth century there are many clear depictions of various sorts of shortbows; a good number of renderings of medium bows, especially from the twelfth century; and a few depictions of bows that might be (but probably are not) depictions of near-longbows or longbows. Unambiguous depictions of near-longbows or longbows between the tenth century and the fourteenth are exceedingly rare. Only one unambiguous depiction of a longbow-length bow from that era has been identified, compared to several hundred portrayals of short-to-medium bows. Moreover, the one exception (from the twelfth-century Stuttgart Passionale) is not a classic longbow and because of its shape would have been little or no more powerful than a more typical contemporary medium bow. It is in any case shown with a short arrow and a two-fingered draw to the chest.100 There are also some bows that look to be longbows in the lower margin of the Bayeux Tapestry, but these examples are not clear-cut: the marginal figures are small and their proportions distorted. The artists of the Tapestry made six depictions of bows in the main panel, where proportions are more carefully and consistently rendered, and these are all clearly ordinary bows. Moreover, the bows on the Tapestry are shown as drawn with two fingers, and to the chest.

Despite the traditional view that the rise of the longbow was closely related to Edward I’s Welsh wars (1277–92), even in the last quarter of the thirteenth century there is no change in the artistic depiction of bows. Both English and Continental manuscript illuminations continue to depict a variety of shortbows and medium bows, but offer no unambiguous portrayals of longbows, or even near-longbows. That changes rather suddenly and dramatically in the early fourteenth century. Although ordinary bows continue to appear frequently in English manuscript illuminations, alongside them there are now clear images of both transitional bows and true longbows (Plate 3a, b and c). Some of the manuscripts containing these illuminations cannot be dated more precisely than the first quarter of the fourteenth century, but what may be the earliest, dated c.1305, already shows a true longbow, employed with a very long, three-fingered draw. Into the middle of the fourteenth century, in English manuscripts, ordinary bows continue to be depicted frequently – often with the same artist depicting both longbows and ordinary bows. Thereafter, longbows predominate in English art, though shorter bows do also continue to be shown. In Continental art, however, ordinary bows continue to be the norm, even in scenes of warfare, at least until the second half of the fifteenth century. Thus, the iconographic evidence provides confirmation for the traditional belief that for two centuries or more following the Norman Conquest the bows used in England, like those used elsewhere, were normally short or medium bows, not longbows. Indeed, the iconographic evidence, in combination with the documentary evidence, suggests that the rise of the longbow may have been even later and more rapid that was previously believed – possibly beginning, and probably gaining real momentum, only in the reign of Edward II (1307–27), rather than that of Edward I.


While I do agree with Dan in that archeological evidence shows bows six feet in length have been around nearly forever their military usage in Medieval Europe was probably quite marginal prior to the 14th century.
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Jean Henri Chandler




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2021 4:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

But do we have any reason to suspect that long bow use was rare or unknown in Wales or that longbow archers from Wales weren't used as mercenaries?
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2021 6:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
But do we have any reason to suspect that long bow use was rare or unknown in Wales or that longbow archers from Wales weren't used as mercenaries?


To clarify the first point, since I was somewhat ambiguous, the myth is not that the Welsh didn't have "long" bows, but that the "Welsh" longbows were an uberweapon that completely outclassed the short and weak English bows. At the same time, the myth runs that only Edward I was smart enough to see the advantage in these bows and to completely wipe out the use of shortbows in English service, paving the way for English dominance in the HYW.

One the second point, I don't know where you're coming from, and that was certainly no argument of mine.

