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Myths about armour

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Kveto from Prague
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Myths about armour

Post by Kveto from Prague » Wed December 14th, 2011, 7:25 am

[quote=""SarahWoodbury""]On the armor issue, I blogged about how swords and armor were not 'heavy'--at least not in the way it's sometimes been portrayed (like a knight needed help getting on his horse? Please) ... http://www.sarahwoodbury.com/?p=3444[/quote]

Sarah, thank you so much for your brilliant blog. Im so tired of historically minded people, who should know better, who continue the misconception that medieval armour somehow slowed down or impared fighting abilty.

As you point out, modern soldiers carry much more weight than a medieval knight. And to use another annalogy, how many american footballers or ice hockey player are slowed down by the equiptment they have to wear? not by much, since it is part of their jobs.

and i too have seen the myths about knights being helped onto their horses with winches still being repeated (despite a lot of historical evidence to the contrary). I often wonder why there is this need to somehow dismiss medieval armour.

Opponents of armoured men might be able to defeat them due to better tactics, but one-on-one you are always better off being armoured. the only thing that truly spelt the death knell for armour was gunpowder. and even then it took a long time.



Can we please move the myth of armour slowing one down to the dunghill of historical myth?

PS. I wanted to start a new thread for this topic since it is seperate from the threrd on films. Hope you dont mind,Sarah. And Ill now be checking out your blog since you post about such cool stuff.

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SarahWoodbury
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Thu December 15th, 2011, 2:25 am

Thank you so much!

annis
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Post by annis » Thu December 15th, 2011, 3:41 am

You've just reminded me of an old thread here which EC started with a Youtube clip showing a guy swimming in his chain mail to prove that it really isn't that heavy :)
http://www.historicalfictiononline.com/ ... chain+mail

Edited to say that I've just checked and unfortunately the video clip no longer seems to open. I can swear that I did watch it though, and the guy really did manage to swim in his mail shirt.
Last edited by annis on Thu December 15th, 2011, 3:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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SarahWoodbury
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Post by SarahWoodbury » Thu December 15th, 2011, 4:15 am

Just common sense indicates that if men wore something that made it harder to fight (and if they fell off their horse, meant they were like an upturned turtle) they would find something else. Leather would be better than that.

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sgn1
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Post by sgn1 » Thu December 15th, 2011, 8:43 am

Two issues were being discussed in the film thread, though sometimes it wasn't particularly clear:

1) The flexibility of the armour

2) The weight of the armour

Of course mail and plate is flexible otherwise it wouldn't be worth wearing :rolleyes: Weight is another issue. Modern day re-enactors immediately notice the weight of authentic armour. Medieval and earlier folk wearing it would last much longer wearing it. Eventually the armour would be a deadweight, and it's worth the historical novelist taking it into consideration. Things would be different if you were on horse, rather than footslogging. There would come a point where the fighter would be exhausted. Hopefully, by that time the fight would be won ...

Films entertain, and can give inspiration - though not the scene in Olivier's Heny V, where the knight is winched onto his mount. Entertaining, but untrue :p

It's always useful keeping an open-mind and seeing if things can be applied elsewhere, but remember to give the practicalities their due.

That's my take on it, anyway.

Hope that clarifies things :)
Last edited by sgn1 on Thu December 15th, 2011, 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Thu December 15th, 2011, 10:26 am

[quote=""SarahWoodbury""]Just common sense indicates that if men wore something that made it harder to fight (and if they fell off their horse, meant they were like an upturned turtle) they would find something else. Leather would be better than that.[/quote]


very true, Sarah. Any detrement in terms of deadweight would clearly be offset by the protection armour offered.

chainmail was susceptable to thrusting weapons, but plate was mostly impenatrable, which is why later ages saw the rise of blunt force weapons such as maces and morning stars.

It was tactics, such as those employed by the swiss confederation's use of polearms, that managed to overcome the advantages of armour.

While the romantic idea from historical fiction of a faster unarmoured opponent defeating a slower, armoured opponent makes for good fiction, it remains just that.

It brings me to what I consider the most interesting aspect, why do we modern readers wish to denegrate armoured knight so? What phychological vendetta do films and television have against them?

My own take is out love of the underdog. Its much more uplifting to picture an unarmoured peasant defeating an armoured upper class knight. It makes for a good narrative.

this and hollywood and re-enactors, who wear armour twice a year, looking like confused tortoises :-)

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Post by sgn1 » Thu December 15th, 2011, 11:15 am

Don't think anything was said in the film thread about a lighter armed opponent winning a fight against a heavier armed opponent :confused:

I think we can all work out what's filmic conceit and what feels real. One person in the film thread made some useful points about entertainment. And then of course we've all read novels so heavy with authentic stuff to the point it's boring to read and may as well be non-fiction. And then there's the happy medium, that has a great story line, but also grows naturally from its era and hits all the authentic marks.

Anyhow, gotta go, as I've an essay on Gildas to write - he's variously been called hypochondriac (?), annoying, tedious, prolix (had to look up the meaning of that one!), boring etc. But I think he's the best source 6th century history there is, primarily because he's the closest source to the era we have. And he doesn't mention Arthur :eek: Discuss!
Last edited by sgn1 on Thu December 15th, 2011, 11:25 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by annis » Thu December 15th, 2011, 6:09 pm

I was quite surprised when I checked this subject out last time round to discover that a full suit of medieval plate is thought to have weighed little more than 60 lb (27 kg) on average, considerably lighter than the equipment often carried by the elite of today's armies. (For example, SAS patrols have been known to carry equipment weighing well over 200 lb (91 kg) for many miles).

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Post by EC2 » Thu December 15th, 2011, 11:29 pm

I think everyone writing about the Medieval period should read and have on their shelves, Ewart Oakeshott's books on swords and armour. Such a pity he has passed on. When I started out writing about the Middle Ages, Oakeshott was the author who opened my eyes to the truth that the Medieval sword was not a whacking great instrument that only the likes of Conan the Barbarian would have been capable of wielding. Ditto the silly fallacies about armour.
As he says in his intro to The Sword in the Age of Chivalry, comment about swords being 'inefficient, or excessively heavy or otherwise brutish and ineffectual...stems from lack of acquaintance with medieval swords... the average weight of these swords is between 2lbs and 3lbs and they were balanced with the same care and skill in the making as a tennis racket or a fishing rod.'
Oakeshott had his own personal collection of Medieval swords and used to use them on a regular basis.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

Stuart C. Flynn
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Armour

Post by Stuart C. Flynn » Tue December 27th, 2011, 1:54 pm

I've just joined the forum. Some good comments here.

I think that the continuing armour misconception is one of those myths carried forward in order to discredit the Middle Ages - "look how stupid people were back then, wearing armour so heavy that they fell over and couldn't get up again.'

It's good to see some opposition to that kind of thinking.

Stuart C. Flynn
http://www.stuart C. Flynn.com

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