Welcome to the Historical Fiction Online forums: a friendly place to discuss, review and discover historical fiction.
If this is your first visit, please be sure to check out the FAQ by clicking the link above.
You will have to register before you can post: click the register link above to proceed.
To start viewing posts, select the forum that you want to visit from the selection below.

Myths about armour

User avatar
SarahWoodbury
Avid Reader
Posts: 496
Joined: March 2009
Location: Pendleton, Oregon
Contact:

Post by SarahWoodbury » Thu December 29th, 2011, 5:08 am

I think you're right, Stuart. It's just one of those things that started later on, once people stopped wearing armor. Like calling the post-Roman period, 'the Dark Ages'. My daughter is a history major and she says the term they're using now is 'early middle ages'. 'Post-roman' works, too, particularly for the UK.

User avatar
Shield-of-Dardania
Reader
Posts: 129
Joined: February 2010

Post by Shield-of-Dardania » Tue January 10th, 2012, 5:38 am

Sorry, but I just have to slip in my 2-tuppence worth now. Good to see some passionate discussion here. I am neither pro-armour nor anti-armour, and I say that in all honesty and with all due respect. It's a most interesting subject. And for that very reason, let's all be as objective as we can about it at the same time too.

I have no personal experience of wearing armour myself, but I have good reason to believe that even a bit of extra clothing does affect an athlete's performance. A professional swimmer, or sprinter, for instance, always goes for minimum clothing. And what are warriors if not athletes of the battlefield? Who live or die by their last performance.

Even the protective padding on a karate-ka's or taekwondo-ka's gear, during a contest, will hamper his movement to a certain extent, although his robust training and fitness will help him to overcome its effects.

It's always about the tradeoff - between added protection on one hand, given by wearing armour, and greater agility & manoeuverability, given by not wearing it. And in certain situations, I believe, that could be a tough choice to make. What it comes to, I think, is that a 220 lb warrior, if he's wearing 77 or 88 lb of armour, would surely suddenly feel vastly more mobile if that weight is taken off him. Whether that increased mobility is enough of a plus to more than compensate for the loss in hard protection, now that would be the next stage of the analysis.

For anyone interested to read about a scientific study, using volunteers walking and running on a treadmill, wearing 15th century replica armour, try this.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14204717

The researchers in this study, in fact, happened to believe that the effect of armour was so great that it could have played a part in the the Battle of Agincourt which, incidentally, went to the side which was vastly outarmoured and outnumbered.

Wearing 40 kg of armour is not the same as as carrying 40 kg of backpack. For some reasons, according to these researchers, the former is significantly more challenging.

Among the adverse effects cited, due to wearing armour, were high energy consumption, immense weight bearing on the legs and restricted breathing.

All in all, this is what Thom Richardson, keeper of armours, Royal Armouries of Leeds, UK, says: "It is interesting to use the scientific method to answer these questions, and it confirms what we have always suspected - heavy armour would very much reduce your ability to run around. But noone wears something on the battlefield if it isn't useful."

The evidence we have indicates that it's not always the side with heavier armour that wins the battle. Rather, as in every sporting contest, it's a mix of tactics & strategy, fitness & finesse, skill & experience, stamina, fighting spirit, brute strength, as well as sheer luck, that combine to shape the final outcome. In this regard, exploiting & attacking any weakness, or disequilibrium, on the enemy's side - including either excessive/cumbersome or insufficient armour - would form an important part of tactics & strategy, as I believe many a general would have found in the past.

My take is that heavy armour is associated with the ruling elite, the conquering tribe, the establishment, a perceivedly superior culture or enemy etc. while giving the wearer an aura of invincibility, which would be encouraged by the wearer's side, of course, in their own interest. While conversely, light armour or zero armour is associated with the rebel forces, the conquered tribe, the resistance, the peasants etc.

At the same time, anything or anyone, once portrayed or projected as totally invincible, would also often attract a whole multitude of daredevil challengers, detractors, doubters, belittlers etc., equally encouraged by their side in their own interest, perennially eager to try their utmost best to puncture that myth of total invincibility. Sometimes with results surprisingly, remarkably exceeding all expectations, with Agincourt possibly one such example.
Last edited by Shield-of-Dardania on Fri January 13th, 2012, 3:52 pm, edited 16 times in total.