I'll go over the evidence tomorrow, after I've finished an assignment.
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Dan Howard




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2021 6:42 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Longbows have always been six feet long. The Oetzi bow is over five thousand years old and is 183cm in length - and Oetzi Man was only 160cm (5'2") tall. There is nothing apart from some dodgy illustrations to suggest that military longbows were ever any shorter. There was no appreciable development of the weapon. The only things that evolved were the tactics that the English used to deploy it and the social engineering required to produce enough archers for those tactics to be effective.
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Sun 28 Mar, 2021 7:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Longbows have always been six feet long. The Oetzi bow is over five thousand years old and is 183cm in length - and Oetzi Man was only 160cm (5'2") tall. There is nothing apart from some dodgy illustrations to suggest that military longbows were ever any shorter. There was no appreciable development of the weapon. The only things that evolved were the tactics that the English used to deploy it and the social engineering required to produce enough archers for those tactics to be effective.


This is not strictly true.

Nydam Bows

Catalog Number Overall Length Effective Length
1423 1978 1863
1424 1804 1699
1425 1905 1805
1426 1912 1797
1427 1810 1670
1428 1845 1733
1429 1765 1675
1430 1805 1698
1431 1744 1620
1432 1880 1805
1433 1870 1774
1434 1803 1653
1435 1850 1799
1438 1896 1768
1439 1808 1703
1440 1821 1739
1441 1735 1618
1442 1720 1613
1443 1930 1823
1444 1740 1633
1445 1730 1623
1447 1750 1643
1448 1850 1743
1449 1900 1793
1450 1950 1843
1452 1800 1693

(The "effective length" is the nock to nock length)

Of the three thickest bows (1442, 1445 and 1424), only 1424 is 180cm long, and the NTN length is less than 170cm. They're also the three most powerful bows and, by my estimate, would draw between 85 and 100lbs@28" if made with average quality pacific yew and maybe 100-120lbs@28" if made with average quality European yew

Illerup Adal Bows

Catalog Number Overall Length Effective Length
Illerup Adal (KAIH) 1770 1663
Illerup Adal (KAIK (VKF)) 1665 1558

You might want to disqualify the second bow as a "long" bow, because I'm fairly sure it would only be drawing 26-27", but it's also the thicker of the two and probably drew upwards of 110lbs@26" even with pacific yew.

Vimose Bows

Catalog Number Overall Length Effective Length
Vimose 1 1785 1678
Vimose 2 1695 1588

Other "Long" Bows

The Leeuwarden-Heechterp and Aalsum bows had an effective length of 1540mm and 1600mm, respectively, and OALs of 170cm and 168cm, while the Wremen-Fallward bow was 180cm OAL.

To these can be added the Altdorf bow, with an OAL of c.170cm, and the Oberflacht Bows, whose OALs ranged between 165 and 190cm, but which were found with arrows allowing only a 24" draw length.

The Hedeby and Ballinderry bows were by far the longest, at 1915mm and 1900mm, respectively, making them the only Early Medieval bows to approach the Mary Rose bows in OAL, although the effective length was about 2" shorter than the MR bows would be, since horn nocks only require a reduction of 2" vs 4" for self nocks.

"Short" Bows

In addition to the "long" bows listed above are the three from Waterford (one complete, two partial), the Burg Elmendorf bow, the Wassenaar bow, the Pineuihl bow and the Mikulčice, which are all less than 160cm in length, although only the Wassenaar and Waterford can strictly speaking be identified as military bows.

I'll go more into draw lengths, changes in socket diameter and textual evidence later. For now, there's almost all the archaeological evidence for bows I know of, and all that I have to hand.
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2021 1:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I await Jonathon's detailed argument but I did some research on this a couple of years ago and found there is no actual evidence that the Welsh used a "long" bow at all. A distinctive and powerful bow, yes, but long is not a described characteristic.

I look forward to what Jonathon has found and set it alongside what I dug up.

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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Mon 29 Mar, 2021 2:43 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dan Howard wrote:
Longbows have always been six feet long. The Oetzi bow is over five thousand years old and is 183cm in length - and Oetzi Man was only 160cm (5'2") tall. There is nothing apart from some dodgy illustrations to suggest that military longbows were ever any shorter. There was no appreciable development of the weapon. The only things that evolved were the tactics that the English used to deploy it and the social engineering required to produce enough archers for those tactics to be effective.


