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Amanda B.




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 10:09 pm    Post subject: Weapons and styles question         Reply with quote

Hello! I just wanted to say first that this is a wonderful site and it was a happy accident to stumble upon it! I have a great interest in medieval history, including military, and I've learned a ton just by reading through the forums.

I'm in the midst of a writing project, and although the setting is fantasy I have been doing a lot of research in the hopes of avoiding a noticeable error that knocks down the believeability of it all. Much of the early story takes place during a chevauchee through enemy territory, though the main characters are in the roles of non-nobles who are hired on as servants to a lower-ranking warrior. Many history books later I'm still having a hard time finding details on the "daily" life of a servant or even man-at-arms in an army on such a march, but that's to be expected...

My actual question is this: one of the characters has a background in what amounts to fencing. Obviously, a fencing sabre won't really hold up in a battle, and I was wondering if there were any actual battle weapons that could take advantage of such a formal style, while being stronger and not as liable to break while pitted against the more usual weapons of war. My instinct is telling me that he'd likely have to start over with a plain longsword, but I thought it would be worth asking first.

Many thanks!
Amanda
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Eric Allen




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 10:51 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I'm not sure I exactly understand what you mean by "formal style," but if you want something a little more --what's the word I'm looking for? swashbuckle-ly? Jaunty? Errol-Flynn-ey? Then, particularly in the Renaissance, there are quite a variety of swords that might fit what you want. Something suitable for military use, yet still--whatever the adjective I'm looking for--might be found in what are sometimes called the "cut-and-thrust" swords (a modern term, and one that some people do not like) or one of of broader-bladed "rapiers." Basically, check out the single-hand swords used by soldiers in the late 15th through the 16th century. And if you pair it with a buckler, well there you go.
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Amanda B.




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 10:59 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Eric Allen wrote:
I'm not sure I exactly understand what you mean by "formal style," but if you want something a little more --what's the word I'm looking for? swashbuckle-ly? Jaunty? Errol-Flynn-ey? Then, particularly in the Renaissance, there are quite a variety of swords that might fit what you want. Something suitable for military use, yet still--whatever the adjective I'm looking for--might be found in what are sometimes called the "cut-and-thrust" swords (a modern term, and one that some people do not like) or one of of broader-bladed "rapiers." Basically, check out the single-hand swords used by soldiers in the late 15th through the 16th century. And if you pair it with a buckler, well there you go.


Thanks! By formal I meant more of a fencing style, which has those certain moves to use. I know someone can't be literally fencing in a spontaneous battle if they want to live, but a lighter sword would obviously make more sense with a jab and thrust style than if you'd picked up a broadsword. I figured a rapier would be too light, but I'll look into those kinds of swords (cutlass? or is that totally different?) and see what they're like first.
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Stephen Hand




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 11:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dear Amanda,

By the way you're using the word fencing I assume you are thinking of something like modern sport fencing. Fencing is a contraction of defencing, or defending yourself. Fencing was originally a military art and we have fencing texts dating back 700 years. They are every bit as subtle as any modern fencing style (considerably more so than some of the sorry "hit before you get hit back" rubbish that passes for fencing these days). Any medieval melee weapon could be used with great skill and subtlety and one would expect the majority of professional soldiers to do so.

Cheers
Stephen

Stephen Hand
Editor, Spada, Spada II
Author of English Swordsmanship, Medieval Sword and Shield

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Amanda B.




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 11:17 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Stephen Hand wrote:
Dear Amanda,

By the way you're using the word fencing I assume you are thinking of something like modern sport fencing. Fencing is a contraction of defencing, or defending yourself. Fencing was originally a military art and we have fencing texts dating back 700 years. They are every bit as subtle as any modern fencing style (considerably more so than some of the sorry "hit before you get hit back" rubbish that passes for fencing these days). Any medieval melee weapon could be used with great skill and subtlety and one would expect the majority of professional soldiers to do so.