User avatar
Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 920
Joined: September 2008
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri February 17th, 2012, 10:50 pm

only just saw this.

Thanks, Shield. Interesting study but hardly surprising. Take a number of modern people who have never worn armour in their lives and see if it reduces their mobility. I think we could have saved them some time and money by saying that that's obvious. Its like taking someone who has never worn high heels in their lives and wondering if they will be able to run effectively in heels.

What this study fails to address is that these men were used to wearing the armour EVERY day. obviously all of that time spent in armour helped them grow accustomed to the burden. Rather than compare them to sprinters or swimmers, compare them to modern athletes who actually hit each other, like American footballers or ice hockey players. These athletes wear a lot of heavy, awkward and uncomfortable padding. But the reduction in their speeds is minimal. Why? Because they wear it every day and have grown accustomed to the burden.

Yes, lighter armoured opponents defeated more heavily armoured ones but in most instances this was due to tactics. For example, an army armed with spears might be able to defeat an army using guns with the right tactics. but it would not be due to the spear-weilding army's greater mobility.

It all comes back to this lighter vs heavier, poorer vs richer, narrative that we seem to want to perpetuate. How many times have we heard about how the lighter, faster Mongol cavalry defeated their slower, heavier armed opponents? Guess what? the average mongol soldier was covered with heavy, metal armour (as well as his horse). Below is a link to a picture of Mongol armour.


Look at that guy. Imagine how heavy that is. But they still managed to be fast and manouverable. In fact, the mongols were almost certainly wearing heavier (and more protective) armour than just about every army they fought against.

Again any disadvantage in movement is still offset by the protection offered. Which is why in battles like agincourt, head to head tactics had to be abandoned in favour of other strategies, such as peppering your foes with arrows, or in the case of the swiss and the scots, developing pole-arm techniques, or in my own country, the lightly armour Hussite Howitzers defeating the Knighthood of England, or in later ages, gunpowder.

Back to the original point, while armour slowed warriors down somewhat, it was nothing like what some would have us believe. In fact, you confirm this yourself with regards to the martial artists padding. their robust training helps overcome this padding. Why believe that medieval warriors' training would be any less robust? Or much moreso as their lives depended on it.

Anyway, if you find this, don't take my words the wrong way. I enjoy discussing things like this.

hl=en&safe=off&sa=X&tbm=isch&prmd=imvnsb&tbnid=7OQgYNc32GXC1M:&imgrefurl=http://www.allempires.com/forum/forum_p ... 66&bih=667
Last edited by Kveto from Prague on Sat February 18th, 2012, 1:38 am, edited 6 times in total.

User avatar
Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Posts: 920
Joined: September 2008
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Post by Kveto from Prague » Fri February 17th, 2012, 10:56 pm

[quote=""Stuart C. Flynn""]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[/quote]

I think youre right as well. Us looking back and thinking "How stupid they were. I'd never wear something like that." Rather than actually putting ourselves in their place.

Edward I was reported to have been able to leap onto the back of his horse from the ground in full armour. Don't tell me the armour was a significant burden to a man who could do that.

annis
Bibliomaniac
Posts: 4585
Joined: August 2008

Post by annis » Sat February 18th, 2012, 4:02 am

Sorry, Keny, couldn't open your link, but here's a mounted armoured Mongol warrior from a museum exhibition.

Image

I suspect, though, that access to armour may have depended on rank and wealth, much as it did for European armies, where the aristos got the horses and armour and the footmen were lucky to have a leather jack and cap or perhaps a quilted jupon.
Last edited by annis on Sat February 18th, 2012, 4:04 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
SarahWoodbury
Avid Reader
Posts: 496
Joined: March 2009
Location: Pendleton, Oregon
Contact:

Post by SarahWoodbury » Mon February 27th, 2012, 6:28 pm

I think it comes down to the fact that if armor didn't give an advantage, a man wouldn't wear it. The moment it stops being an advantage, he takes it off.

Post Reply

Return to “Questions and Research”