That would be about a thousand dodgy illustrations according to Rogers.

If you have access to a scholarly library I think you would appreciate the article because it makes quite the case for 'short' bow usage on battlefields.
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Dashiell Harrison




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PostPosted: Wed 31 Mar, 2021 10:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
But do we have any reason to suspect that long bow use was rare or unknown in Wales or that longbow archers from Wales weren't used as mercenaries?


We certainly have evidence to the contrary. As early as the 12th century Gerald of Wales was writing about the awesome power of the Welsh bow which he describes being able to punch through the armor that the Norman soldiers were wearing.
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Anthony Clipsom




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Apr, 2021 5:24 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dashiell Harrison wrote:
Jean Henri Chandler wrote:
But do we have any reason to suspect that long bow use was rare or unknown in Wales or that longbow archers from Wales weren't used as mercenaries?


We certainly have evidence to the contrary. As early as the 12th century Gerald of Wales was writing about the awesome power of the Welsh bow which he describes being able to punch through the armor that the Norman soldiers were wearing.


To repeat, there is no evidence that the Welsh used the longbow before it was widespread in England in the 14th century. We can make the assumption "powerful" = "longbow", but it is not evidence.

Back in 1885, Charles Oman was able to say there were "reasons to believe" the longbow was borrowed from the South Welsh , who were equipped with it before 1150. These reasons, given the date, probably related to Gerald of Wales testimony. I've not made a major study of it, but Oman gives the impression that a common theory of his time attributed the longbow to the Normans and he was stating a counter position. Who made the assumption of Welsh origin before Oman, or whether he originated it, I don't know, but it certainly wasn't considered a hard-and-fast historical fact at the time. Jonathon may have a more scholarly take on this that can provide more details.

Anthony Clipsom
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Clifford Rogers





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Apr, 2021 1:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

As Anthony said, the presumption that the longbow was of Welsh origin seems mainly to have been based on Gerald's description of its power.... which is indicative of a longbow, but then, Gerald was a definite tale-teller, and it is possible for an unusually stiff short bow to penetrate mail at short range. The main evidence indicating that the Welsh actually used short bows rather than long bows (much less longbows) is twofold. First, the famous, albeit cartoonish, illustrations from the Littere Wallie, which show powerful but short bows. (http://warfare.gq/13/Chapter_House-Liber_A.htm) Second, the bows and the arrowheads (with relatively narrow sockets) found in Ireland in Anglo-Norman contexts. Welsh footsoldiers were the main type of infantry used by the Anglo-Norman marchers in their initial conquest of parts of Ireland. One might add that there is close to zero evidence, and no good evidence, for long bows (more than about 5') anywhere in Britain (or Western Europe) between around 1000 and 1300. The old Germanic (and earlier) tradition of long bows from around 700 to 1000 seems only to have been retained in the Viking/Scandinvian context (e.g. the Balinderry bow). A possible exception for 700 to 1000 is the Wassenar bow, dated 800-950 and estimated original length 180-190cm. Found in Holland, given those dates it might or might not be of Viking origin.
Clifford J. Rogers


Last edited by Clifford Rogers on Thu 01 Apr, 2021 1:23 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Clifford Rogers





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Apr, 2021 1:13 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:


If you have access to a scholarly library I think you would appreciate the article because it makes quite the case for 'short' bow usage on battlefields.


Thanks, Pieter B. Happy

Clifford J. Rogers
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Thu 01 Apr, 2021 3:07 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Mr. Rogers

Great seeing you here and I would like to say I also very much enjoyed reading 'Gunpowder Artillery in Europe, 1326–1500: Innovation and Impact' and very much look forward to seeing 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster. The Evolution of Cannon Design, 1326-1453'

I hadn't considered the small powder charges when looking at earlier short barreled bombards but now I realize they might well have been an optimal design for 'powder economy' in the early days followed by longer barreled designs as the supply increased.

