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Hundred Years’ War

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Sadurian Mike
585731.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:50 pm Reply with quote

Possibly the most important thing to emerge from that period of warfare was the rise of professional armies instead of conscripted feudal levies. This is a mistake that many amateur commentators on medieval warfare make; they view the armies of the day as being the knights and the peasant followers.

During the wars known as the Hundred Years' War, it was quickly realised that the better option was to pay full-time soldiers to fight, whether as mercenaries or national troops, because they were better at it and didn't have to be released to gather or plant the harvest.

As a consequence of this change, the old feudal responsibility of supplying fighting men was altered so that the feudal vassals could instead pay their lord in a cash equivalent. Given the ravages of the Plague on Europe, allowing the peasants and yeomen to continue working the land was very important financially to the manors, and vital to the continued existence of towns and cities (who relied on the villages of the manors to supply them with food).

By the end of the fighting and the Hundred Years' War, France had been devastated by the depredations of a century of sporadic fighting, raiding and anarchy, whilst England saw its focus shifted inwards (as opposed to on the continent) and towards becoming a naval power. Neither side can really be said to have benefitted from the wars; England lost territory and France lost around two-thirds of its population and its infrastructure took decades to recover.

585736.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 7:59 pm Reply with quote

Well said Sadurian.
"Fuckin'... ... Boooo!" French.
If anybody knows that quote you know how funny it was :)
Can somebody find out something weird about the 100 years war to spark some interest??
I tried and ended up drifting into french hairy pornography :(

Sadurian Mike
585748.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:21 pm Reply with quote

Something weird?

Where do you want to start? Joan of Arc is weird enough by herself for a whole thread, then you have the madness of two kings (Henry VI for England and Charles VI for France), the change of emphasis from armoured cavalry to infantry which was the beginning of the end of the medieval knight, the first use of cannon and handguns in Europe, the longbow, the battles of Agincourt and Crécy, Wat Tyler and the peasants' revolt and the Wars of the Roses (both events coming from the domestic turmoil caused by taxation to fund the wars), and so on and so forth.

It is full of interesting snippets.

585754.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:40 pm Reply with quote

You made it sound interesting, for the ammount of interesting snippets that are in there, you gotta look through so much block text it just doesnt feel worth it for me. Its boring and uneventful.
If you can find an event in the 100 years war where something plain retarded and relatively unknown to the world happened, then I believe it to be more interesting than the history involved with the subject :)

585756.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:48 pm Reply with quote

In descriptions of such battles we tend to hear of 'a rain of arrows falling on the enemy'.

I wonder how they could be effective asan arrow is not that heavy I would imagine, even with a steel tip - and could it have pierced an enemy helmet?

Perhaps Mike can explain?

585757.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 8:53 pm Reply with quote

Imagine someone using that arrow like a dagger with full force.

That's the kinda power you're looking at - the steel tips mainly focus that force to a smaller area without shattering.

Sadurian Mike
585761.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:07 pm Reply with quote

The rain of arrows, or "arrow storm", was a long-range bombardment by longbowmen and effectively a precursor to our modern artillery bombardment. The aim was the same; to make the enemy want to take cover rather than to keep advancing, and to thin out their numbers.

A longbow arrow was made of a hard wood such as oak or ash, about three foot long, and tipped with a variety of different heads for different jobs. Narrow "bodkins" were the armour-piercers of their day, and broad-heads were used against unarmoured targets. A diamond-shaped head was the usual all-purpose arrowhead.

The power of the longbow was, and is, immense. At 100 metres it could pierce plate armour if it struck cleanly, modern tests have shown that it could penetrate more than an inch of solid oak at 200 metres. The tactic at closer range was to loose the arrow directly at the target, and this often as not killed or severly wounded the victim unless he could catch the arrow in his shield ("in" being the operative word, and the shield had to be held away from the body to avoid the arrow penetrating and still wounding the shield carrier).

The arrow storm was a longer-range tactic and the object was to fill the air with arrows to rain down on the closely-packed enemy. Simple weight of numbers meant that each man in the enemy ranks could be hit multiple times, and those without armour (including the horses, don't forget) would suffer terribly. Even a plate-armoured knight (the plate harness was still relatively new at the beginning of the wars, and only the richer knights and nobles could afford it) could be killed if he had his visor open or the arrow found a joint between the armour plates. Remember that an arrow fired into the air accelerates on the way down!