Cheers
Stephen


Hello! Yes, I was thinking more of the sport than the military usage, at least to start. The character is a painter whose hobby is "show-fighting" for the amusement of nobles, ie the sport fencing that is more about the display than the actual use. Thanks to the war going on he is forced to start fighting for real, but I'm unsure if he can actually use his past experience (and his sabre) this way and have it be plausible. I've looked at some online scans of military fencing manuals but I think I probably have to locate a hard copy for more information. Not that I mind the studying, hehe.

Thanks again!
Amanda
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George Hill




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PostPosted: Mon 22 Jan, 2007 11:35 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Amanda B. wrote:
[

Hello! Yes, I was thinking more of the sport than the military usage, at least to start. The character is a painter whose hobby is "show-fighting" for the amusement of nobles, ie the sport fencing that is more about the display than the actual use.


Swordsman tended to despise show fighters, (or play fighting as I've seen it translated.) Indeed, in the Dobringer Manuscript, (from late 1300s I believe...) there is a passage about them that reads (more or less)

"With their bad parries and long strikes that are slow, they try to look dangerous...................and for this they receive praise from the ignorant."

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 7:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I think of fencing as reffering to swordfighting in general, independent of the type of sword. The "show fighters" in the day of Dobringer would likely be using normal one handed swords or longswords. In other words, the weapons that were used by 'show fighters' were often the same weapons used for real combat. So if the setting in your book is more middle ages oriented then the character should not have to learn a weapon different from the one he/she already knows. He or she just has to lean how to use it effectively. Now if the setting in the book is more renaissance oriented, the rapier would perhaps be the weapon that show fighters would use. The rapier is not nearly as well suited towards the battlefield as the broadsword or other weapons.

You seem somewhat committed to the saber. Towards the renaissance the saber was a common and effective weapon from horseback. I would guess that it also might be fast enough for unarmored streetfighting type encounters or 'show fighting' (not that unarmored and show fighting are the same). Another weapon you might consider is the messer. It was a curved, singe-edge sword shorter and broader than a saber. The messer was a very good civillian's tool often carried for self defense yet still suitable for the battlefield. It is just the type of weapon that a non-proffesional soldier would be very familiar with and choose as a weapon of chioce (or at least side arm of choice whereas a spear or pole arm would be the primary weapon) if pressed into battlefield action. Multiple fightbooks depict the messer being used in the German martial art tradition (Talhoffer for example).

http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/ne...eister.htm

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
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Greg Coffman




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 8:01 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Also, I really appreciate your effort as an author to present your book with a certain realism that is uncommon in the genre.
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
-Hebrews 4:12
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 8:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, as some people have mentioned before, "fencing" is quite a broad term. I see from your posts that what you mean by "fencing" is either a theatrical combat style or a thrust-based civilian swordsmanship style. The two are quite different from each other--theatrical combat prioritizes the safety of its participants over combat efficiency, while civilian thrusting styles were still quite viable combat methods in themselves. However, especially from the second half of the 16th century onwards, the civilian styles made a major divergence: where military systems had always been focused on staying alive (i.e. not getting hit), some of the civilian systems began to accept the use of "contretemps" or simultaneous hits since they began to emphasize "honor" over safety. And hitting your enemy was considered more "honorable" than escaping unscathed in the context of a civilian duel.

So, is your character's fighting style based on theatrical fighting or civilian dueling? If it's based on theatrical fighting, he's pretty much dead the first time he steps his foot in the battlefield--there'd be too many things he'll have to unlearn before he can be an effective fighter, and for that he will need a very competent (and patient) tutor. if it's civilian dueling, the first thing he will have to learn is that simultaneous hits are not acceptable in military swordfighting.

BTW, theatrical fighting would have been done with the weapon most prevalent at the time, so it could have been done with broader swords as long as its movements obey the rule of safety. Civilian dueling was a different matter. Early schools like Achille Marozzo's and Antonio Manciolino's used swords that were not markedly different from military swords, only with tighter movements geared more for speed rather than impact. Later on, the thrust gained more emphasis and the weapons became more thrust-oriented, producing the familiar narrow, thick-bladed thrusting sword that usually comes to mind when we talk of "rapiers." Rapiers weren't that fragile, BTW--it's just that they were not as convenient for the more brutal, instinctive chopping movements men often resort to in the stress of a massed battle.