I wonder if you could recommend any work that deals with this same evolution in handgun design (1400-1453) and earlier pot-de-fer usage. Those little 'coehorn mortar' type guns don't seem to get a lot of attention despite similar designs being in use in east Asia for centuries.
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Thu 01 Apr, 2021 10:46 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alright, I've made some time to post this.

The idea that there was a distinct evolution from a "short" bow that was used in the Early Middle Ages through to the end of the 13th century is an old one. I admit that I haven't read much from before the late 19th century on the subject, but I do know that Viollet-le-Duc proposed a five foot bow which was used by the Normans that eventually evolved into a six foot bow used by the English (and, if I'm reading him right, the archers of Brabant) at the end of the 13th century. Later, he writes of bows that were 1.9-2 meters long in the later 15th century, and he sees it all as a progress.

Most of this was based on artwork. A lot of the most important archaeological finds hadn't been made yet, so he was working with what he had. The Tympanum at Vezelay had a number of realistically proportioned figures, one of which was an archer, and Viollet-le-Duc cross referenced this with the Bayeux Tapestry, which features archers with similarly proportioned bows in the main section. Later artwork, as Professor Rogers has found, does indeed feature bows that are proportionally larger than earlier bows, and this transition happens throughout the 14th and 15th centuries.

Where my knowledge of the discussion really picks up is with Oman's famous 1885 dissertation, where he rationalised that, since the Anglo-Norman kings preferred crossbowmen over archers, the Clearly Superior in All Ways Longbow hadn't yet been developed. As Anthony says, Oman did suggest that Gerald of Wales' description of the power of Welsh longbows might point to Wales as a possible origin but, at the same time, he notes that it was the northern, not western, areas of England that appeared to have the archery tradition early on. He then goes on to suggest that the longbow was first adopted as a "national" weapon under Henry III in 1252 but that it was only Edward I who, through his long history fighting the Welsh, brought the use of the longbow to a "scientific" level, like William the Conqueror. Here it's interesting to note that Oman believed the longbow to be in existence by 1252 and that it was the experience of fighting against capable archers that led to its massed adoption, rather than the experience of fighting against the Welsh leading Edward I to adopt the longbow wholesale.

Forty years later, Oman slightly modified his arguments by adding evidence from the First and Second Barons Wars, where significant numbers of archers were raised from the Weald and, at least in 1216, did considerable damage to knights in a guerilla campaign that even contemporary chroniclers had to acknowledge. I personally get the feeling that Oman was reluctant to accept a "French" (via the Normans) or a "Welsh" longbow because he preferred the longbow to be an English national weapon.

Hereford B. George, in his 1895 book Battles of English History, also had a brief discussion on the longbow that must have been well known at the time, as Delbruck refers to it in the third volume of his History of the Art of War. His position is not much different from Oman's, and is likely based on it, affirming that the Normans used shortbows and that, although the evidence is slim, Wales is a possible place of origin for the longbow.

J.E. Morris' The Welsh Wars of Edward I is, in my opinion, where the view that the English replaced their "weak short bow, which was then held of no account" with the "powerful longbow" that they adopted from the Welsh came into popular being. He names Edward I as the populariser, and points to the allied Welsh as the seed from which Edward I grew his corps of longbowmen, but does stress (pp. 99) that the longbow was not a new weapon in the 1270s and had already been adopted by some English prior to Edward I. Up until this point authors had hedged their bets as to where the longbow came from, but Morris is unequivocal: even if the English adopted it before Edward I's reign, they adopted it from the Welsh.

After Morris, the idea that the longbow was specifically Welsh and was either generically adopted from them or was specifically adopted by Edward I predominates, as can be seen in The discussions in J.F. Verbruggen's The Art of Warfare in Western Europe During the Middle Ages and Oakeshott's Archaeology of Weapons. It's a view that can even been recently, as in Brian Todd Carey's Warfare in the Medieval World.

