The Longbow

The Longbow

The longbow was often used in medieval warfare and there were different types for battle - the shortbow, composite bow and longbow.

The English used the longbow during the Hundred Years War very dramatically and it also had a great effect within naval battles. English archers inflicted an extremely harsh attack with a longbow on French ships at the Battle of Sluys in 1340 which caused major losses. Additionally, at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 the longbow caused 2,000 French mounted knights to die, and these were the highest ranking in the French army. It is clear how much of an effective weapon the longbow proved to be where 20,000 English soldiers managed to defeat 60,000 French soldiers.

English kings encouraged the longbow’s use by including good prizes for the sponsor of tournaments for archers who were successful. On Sundays all sports were forbidden except archery as it ensured that England would always have a good selection of experienced archers at the ready for war. It was the law for the king to be provided with a specific amount of trained archers each year by an English shire.

English longbow
English longbow

The first longbow is believed to have originated from Wales and then spread throughout England. When Edward I managed to conquer Wales in the 1280s he was a witness to its use.

The longbow was approximately six feet in length and came from a yew tree - but the shortage of them meant the other trees used were ash, elm or wych elm.

The arrows measured three feet and had broad tips when armour needed to be pierced, and narrow tips for piercing the knights plate armour. Arrow material was taken from ash, oak or birch.

Experienced archers were able to shoot one arrow every five seconds, and many of them could conjure up a dramatic attack which the French experienced during the Hundred Years War. Like its namesake, the short bow was three to four feet long with a medium shooting range and not as much power as the longbow.

A story from medieval times said that a longbow arrow was able to force its way into four inches of oak. Recently, tests have confirmed this is correct when the arrow is fired from a close distance. The longbow’s maximum range was 400 metres, though it was much less effective from that distance.

See also:

The Hundreds Years War

MLA Citation/Reference

"The Longbow". 2015. Web.