If possible, I'd like to see a clearer picture of the setting--especially what century on Europe or Earth it is roughly based on. I know it's a fantasy world, but you've got to get your inspiration from somewhere, and knowing where you begin is a great help in researching things for fantasy worldbuilding.

I don't know whether it's by accident or by design, but you've certainly come to the right place because I'm a fantasy writer myself--although I also dabble in WMA and practical swordsmanship.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 8:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, Greg has made a few good points there--seems like our replies crossed so we repeat somethings between our posts.

The only thing I wish to add is that "saber" is quite a broad term. The military saber based on the Easter European designs was a broad-bladed cutting sword, but in the 18th century there was also a type of military saber that was much thicker and narrower in the blade and more geared for thrusting than cutting. The 19th century produced another type of saber--the dueling saber, an effective cutting weapon in the context of a civilian duel--but it feels a bit too light to be an effective defense on the battlefield. A heavier blade would displace it too easily, and on the other hand it would have a hard time parrying a thrust or deflecting a cut from a heavier blade.

Of course, if you want to restrict your worldbuilding to "medieval" times, you need not concern yourself with the later two. As far as I'm aware, though, in the 15th or 16th century the saber had not yet developed into a civilian dueling weapon.
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Bill Grandy
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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 9:04 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
However, especially from the second half of the 16th century onwards, the civilian styles made a major divergence: where military systems had always been focused on staying alive (i.e. not getting hit), some of the civilian systems began to accept the use of "contretemps" or simultaneous hits since they began to emphasize "honor" over safety. And hitting your enemy was considered more "honorable" than escaping unscathed in the context of a civilian duel.


I'm going to slightly go off topic for a moment because this is a "fact" that I see passed around quite a bit. Lafayette, this is actually a common myth that many people believe despite there being little evidence. (And by the way, a "contratemp" is not a double hit, it is attacking at the same time as defending, i.e. a counterattack.) If you read any fencing manuscript from the 16th century and onwards, they all discuss defense, and almost always as one of the first concepts. (And as Stephen pointed out, "defense" is where the word "fencing" originates.)

Now, for a fantasy setting, it is possible that the idea of hitting the person was more important in regards to honor, but double kills historically were definatley scoffed at by period masters.

I don't see why a weapon for show fighting or sport has to necessarily be the same as the weapons used on the battlefield. There were many specialized weapons throughout history that were never used on the battlefield. Talhoffer's duelling shields, for instance, or even some of the specialized African weapons such as the bracelet blade. There is no evidence to those being used in wartime, and they seem impractical from a self-defense point of view, but clearly people used them at some point. Also, in Elizabethan England there were prize fighters (fighting for performance) who used non-battlefield styles, such as the use of two falchions at the same time.

What I would suggest is to come up with a weapon that was common amongst the show-fighters of this world, but not necessarily unique to the character. The weapon should fit the show fighting needs. Is it supposed to be sharpened or blunted? Is it supposed to look flashy because it isn't used very roughly or utilitarian because it gets banged up a lot at performances? Is is something that your character can even afford?

His style may be different than a soldiers fighting style because of his background, but the weapon itself should not require a specific style: i.e. It's the person, not the sword, that makes the difference.

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


"A despondent heart will always be defeated regardless of skill."
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Amanda B.




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 9:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I appreciate all the responses! I have a lot ot think about now, heh.

Where the world is concerned, it does seem to be a bit piecemeal as to medieval or renaissance, though I've definitely been studying more along the lines of the Hundred Years War for the actual army parts. The basic setup is an empire of four countries trying to annex/conquer a "heathen" magic-casting kingdom. There isn't 'knight' culture of chivalry, really, and both women and men can equally be soldiers or stay at home parents or whatever suits them. Because the empire's enemies can use magic, they don't take many prisoners for ransom in battle (that is more common in wars among themselves).