From the 1970s, though, Morris' narrative was challenged. Robert Hardy's Longbow argued that the longbow had always remained in use in England and that, even if it hadn't, the Scandinavians and the Normans would have reintroduced it. Hardy, in addition to the archaeological evidence from Scandinavia and Scandinavian controlled parts of Ireland, used a few instances of artwork (including the lower margins of the Bayeux Tapestry) to back up his arguments. Bradbury, in The Medieval Archer also argued that there was no evidence that the English lacked the longbow or that they adopted it from the Welsh.

However, Bradbury also challenges the view that Edward I's use of archers was exceptional or new. In this he was picking up and expanding on a point raised by Michael Prestwich in Wars, Politics and Finance under Edward I, but Bradbury used a combination of legal and administrative documents from Henry II on to demonstrate a continued use of archers and of civilian practice from the second half of the 12th to the end of the 13th centuries. If they don't feature much in 13th century chronicles, Bradbury argues, that has more to do with a general lack of reference to the equipment of the infantry in chronicles of that period, except where they were specialised. Moreover, he agrees with Prestwich that Edward I's use of archers was not particularly new or innovative, although he is less overtly critical about the quality of the archers under Edward I.

Then, in 2005, Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy published The Great Warbow, with Strickland writing most of the academic content. As with Hardy's earlier work and Bradbury's book, Strickland reiterates that the longbow existed in England before Edward I and that it was not adopted by the Welsh. He is somewhat more in favour of Edward I having introduced some tactical changes, but proposes the Scottish Wars rather than the Welsh Wars as the origin of these. He also uses archaeological evidence to support the notion of an eternal longbow and spends time critically discussing medieval artwork and stylistic choices with regards to bows.

So, from the 1970s down to 2005 we have the main works on archery a) dismissing the notion of a shortbow existing, b) arguing that the English practiced archery and didn't need to adopt it from the Welsh and c) that Edward I didn't really change anything insofar as battlefield tactics go. Some scholars, such as Michael Prestwich, go so far as to portray the archers under Edward I as being poorly equipped and of poor quality, as Edward I did not provide for replacement bows or arrows as he did crossbows and bolts, or as Edward III would do later, as well as the high desertion rates and the possibility that the archers had to resort to stones at Falkirk.

There are a few flies in the ointment so far as longbows vs shortbows goes. Numerous fragments of bows, including one complete bow and what is likely the halves of two more, were found at Waterford, Ireland, and the complete bow can be positively identified as coming from an Anglo-Norman context. As a very short arrow (allowing for a draw of approximately 22 inches) with a bodkin head was also found in an Anglo-Norman context and numerous other arrowheads with a similar design have been found, these bows are unarguably military bows. A similar, but unfinished and probably discarded, style of bow was uncovered at Burg Elmendorf and is likely, in my opinion, to be a military bow, while a third bow from Pineuilh, France, may be a hunting weapon but is still made along the same style.

Additionally, some reassessment of the English legal texts have shortened the length of bows from the late 13th and early 14th centuries. As I've written elsewhere, there's very good evidence to suggest that the "ell" used by Edward I was the same as the yard (3 feet or 36 inches), which means that the bow used to kill Simon de Skeffington, described as being one and a half ells, was 137cm long rather than 171cm long, as has been long assumed. Similarly, the bow of two ells used to kill Robert de Esnyngton would be 183cm long instead of 228cm long, while the "Turkish" bow used in the same murdered would have been 137cm long as well.

Two authors have been instrumental in bringing the Waterford bows into more mainstream scholarship (although they were not as obscure before this as fans of the longbow would prefer) and in reassessing the length of the ell under Edward I. The first, Professor Clifford J. Rogers, has already been mentioned and has appeared in this thread. He's been a proponent of there being an increase in draw length since the early 1990s, and has often been at odds with scholars such as Kelly DeVries over the effectiveness of military archery. The second, Richard Wadge, has put out a few excellent books on medieval archery and warfare, but Who Were the Bowmen of Crecy is the work most relevant to the discussion here.

