Subject: longbow archer
Setting: France/Britain 15thc
Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)
* Royal Armouries Museum > War Gallery
"Missile troops of the 15th century The tactics of the Hundred Years War continued in use in England throughout the 15th century -- pitched battles were fought between large bodies of longbowmen.
"Some of these bowmen rode to battle and were equipped with body armour and helmets. On the battlefield formations of archers were strengthened by dismounted men-at-arms equipped with complete armour of plate, and by increasing numbers of infantry billmen, who wore less body armour." ...
* Pitt Rivers Museum online > Replica longbow (1893.65.1)
The longbow's distinctive qualities - its size, great range (up to 300 metres) and power - are often attributed as the cause of English victories during the Hundred Years War at Crecy (1346) and Agincourt (1415). However, recent historical interpretations appear to suggest that the bow's effectiveness was just as dependent on the organisation, skills and strength of the men using it. Like all self bows, the draw weight of the longbow increases exponentially as one draws the string back, until reaching its full draw, at a maximum of 75-80 lbs. This is way beyond the abilities of most inexperienced archers to achieve and hold, and Elizabethan observers often bemoaned the lack of practice and skill of England's Tudor bowmen in comparison to their forebears 200 years earlier. However, there is evidence that the Mary Rose archers had trained since childhood since many of the soldier skeletons found had thicker bones in the right arm and a deformed right shoulder joint.
"The origin of the English longbow has been much debated - some argue that it was actually a Welsh weapon, first recorded in military use in Gwent in South Wales in the 12th century. Adding weight to this is the fact that the Bayeux Tapestry, chronicling evens leading upto the Norman Invasion of England in 1066, shows neither Anglo-Saxons nor Normans carrying bows more than four feet long. Set against this theory is archaeological fact. Neolithic grave goods excavated at Meare Heath in Somerset included a longbow of yew, fully two metres in length and very similar in form to the medieval longbow, albeit somewhat wider and flatter across the belly. This bow was radiocarbon-dated to 2600 BC. It seems, therefore, that the longbow was a British weapon long before either England or Wales existed."