The main characters start out in the kingdom, but because they were born in the empire and have a different religion, they are soon displaced and end up with the invading army on their way back to the empire.

The idea of the show-fighting as it is now seems to be closer to the "civilian duel" type as it involves fancy moves but also defeating (though not killing) one's opponent, possibly by first blood. The nobles sometimes bet on fighters and might sponsor one. It's also done somewhat secretly, as the culture doesn't openly approve of this sort of thing.

The fencing sabre I mention because that's what I used as a reference for the design of his sword (here is a picture I drew: http://ic1.deviantart.com/fs10/i/2006/100/9/e...ftgold.jpg ), and what it's being called so far as opposed to rapier or foil, because at least to my mind those bring up the thought of a very thin and flexible blade which doesn't make much sense to even unsheathe in the presence of a medieval-style army! I'm not stuck on the idea of him keeping it, though, especially if there's something more practical he can learn to use as the story goes on; he's a young novice-type who will get more skilled as it goes, and I don't plan to strand him in the midst of a battle with a fencing sword, so there's room to maneuver. Big Grin

Many thanks for your thoughts on this! I don't know if I could ever write an historical fiction - I'd be too worried about getting the details wrong!
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Roger Hooper




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What kind of armor are these people wearing? Sword choice was often dictated by the type of armor to be breached.

A good choice might be a cut-and-thrust sidesword like the one pictured here - http://www.arms-n-armor.com/rapier212.html -- or here - http://www.christianfletcher.com/Site/Sidesword.html
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Amanda B.




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 10:16 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Roger Hooper wrote:
What kind of armor are these people wearing? Sword choice was often dictated by the type of armor to be breached.

A good choice might be a cut-and-thrust sidesword like the one pictured here - http://www.arms-n-armor.com/rapier212.html -- or here - http://www.christianfletcher.com/Site/Sidesword.html


Ahh, I like the look of that! He's a commoner, so he definitely won't end up with anything as fancy as his original sword (which was a gift) unless he finds it somewhere, but a slender sword definitely seems to be a good choice.

I imagine that it's probably cloth padding and leather for the common soldiers and chain or plate for the richer nobility. At this stage his first actual battle will be with some bandits, and if they have any armor it'd be a stolen patchwork of stuff...
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Eric Allen




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 10:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

In my opinion, that sword you drew looks an awful darn much like a classic thrusting rapier (which contrary to modern fencing epees, foils, and such, were actually quite stiff--and relied on this stiffness--because they had to punch deep into a human's body). These style swords tended to be more civilian than military, but that's not to say it would be impossible to use one in a war.

Of course, you COULD kindof sidestep the whole problem by having your character issued a military sword when he joins the army. He might experience a pit steeper of a learning curve, but a sword is a sword, ultimately, and if he's talented enough, it shouldn't slow him down much at all. Swords are all generally built along similar lines, so a swordsman can pick up most any sword and be dangerous with it (maybe not as effective as with the type he's most used to, but still dangerous).
Different designs emphasize particular techniques and strategies, but at the core, the fundamentals are much the same.
You can fight using a typical rapier style with a single-hand "cutting" sword like a type X, or even a bastard sword--it would lkely be a bit awkward, but it can be done. You can use longsword styles with a classic thrusting rapier--again, awkward, and likely not as effective as just using a longsword, but it can be done. This is to be expected, because like I said, at the core, you're still using a sword.
So your character could be handed a more military-style sword as opposed to his normal show-fighting blade and using the same techniques as he is used to, still be able to pull it off.

edit--reading the post you wrote while I was writing this, I gather you're giving him a new sword when he joins up with the arms anyway.
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 10:28 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Amanda B. wrote:
I imagine that it's probably cloth padding and leather for the common soldiers and chain or plate for the richer nobility. At this stage his first actual battle will be with some bandits, and if they have any armor it'd be a stolen patchwork of stuff...


Hi Amanda! Happy

Another author! Oh oh, the competition! Wink

Well, I'll give you some advice anyway.