Both authors have slightly different approaches. Rogers uses artwork, the legal records, two French hunting books and the Waterford bows to inform his discussion about the mechanics of archery and the advantage in energy that would be gained by increasing the drawn length even from 28" to 30", which would impart significantly more energy. Wadge also examines similar evidence, although limits himself to the period before 1346, and also spends more time looking at the socket diameters of arrowheads, which are a much better guide to the relative power of the bows than artwork.

In neither case, however, do the authors suggest that the Welsh had "long" bows, while the English had "short" bows and adopted the Welsh bows. Both authors are actually quite clear that there appears to be no evidence of any difference in the bows, based on archaeological evidence. Arrowheads in England and Wales both appear to have the same range of socket diameters during the 13th century, and the full adoption of "proper" longbows must have taken place in the 14th century based on the written evidence.

Moving away from the historiography surrounding the longbow and whether or not it was "Welsh", I want to briefly elaborate what I said the other day with regards to bows and draw lengths.

As I posted earlier, we have the lengths of a significant number of Scandinavia from the Iron Age to the end of the Early Middle Ages. Generally speaking, the most powerful of these were comparatively short compared with the Mary Rose bows, all being less than 180cm long and most being closer to 170cm. This is the overall length, however, and slightly over 10cm is lost to self nocks in each bow, so the working length of each bow is shortened by that much. Generally speaking, unbacked self bows, especially those that lack a rectangular cross section, need to be at least 2.2 times as long between the nocks as the draw length. As a result, any bow less than 168cm between the nocks is unlikely to be drawn to 30", at least on a regular basis.

The fact that so few of these powerful historic bows are 168cm or more between the nocks is probably not a coincidence. At just a fraction over 5'7", approximately the average height for Europeans across a broad range of pre-modern eras, drawing to 28" gets me to my ear, and 30" has me drawing uncomfortably far past it. P.H. Blythes' discussion on the mechanics of bows in Hardy's Longbow indicates that from an energy storage point of a view, any bow over 180cm needs to have a draw length exceeding 28" in order to get any advantage from the extra length. If you can't comfortably draw past 28", why bother making an extra long bow? And, if it's going to be for war, why make it particularly long?

There's some supporting evidence for this attitude, I think, in two sources. The first is Gaston Phébus' Livre de Chasse, which describes an "English" bow that is 20 "handfuls" between the nocks, which are interestingly enough each one inch long, with an arrow that is 8 "handfuls" long between the nock and the barbs of the arrowhead. I've checked with three separate people, as well as myself, whose heights range between 5'5" and 6', and a "handful" almost always comes out as 3.5". In one case the handful came out at 3.25", not far of Clifford J. Rogers' own hands, so the bow is likely to be between 67" and 72" overall, with a NTN length of 65-70", and a draw length of between 26" and 28". Although this is a hunting bow, not a military bow, it gives us some insight into what people could comfortably draw.

The second example comes from Edward IV's requirement that all Englishmen in Ireland should have bows of their own height (plus a fist?) between the nocks and arrows that were "three quarters of the standard". The standard being a yard, at least from the context of a later 15th century merchant book, the arrows were intended to draw 27" and the bows were probably intended to be between 165cm and 175cm, or possibly 172-180cm, between the nocks. The arrow length, however, is more important than the bow length, because it again gives some indication of what civilians habitually drew.