All in all, the longbow was a devastating weapon to which the French had no answer. It has been postulated that the longbow could still have been a battle winner right up until the mass use of rifles, even outclassing the muskets used at Waterloo. It did not fall out of favour because it was eclipsed by defensive tactics or a better weapon, far from it, instead it declined because its traditional users, the yeoman, simply stopped practicing with it as a matter of lifestyle.

585762.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:11 pm Reply with quote

Wiki wrote:
When John's son Louis I, Duc d'Anjou, sent to the English as a hostage on John's behalf, escaped in 1362, John II chivalrously gave himself up and returned to captivity in England. He died in honourable captivity in 1364 and Charles V succeeded him as king of France.
WTF - This looks QI. Honour be damned - this man's a nutter...

Sadurian Mike
585763.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:15 pm Reply with quote

This is some video of modern practioners of the longbow*. Note that they are loosing arrows with unsharpened and unhardened heads against a modern good-quality steel breastplate with bows of considerably lower draw weights than would have been employed by the English bowmen during the HYW.

They don't say how far away they are loosing from but I would guess approximately 100m.

Youtube footage of (non-scientific) penetration tests.

Just as a slight aside, I am not convinced by the argument that medieval steel armour was not as good quality as modern steel. The armourers of the day were experts of the highest order who kept their steel composition a secret. Plate armour was fantastically expensive but nobles paid for the best because they hoped it would keep them alive.

*The term, by the way, is a modern one. As the video title suggests, the contemporary name for the longbow was the warbow.

585764.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:35 pm Reply with quote

Sadurian Mike wrote:
It did not fall out of favour because it was eclipsed by defensive tactics or a better weapon, far from it, instead it declined because its traditional users, the yeoman, simply stopped practicing with it as a matter of lifestyle.

I pretty certain the ease with which a person can learn to aim and fire a musket compared to a longbow was significant in the rise of firearms. Musket fire in the English Civil War wasn't very effective and neither were the cannons of the time although they fared better as siege engines to bring down castle walls than as battlefield weapons. Muskets were at first very expensive and used only by the wealthy, another factor was ammunition or, more specifically, powder. The separate charges used in musketry were carried in little containers know to the English as apostles because the musketeer would have 12 (or so) of them on a bandolier.

ECW musketeer

Archers would have a far greater fire rate and would therefore have many arrows but no really practical way of carrying them around so longbowmen tended to be stationary and to set their arrows point downwards in the ground around them so they could be picked up and fired quickly. This also had the effect of getting mud etc on the head so that wounds were more likely to get infected. Quivers were an American Indian idea and were never used in Europe historically, when moving around with arrows which they intended to fire archers used a bag.

The normal practice range for bowmen was 220 yards, with archers able to loose 8 - 10 well aimed arrows per minute. Exceptional archers could reach 20 per minute. The maximum range for longbows was much greater than this, but they lacked penetrating power against armour. Mounted knights could cover 220 yards in about 15 seconds, so rate of fire was important. Armoured footsoldiers would take about 90 seconds to cover the same distance. For the last 50 yards, the arrows could punch through the finest armour.

At the battle of Agincourt, sources estimate that there were about 5,000 English archers. At a rate of fire of 8 arrows a minute, 40,000 arrows could be loosed each minute; that is almost 700 arrows a SECOND! After the battle, some chroniclers say that the battlefield looked as if it had snowed, such was the quantity of fletchings from the arrows in the ground.

Put very succinctly elsewhere

On the other hand, muskets:

1) have much shorter training times
2) don't require wood from a yew* tree
3) have lighter and less bulky ammo
4) have better armor penetration
5) can mount bayonets

* The English had to import this wood from Spain or Italy as English yew was unsuitable. Point 5 there is interesting - musketeers were, after the development of the bayonet, essentially spearmen who had ranged capability. Only a third of the casualties inflicted by Napoleonic musketeers, ie the bulk of any army of the period, arose from powder and ball, the balance were melee injuries from bayonet or, as a second option, sword.

Last edited by Celebaelin on Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:49 pm; edited 1 time in total

Sadurian Mike
585765.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:46 pm Reply with quote

Celebaelin wrote:
I pretty certain the ease with which a person can learn to aim and fire a musket compared to a longbow was significant in the rise of firearms.

Quite so. The old adage about "to train a longbowman you must start with his grandfather" is indicative of the amount of practice required to become a professional bowman of the standard seen at Agincourt and Crécy. Once the traditional village archery fizzled out, the source of longbowmen fizzled out as well.

