The Writer’s Guide to Medieval Battlefield Weapons

I hope you have enjoyed my previous posts on sword myths. Today we will be moving on to other common medieval weapons with a focus on those used on the battlefield. Although swords are synonymous with fantasy and a lot of historical fiction, they were not used excessively in battle during the Middle Ages. There were several other weapons that were more effective than the sword, although quite a few soldiers carried them as a back-up weapon.

Writer’s Tip: Including weapons other than swords in your novel is a great way to expand your fantasy or historical arsenal, include weapons that are vastly under-represented in fiction, give an indication of social standing, use military tactics other than sword stances and inject some realism.

Polearms

Polearm is the name for a class of weapons with a long wood pole. The most basic and common polearm is the spear. Starting in ancient times as a sharpened stick, the spear was improved first with a chipped stone head then bronze, iron and steel. Differently shaped heads were developed, often adapted from farm implements, resulting in the military fork, trident, partisan, pole-ax, glaive, bill, halberd and hammer, all of which had multiple variations. Polearms have the advantage of reach, ranging from the height of a person to about 16 feet (4.8 m) in the case of 17th century pikes. Also, infantry armed with polearms can be tightly packed into multiple ranks, creating a virtual hedge of protection. [1]

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

Clubs, Maces and Picks

The club is probably the first purposely created weapon. On the Bayeux tapestry, William the Conqueror is depicted several times carrying a club. [2] Over the centuries, the club has been improved upon and by the Middle Ages there were flails, maces, picks, and war hammers.

Axes

Throughout most of human history, an axe with a common household tool, necessary for cutting wood for the fire. As a result, it became a handy weapon. Archers during the Hundred Year’s War carried axes on their belts to be used for cutting sharpened stakes for protection as well as self-defense if they were attacked by infantry. [3]

Bows

Originally developed for hunting, the bow was used to great effect in medieval warfare in such battles as Agincourt and Crécy during the 15th century. It was a common weapon that was not that expensive to buy nor too difficult to make. Most of the bowmen in a medieval army were yeoman, free commoners or part of the lower end of the middleclass. I will be delving deeper into archery myths in future posts.


I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions by using the Contact Me form on my website or writing a comment. I post every Friday and would be grateful if you would share my content.

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Let’s get writing!

Copyright © 2020 Rebecca Shedd. All rights reserved.

[1] Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D.. The Diagram Group (1980). Diagram Visual. p. 56-62. ISBN 0-312-03950-6.
[2] Weapons: An International Encyclopedia from 5000 B.C. to 2000 A.D.. The Diagram Group (1980). Diagram Visual. p. 14-15. ISBN 0-312-03950-6.
[3] https://imgur.com/gallery/RswSL

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