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Longbow

The longbow was used in the Middle Ages both for hunting and as a weapon of war. It reached its zenith of perfection as a weapon in the hands of English and Welsh archers.

Longbows were difficult to master because the draw-weight often exceeded 50kg. Considerable practice was required to produce the swift and effective fire combat required. Skeletons of longbow archers are recognizably deformed, with enlarged left arms, and often bone spurs on left wrists, left shoulders and right fingers.

The longbow decided a number of medieval battles fought by the English, the most significant of which being the Battle of Crecy and later the Battle of Agincourt. A variant (bow-staves) was used by 14th-century mercenary troops of Sir John Hawkwood[?].

Good longbow tactics protected archers from enemy soldiers or cavalry with a square or line of pikemen. A skillful general would alternate flights of arrows with cavalry charges, sometimes alternating flank attacks to induce shock and fear in the enemy. The arrows were used as mass bombardment, not as sniper weapons until the enemy got quite close.

To penetrate light armor, war arrows had "chisel" points, not hunting broad-heads. In peace-time, in some regions, carrying chisel points was a hanging offense, because it was thought to threaten noblemen, or they were taken as evidence that one was a highwayman.

The importance of the longbow in medieval English culture can be seen in the legends of Robin Hood and in the "Song of the Bow," a poem from The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

See also:


References and external links: Project Gutenberg copy of "The White Company," ftp://sailor.gutenberg.org/pub/gutenberg/etext97/whtco10.txt



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