What I think happened is that, during the 14th century, horn nocks were introduced, allowing for slightly longer draw lengths (28-29" instead of 27-28") and eventually the bows were themselves lengthened to take advantage of the full 30" draw length. Overall lengths of bows in the 14th century, even the 22 "small" poigne bow of Henri de Ferričres (I assume a poigne of 3-3.25"), are shorter than 97% of the Mary Rose bows, so I think that this is a reasonable assumption, although the increased lengths might also have been to ensure a longer life/less chance of failure in the mass produced livery bows that Edward III started to put out. The increased length of the bows and the increased draw length combined to provide more stored energy and more energy imparted to the arrow, which I think may be as much the key to the general superiority of English archers as the draw weights of the bows.
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Clifford Rogers





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Apr, 2021 4:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Pieter B. wrote:
Hi Mr. Rogers

Great seeing you here and I would like to say I also very much enjoyed reading 'Gunpowder Artillery in Europe, 1326–1500: Innovation and Impact' and very much look forward to seeing 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster. The Evolution of Cannon Design, 1326-1453'
...

I wonder if you could recommend any work that deals with this same evolution in handgun design (1400-1453) and earlier pot-de-fer usage. Those little 'coehorn mortar' type guns don't seem to get a lot of attention despite similar designs being in use in east Asia for centuries.


The "Bigger, Stronger, Faster," won't add anything to the first article you mentioned, except some nice artwork. It's basically a short popularization of the academic study.

I haven't really researched the handgun side of it. In general, I don't think it would be possible to do the same kind of analysis about powder charges, because I don't think (I may be wrong) you have much if any documentary evidence for powder-per-shot in that period, and because the lack of a distinct powder chamber means you can't approach that question by measuring the volume of the powder chamber.

For the early guns, note they have much bigger powder chambers than a Coehorn mortar, and the dynamics of the explosion was very different because the powder was formulated differently (dry-mixed until the late fourteenth century, probably, and low saltpeter contents; then after around 1400, wet-mixed, still with low-saltpeter recipes, and loaded with a void in the powder chamber to allow expansion prior to explosion). I'm doing some more work on early powders and guns now. I have articles on the fourteenth-century gunpowder recipes in the last and in the forthcoming volumes of the JMMH. Here's a teaser for field tests of a short-barreled Steinbuechse, replica of a ca. 1400 gun: https://www.facebook.com/westpointhistory/videos/770425060431691


Cliff

Clifford J. Rogers
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Pieter B.





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Apr, 2021 6:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Clifford Rogers wrote:


I haven't really researched the handgun side of it. In general, I don't think it would be possible to do the same kind of analysis about powder charges, because I don't think (I may be wrong) you have much if any documentary evidence for powder-per-shot in that period, and because the lack of a distinct powder chamber means you can't approach that question by measuring the volume of the powder chamber.

For the early guns, note they have much bigger powder chambers than a Coehorn mortar, and the dynamics of the explosion was very different because the powder was formulated differently (dry-mixed until the late fourteenth century, probably, and low saltpeter contents; then after around 1400, wet-mixed, still with low-saltpeter recipes, and loaded with a void in the powder chamber to allow expansion prior to explosion). I'm doing some more work on early powders and guns now. I have articles on the fourteenth-century gunpowder recipes in the last and in the forthcoming volumes of the JMMH. Here's a teaser for field tests of a short-barreled Steinbuechse, replica of a ca. 1400 gun: https://www.facebook.com/westpointhistory/videos/770425060431691


Cliff


Some of the well known bronze pole mounted handguns such as those from Danzig, Tannenberg and Otepää have a slightly smaller chamber. Although without knowing the specific density of period serpentine or corned powder and exactly what type (and how many) bullets they fired I agree that the ratio might be hard to estimate.

I mentioned the Coehorn mortar not so much because of the tube design as it's weight and portability and likeness to some older Asian designs in those parameters. Something like the Loshult gun to the larger pre 1370 guns maxing out at around 54 kg seem a little too heavy to fire from the shoulder but within the capability of a two or three man crew to carry if it were simply laid on the ground or mounted in a wooden block/trestle. On the other hand mounting a single one of such barrels on a carriage or cart seems rather wasteful and would only make sense if you were to mount multiple on one cart a la ribaudkin.