Let me suggest that you use the term mail (or the older spelling maille) for armour made out of rivetted links. If you're trying for historical accuracy in your work, using the proper terms is a must. Chain mail or chain are considered improper terms. They were used by authors and scholars in the past, but it's really a misnomer. Mail, when used in terms of armour, denotes a defense made up of rivetted links that go together so as to form a flexible metallic garment. Chain in chain mail is superfluous, and chain by itself isn't considered to be the proper term.

Harness is a word often used in period to describe a "suit of armour", by the way. "Suit of armour" was used later. Just in case this comes up in your work.

Also, be careful how much leather armour you use, and of what form. Hardened leather was used for body and limb protection in the 14th century, but I would suggest not going overboard with the use of leather. I use it for a cuirie (leather breastplate) and limb protection in my work, which is roughly inspired by early fourteenth century warfare and culture.

Make sure you do your research regarding what types of armour and weaponry were used in the time period you are aiming for. The forums here are a good place to start.

Good luck with your writing endeavour! I personally know how tough it can be to get published (I'm still looking for an agent to represent my work).

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar


Last edited by Richard Fay on Tue 23 Jan, 2007 3:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Amanda B.




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 10:48 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Many thanks for the terms! Though it is a fantasy setting, I would like to use the correct terms whenever possible, or at least where it will make sense with the culture (while trying to avoid terms with an obvious Earthly culture connection, such as French).

Originally it wasn't planned for him to be issued a sword because he starts as a servant, but the scene I'm currently working on (and the one that prompted me to ask this question) is that he's "caught" sparring by the warrior who employs him. So I suppose he could very well be issued a sword then, especially if the show-fighting style is looked down upon by actual warriors, so he can learn to fight "properly".

Ah, wonderful ideas. There's so much more to it than making sure the pointy end goes out and whacking away! (And now I have to try to find an example of a Welsh knifeman's knife, since the archer of the group now has something similar, but that's another issue altogether. Razz )

Good luck on finding an agent! I am nowhere near the point yet, but it's definitely a goal.
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Richard Fay




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 11:31 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Amanda B. wrote:
Many thanks for the terms! Though it is a fantasy setting, I would like to use the correct terms whenever possible, or at least where it will make sense with the culture (while trying to avoid terms with an obvious Earthly culture connection, such as French).


Amanda,

Avoiding French terms or terms derived from French may be hard when you're describing armour. Many armour terms derive from French, or at least sound influenced by French. There may be alternate names for many of these things in other languages, but the better-known English terms will often have a French root somewhere in their history. You also want to make sure your readers know what you're talking about! Wink

I may have used a more obscure term or two in my work, but I pretty much stuck to the standards. I think you have to decide what atmosphere you want to create. There is some debate about whether or not gambeson and aketon (spelled various ways) mean the same thing, or mean slightly different padded garments. I used gambeson throughout my work for most outer padded garments worn by themselves and padded garments worn beneath other armour, to keep fairly consistent and since it seemed to fit better with my people and place names.

Just some friendly advice! Happy

Stay safe!

"I'm going to do what the warriors of old did! I'm going to recite poetry!"
Prince Andrew of Armar
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Brad Harada




PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 4:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Hi Amanda! Might you be thinking about something more along the lines of this?
http://www.deltin.net/5159.htm

It is a sword of a type used in the latter half of the XVth century. Plain, serviceable with an S shaped cross, the lower branch forms an integral knuckle bow, single edged blade with a possible false edge. Swords of this type can also be seen in "The Medieval Soldier" by Embleton and Howe.
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Steve Grisetti




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PostPosted: Tue 23 Jan, 2007 5:07 pm    Post subject: Re: Weapons and styles question         Reply with quote

Amanda B. wrote:
... Many history books later I'm still having a hard time finding details on the "daily" life of a servant or even man-at-arms in an army on such a march, but that's to be expected....

Have you checked The Medieval Soldier: 15th Century Campaign Life Recreated in Colour Photographs by Gary Embleton and John Howe? I think that this is the same book that Brad Harada mentioned in his post, above.

"...dismount thy tuck, be yare in thy preparation, for thy assailant is quick, skilful, and deadly."
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