Historical development of the English Archer

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Historical development of the English Archer

Post by Barter »

Looking for assistance with historical sources for a new narrative / theme for the 2018 re-enactment season.
I am looking to focus on the following points;

(a) The deployment of the English Longbow Archers as a tactical force whose skills were realised in the medieval training ground of the Anglo – Scottish Wars. From the use of peasant bowmen at the Battle of Standard (1138) where the worth of the English Longbow was first realised to the deployment of ‘retained’ Archers who won the Battle of Homildon Hill (1402) without support from Knights or Men at Arms.

(b) The development of ‘mounted’ Archers and if there are any connection to Hobelars due to their Celtic origins of word ‘Hobby’ Horse from northern dialect ……then onto the light horsemen better known as the Reivers.

(c) Further information about the 200 or so mounted Archers / Free Company of Sir John Grey of Chillingham that fought at Agincourt. Sir John became the Earl of Tankerville and was the brother of Sir Thomas Grey executed in 1415 for his part in the Southampton Plot.

All interesting stuff and as you can see it has a ‘northern’ provenance - many thanks in anticipation of the RSVP's

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Brother Ranulf
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Re: Historical development of the English Archer

Post by Brother Ranulf »

From the use of peasant bowmen at the Battle of Standard (1138) where the worth of the English Longbow was first realised
The Battle of the Standard certainly did see the use of militia archers, mentioned by several contemporary and near-contemporary writers. Putting longbows in their hands is a step much too far and unsupported by any evidence. See this article by Clifford J Rogers (if you can access it - it only recently became "pay-per-view"). He sets out, with convincing and fully-researched evidence, the case for what might be called a "standard" or "common" bow of up to around 5 feet in length (so not a longbow) up to the early 14th century when the term longbow is first seen mentioned in documents: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10. ... src=recsys&
My own extensive research for archers in the 12th century entirely supports this view.

Clifford Rogers' article actually mentions the Battle of the Standard as clear evidence that the bows being used were not longbows; Ailred of Rievaulx, writing almost 20 years after the event says: "like a hedgehog with its quill, so would you see a Galwegian bristling all round with arrows, and nonetheless brandishing his sword, and in blind madness rushing forward now smite a foe, now lash the air with useless strokes". In other words it took a great many arrows to stop the unarmoured Galwegians, so the arrows were coming from relatively weak bows at the limit of their range and not causing man-stopping injuries.

See also the same writer's article on the effectiveness of the longbow in the 14th and 15th centuries (this one free access) and compare its revolutionary impact with that of the common bows used in 1138: https://militaryrevolution.s3.amazonaws ... ongbow.pdf

The Internet is full of fake accounts of "longbows" being used by the Welsh and the English long before there is any evidence for it - the latest misinformation I have seen is the use of the Welsh "bwa hir" as if it were an historical term. It is a fraudulent modern invention, not found in any medieval Welsh document.
Brother Ranulf

"Patres nostri et nos hanc insulam in brevi edomuimus in brevi nostris subdidimus legibus, nostris obsequiis mancipavimus" - Walter Espec 1138

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