Chinese and Korean guns of similar weight tend to be man portable and usually seem to have fired multiple smaller projectiles. Especially the angle at which it was laid (not horizontal) reminds me of a coehorn mortar.







Is there any indication the wrought iron steinbuchse were given iron staves or woodblock support that allowed for easy carrying and gave them an elevation? I also wonder how a single solid stone shot would measure up against multiple iron pellets fired from these early weapons.



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Chinese guns laid on the ground shooting multiple projectiles

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European 'buchse' in what is supposed to be an original wood block [ Download ]
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Clifford Rogers





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PostPosted: Fri 02 Apr, 2021 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is going far afield of the OP; suggest you start a new thread to discuss these questions.
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Dashiell Harrison




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PostPosted: Fri 02 Apr, 2021 11:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jonathan Dean wrote:
Alright, I've made some time to post this.

What I think happened is that, during the 14th century, horn nocks were introduced, allowing for slightly longer draw lengths (28-29" instead of 27-28") and eventually the bows were themselves lengthened to take advantage of the full 30" draw length. Overall lengths of bows in the 14th century, even the 22 "small" poigne bow of Henri de Ferričres (I assume a poigne of 3-3.25"), are shorter than 97% of the Mary Rose bows, so I think that this is a reasonable assumption, although the increased lengths might also have been to ensure a longer life/less chance of failure in the mass produced livery bows that Edward III started to put out. The increased length of the bows and the increased draw length combined to provide more stored energy and more energy imparted to the arrow, which I think may be as much the key to the general superiority of English archers as the draw weights of the bows.


Really informative and interesting post, Jonathan. I will confess to being a little bit confused by the physics of what you're describing here. Do you think you could explain to someone not especially well versed in the mechanics of archery how a horn knock facilitates a longer draw-length and why one would want to make the bow longer to "take advantage" of the longer draw length?

Thanks for your time!
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Jonathan Dean




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PostPosted: Sat 03 Apr, 2021 12:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dashiell Harrison wrote:
Jonathan Dean wrote:
Alright, I've made some time to post this.

What I think happened is that, during the 14th century, horn nocks were introduced, allowing for slightly longer draw lengths (28-29" instead of 27-28") and eventually the bows were themselves lengthened to take advantage of the full 30" draw length. Overall lengths of bows in the 14th century, even the 22 "small" poigne bow of Henri de Ferričres (I assume a poigne of 3-3.25"), are shorter than 97% of the Mary Rose bows, so I think that this is a reasonable assumption, although the increased lengths might also have been to ensure a longer life/less chance of failure in the mass produced livery bows that Edward III started to put out. The increased length of the bows and the increased draw length combined to provide more stored energy and more energy imparted to the arrow, which I think may be as much the key to the general superiority of English archers as the draw weights of the bows.


Really informative and interesting post, Jonathan. I will confess to being a little bit confused by the physics of what you're describing here. Do you think you could explain to someone not especially well versed in the mechanics of archery how a horn knock facilitates a longer draw-length and why one would want to make the bow longer to "take advantage" of the longer draw length?

Thanks for your time!


Bearing in mind that the mathematics escape my grasp and that I'm not a bowyer myself, here's my understanding:

Yew is a soft wood, so for higher power bows the self nock needs to be further down the stave, where the wood is thicker and less pressure is put on the tips. Horn nocks allow the string to be site closer to the tips because the horn prevents the string from "cutting" into the yew and damaging it that way.

I could be wrong there, and I'd welcome the opinion/correction of any bowyer.

As for the second part, again, I don't know the mathematics, but apparently modelling has shown that bows much over six feet aren't as efficient at a 28" draw as they are at a longer draw. I believe this is because any advantage you get from increased potential energy storage is lost in the decreased efficiency, possibly because the tip speed becomes slower and you're moving more mass over the same distance. If you increase the draw length, though, the tip speed can stay relatively constant, you have increased energy being imparted during the travel of the arrow and are exploiting the stored potential energy more efficiently.
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