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The History of Swords – Rise, Decline and Resurgence

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The History and Development of Swords

The history of swords is not as you would expect – a linear development of popular use. It has had its ups and downs in history, which we will explore in this article.

We can safely say that the sword is the most popular weapon across the world.

Even though swords have some competition, they still stand as arguably the most effective weapons for killing your opponent.

Swords were used in the ancient period as well as in the modern era by almost everyone, but how can we measure their effectiveness in battle?

Ulfberht swords

What were the Ulfberht swords?

The Ulfbehrt swords of the early Medieval period were the most basic and simple sword that people used in the dark ages.

They have a sharp double edge for slashing against their low armored opponent.

The tip of the Ulfbehrt sword wasn’t sharp, so this sword wasn’t used for piercing.

The guard on the sword was really small, making this sword easy to use in one hand with a combination of a shield.

These swords were used until the 10th – 11th century until warfare and technology changed and developed into something else.

These swords were used only by foot soldiers, and as mounted soldiers were becoming the number one unit in the upcoming ages, the sword had to adapt to this new fighting style.

During this period, wearing armor was not very common, resulting in the high effectiveness of the sword.

Chainmail was for upper-class units and the common people only had a wooden shield for defense.

The development of swords and shields

With the development of plated armor and other defensive techniques, these Ulfbehrt swords became useless.

This was in the middle to the late medieval period and people had to adapt to a new style of warfare.

During this period, knights were the strongest war units, and their equipment was doing a fantastic job at defending attacks.

With the knight came the horse, resulting in swords being made slightly longer in length so it could reach its target when the rider was on a horse.

This style of sword, the bastard sword, long sword etc. would last for the next 200 – 300 years.

A knights armor was developed so well that a shield was of little practical use.

Because a shield wasn’t needed, combatants now had an extra hand, and swords were being made for two hand use.

This was very effective because it made the swords heavier and longer, meaning they could be swung effectively from a horse.

The decline of the sword in history

Around the 15hth century, swords began to decline in use.

Because plated armor was so strong, swords couldn’t do any serious damage.

In this period, maces became very popular, as they were heavy and most of them spikes that were effective against armor.

A mace could easily be swung and hit a slow plated opponent.

It might not kill him, but one hit could break an opponent’s bones or collapse his lung.

Maces were well developed because of their success on the battlefield, and as a result, a wide range of maces were invented.

Here is an image displaying the different types of maces:

Interestingly enough, swords were not used for a long time, but like all good things, they found themselves back in fashion during another period.

With the introduction of guns, armor now became useless a bullet, and became less and less popular to wear.

This was the entry point that swords were looking for.

The famous Rapier sword was invented and it was put to good use.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, a Rapier was a type of sword with a sharp-pointed two-edged blade that was popular in Western Europe, both for civilian and military use.

Swords were now used as a device to pierce an opponent, not relying so much on a slashing technique to injure.

The French smallsword of the 18th century was a continuation of this style of fencing.

Swords appeared again, and it became common to be trained in the ways of swords and guns.

History of swords in modern times

Swords were still widely used up until WW1, where it arguable made its last debut in a large scale battle.

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