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Medieval Longbow – The Most Powerful Weapon For Its Time?

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The medieval longbow

In the Medieval period, kingdoms were at war more often than not, and peace times were short-lived. Anyone who had military strength became dominant in the region.

As technology developed a lot of things changed.

When it came to war there was always a search for the best way to murder your opponent, a lot of gruesome weapons were invented for destroying your opponent, but as the attack grew so did the defense.

A lot of armor was distributed across Europe.

Yet today we are going to talk about a weapon which is very simple and was used before for centuries yet with a little bit of entrepreneurship it became more deadly terrorizing the battlefield.

What is the medieval longbow?

Before we continue, the longbow is also known as the Welsh longbow.

The name comes from the length of the bow, which is around 1.50 m and could even get around 2 m, but on average I would suggest it was around 1.80 m.

This is bigger than the archer that handles the bow, but with this huge length comes a lot of pros as well as cons.

How to make a medieval English longbow

Making a medieval bow is an ancient tradition for many cultures.

It needs to be created of the selected materials: Yew, Ash or Elm.

After you have selected the wood you must cut some pieces of it and leave it to rest for 2 years.

This is a long process, but the end result is what made the weapons so great.

It took two parts of the wood which made it flexible and strong.

At the tips horns were added on them, or it could be done without them as well.

With a length, this big the arrows should be made longer as well.

This made the arrows look real big and with the bow gave them a huge draw power, the arrows were around 60 to 80cm in length plus the tip.

The range of the medieval longbow was huge, around 200 meters to 400 meters.

This is a huge number and the average short bow and crossbow were much smaller in range.

This is what made the medieval longbowmen unique.

They could shoot such a high range, that it took some time until their opponents reached them, by the time they get there they are wounded, scared, or dead.

If you think the range was scary, the rate of shooting was even scarier.

On average it could be fired around 5 – 7 arrows in a minute.

Combined with the long-range it made a rain of hell to the enemy.

Power of the medieval bow

With a bow this big it had a lot of power as well.

The draw was really strong and only trained people could use it effectively.

This bow was tested in a lot of ways today.

When it came to medieval warfare you had all types of soldiers.

You had well-dressed knights with plated armor and less dressed soldiers with mail, etc.

The bow was tested on a mail armor and it pierced it without a problem; it went through killing a man instantly.

But when it was tested on plate armor breastplate exactly it pierced into the armor hurting the opponent, but not killing him.

With the advance in armor, the longbow became less effective.

With shields, it wasn’t effective at all, but it could still cause trouble.

So what made the medieval longbow become a weapon for people to fear?

Before we continue on that topic, let’s make a little image view.

You have trained archers on one site with longbows which we know they kill people with and you have knighted French nobles on the other side.

They are charging to the archers and they shall get decimated, but with a strategic place of the medieval longbowmen, they could get destroyed without a problem.

Image if a volley of arrows were to hit the horses, they would die or get hurt and throw off the heavy person on them, when the person with armor falls off his horse he might break something or heavily injure himself.

Also, they can make a wall with the fallen horses and knights which would make the other horsed units unable to charge over them, this is a very useful thing when you are losing the horses’ charge.

Also if the targets weren’t well armored they were as good as dead to the longbowmen.

This weapon was so simple and so cheap, everyone could use them.

Training with a longbow medieval times

This is a really good thing with the longbow.

If we were to compare the English and French forces in the 100 years war we can see a big difference.

he french were counting on their heavy noble knights in order for a victory while the English could also count on the cheap units which were the “longbowmen”, they had little to no armor on them and were very cheaper than to purchase plate armor, horse, etc.

People had to train in order to learn the longbow, it took strength and technique to master it.

A person couldn’t handle this without any skill and that made it difficult.

Assize of arms and archery law of 1363

Once the longbow was adopted in the English kingdom the king himself wanted to get more out of this.

It made them adopt archery in order for him to get archers out of normal people.

Once its effectiveness was known, laws were passed making its practice compulsory; the Assize of Arms and Archery Law of 1363 and other laws were passed as well.

Boys were practicing from a small age to master the bow and with the constant use of it, the back of the human was a little deformed because of the pull.

It took a lot of strength to make a full pull, but after that, it has a force of around 80 to 150 pounds.

Origins of the longbow medieval times

About the origins, it’s known that it was first invented in Wales, as the defenders fought off the Anglo Saxon conquest.

After that, it was adopted and it was scattered across all of Britain.

The use of this bow was most effective in the XIV and XV centuries, especially in the hundred years war.

It made it so effective it even won battles to the English.

This was the advantage that the English had over the French.

Cite this article as: Hayden Chakra, "Medieval Longbow – The Most Powerful Weapon For Its Time?," in About History, October 4, 2020, https://about-history.com/medieval-longbow/.
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