David Steinbach

Longbow Archery in the 1300s

The longbow was the national weapon from the thirteenth until the sixteenth century for the English army. The longbow was usually as tall as the archer and shot an arrow about a yard long. Also the bow must have straight ends and not be recurved. The traditional longbow has no arrow rest, so the arrow is laid over the top of the forefinger for shooting. Another characteristic of the English longbow is that it is made of yew wood. Some authorities agree that the longbow was stronger than the bows of the present day. These experts believe that the longbow drew anywhere from 80 to 110 pounds of pressure. However, these powerful weapons were effective as far as 180 to 200 yards.

The longbow was considered a formidable weapon when used correctly. A skilled archer could shoot six to ten arrows in a minute with accuracy. This weapon also helped end the 500 years of the supremacy for the mounted knight. The most important aspect of the longbow was that a yeoman could own and master this weapon, which made him superior to a knight on the battlefield. Because of the longbow the English suffered few casualties and became the dominate force in Europe. Each archer could kill hundreds of enemies for every archer that was lost in battle.

Several laws were passed for long periods of time for the promotion of the longbow. For instance, a person's wage earnings could demand that a person carry a bow with him whenever he traveled. Also it was mandatory for many English citizens to practice shooting their longbows on Sundays. These laws were intended for the average citizen, who might be called upon at some point to fight for England.

Perhaps the greatest story about the English longbow is when the English defeated the French at the Battle of Crecy in 1346. The battle took place in northern France and about 7000 archers were able to dismount the French knights who were then slaughtered by the English. The key factor was that the French used crossbows compared to the English longbows. The longbow is easier to reload and more arrows can be fired and thus the English made short work of the French at Crecy in 1346. The longbow was the major weapon for the English until the end of the sixteenth century when improvements in armour and developments of guns and cannons became more prevalent.

Literature Cited

Kaiser, Robert E., M.A. "The Medieval English Longbow." Journal of the Society of Archer-Antiquaries. Vol. 23. (1980). On-line. <HTTP://MEMBERS.AOL.COM/DGHOLDEN61/ARTICLE.HTM> 13 January 1999.

Roberts, Clayton and David Roberts. A History of England: Prehistory to 1714. Vol. 1. 2nd ed. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1985.