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The Medieval Archer (2000)

“The Medieval Archer” by Jim Bradbury.

This is a study of the archer and his weapon, from the Norman Conquest to the Wars of the Roses.

It opens with a definition of various types of bow and challenges the usual assumption that the “longbow” was a new and devastating weapon used only by the English army from the late-13th century onwards.

Bradbury shows from a close study of early evidence, including that of bows used for hunting, that the archer’s role before the time of Edward I was an important but rarely-documented one, and that his new prominence in the 14th century was the result of changes in development of military tactics and the organization of armies rather than a change of weapon.

Having examined the archer’s role in warfare, Bradbury turns to the archer’s role in society, based on the legend of Robin Hood, and shows how the stories about him can reveal much to us about the standing of the yeoman archer. The final chapters look at the archer in the 15th century and then chronicle the rise of the handgun as the major infantry weapon, at the bow’s expense.

By the end of the Tudor age, despite injunctions that archery should be regularly practised by all able-bodied men, the bow belonged to a past golden age rather than to current warfare.

Jim Bradbury writes and lectures on battles and warfare in England and France in the Middle Ages, and is the author of “The Medieval Siege”.

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