As you say, the firearms that followed were less accurate and had a shorter effective range right up until rifles were used routinely, but the time it took to train a new recruit was nothing compared to that to train a longbowman.

You mention lightness of equipment and the increase in mobility of armies, and this is a mjor factor in the decline of the old medieval style soldier. Armour was still often employed (melee combat was still a big part of warfare for centuries to come), but its employment declined as armies became bigger and, more importantly, were expected to a lot more marching! One reason for the disappearance of the armoured knight was the social change which made his highly expensive warhorses and armour no longer ecomonically viable.

585767.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 9:57 pm Reply with quote

Armies have always been required to do alot of marching.
The feathered part of the arrow I believe was used by hunter-gatherers across europe and not specific to america.
plenty of factors, fashion being one of them :) "killed off" the longbow.

I would be interested in seeing a modern polymer/composite equivalent to a longbow, see what theyre capable of :D

Sadurian Mike
585768.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:15 pm Reply with quote

Gyndawyr wrote:
Armies have always been required to do alot of marching.

Not so. The armies of Rome were notable for the amount of marching they did, but that was unusual. In general, a pre-professional army would be raised for a specific task and then disbanded once that target had been taken. The very nature of the feudal system meant that the time a general had his army for was limited by the harvest; this imposed an artifical campaigning season on all armies of the day and meant campaigns tended to be short and to the point. Having your army marching about the place was a waste of limited resources.

Gyndawyr wrote:
plenty of factors, fashion being one of them :) "killed off" the longbow.

I'd like to know what you believe the other factors are. "Fashion" is an odd word and I wonder what you mean by it exactly. Do you mean that practicing archery went out of fashion or that employing bowmen went out of fashion?

Sadurian Mike
585769.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:16 pm Reply with quote

Gyndawyr wrote:
The feathered part of the arrow I believe was used by hunter-gatherers across europe and not specific to america.

I think I have just realised what you mean by this (rather odd) statement.

"Quiver" is the case in which arrows are stored, not the feathered flights on an arrow.

585770.  Fri Jul 17, 2009 10:24 pm Reply with quote

This site implies that musket wounds were more likely to be fatal.

Both types of weapon were up to 5 ft long, and were effective up to 300 yds. They might not kill at that range, but most musket injuries were fatal eventually.

This is an ECW site and the standard of medical care available might be a factor but that would even out with arrow wounds, with the possible exception that people would have long been familiar with how to treat an arrow wound.

An instrument called beluleum was invented during the long Peloponnesian War, over four hundred years before the Christian era. It was a rude extracting-forceps, and was used by Hippocrates in the many campaigns in which he served. His immediate successor, Diocles, invented a complicated instrument for extracting foreign bodies, called graphiscos, which consisted of a canula with hooks. Otis states that it was not until the wars of Augustus that Heras of Cappadocia designed the famous duck-bill forceps which, with every conceivable modification, has continued in use until our time.

Celsus instructs that in extracting arrow-heads the entrance-wound should be dilated, the barb of the arrow-head crushed by strong pliers, or protected between the edges of a split reed, and thus withdrawn without laceration of the soft parts. According to the same authority, Paulus Aegineta also treated fully of wounds by arrow-heads, and described a method used in his time to remove firmly-impacted arrows.

The article seems to get a bit confused when it comes to the likely fatality of arrow wounds

Otis has collected reports of arrow-wounds from surgical cases occurring in the U. S. Army. Of the multiple arrow-wounds, six out of the seven cases were fatal. In five in which the cranial cavity was wounded, four patients perished. There were two remarkable instances of recovery after penetration of the pleural cavity by arrows. The great fatality of arrow-wounds of the abdomen is well known, and, according to Bill, the Indians always aim at the umbilicus; when fighting Indians, the Mexicans are accustomed to envelop the abdomen, as the most vulnerable part, in many folds of a blanket.

Of the arrow-wounds reported, nine were fatal, with one exception, in which the lesion implicated the soft parts only. The regions injured were the scalp, face, and neck, in three instances; the parietes of the chest in six; the long muscles of the back in two; the abdominal muscles in two; the hip or buttocks in three; the testis in one; the shoulder or arm in 13; forearm or hand in six; the thigh or leg in seven.

It does in the closing paragraph describe a case where a soldier sustained eight seperate arrow wounds and survived but since this is considered remarkable I'm still uncertain what conclusion I should draw; I suspect musket wounds are more lethal.


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