Tag Archive | armor

Transcription Practically Performed

Thanks to the transcribing efforts of Andy Tumath, the world can now add a significant portion of Nathaniel Boteler’s War Practically Perform’d to its digitized corpus. For those who can’t wait until the break, here’s a summary, in word cloud format of course:

Boteler, War Practically Performed word cloud

Boteler, War Practically Performed word cloud (Wordle)

Voyant’s Cirrus word cloud does a better job with English stop words, even though you can’t really modify the format:

Boteler from Voyant's Cirrus word cloud

Boteler from Voyant’s Cirrus word cloud

Funny how Taporware’s stop list eliminates the “may” while Wordle’s eliminates the “shall.”

And in case you forgot Voyant:

Boteler in Voyant

Boteler in Voyant

One guess as to which part of Boteler’s work focuses on fortifications and siegecraft.

I’ll leave it to those with more spare time to pull out gems, but given recent discussion of cumbersome armor and my own interest in the cowardice attributed to those skulking behind protection, I thought this section on armor was germane (recall that this was published in 1663 and again in 1672):

We shall speak in the next place, and in this second Chapter, of the second Principal contained under the first Requireable, that is, of Arms; and first, of Defensive, and those fitted for the bodies of men; touching which, I shall not particularize in the pieces and names, well enough known to every Train-band-man; but only enquire into the use, and when they seem best fitted for service, and for the turn they are provided.

And first of those called Arms of proof.


“Proofed” armor (American Southwest Virtual Museum)

A proof indeed of the degeneration of mens spirits and courage, and wherewith [8] the wearers become so over-charged, and shackled, that they seem chiefly prepared to fight against the shock and brunt of their own coats of Steel; and as if bound rather to defend their Arms, then their Arms are.

In which regard (for mine own part) I find no reason why they should be in any great request. For should there be found one man of a thousand so well underlaid as to match or stand under one of them, yet shall he note be able to fight, no not to keep his legs against the force of a Musquet-shot within point-blank, or a level Range: for though perhaps it pierce not his thick armour, yet shall it sure enough lay the bearer on his back, there to lie until he find a Comrade or two to set him on his feet, or be troden to death with the prease of his own side. And truly there is but little difference, either in respect of assistance to his Partie, or safetie to himself, between a mans being killed by a Musquet-shot by the want of his boisterous Arms, and his being overthrown and tortured to death by having them upon him. ….

For those who refuse to believe that a word cloud is the window into an author’s soul, you can always Read More.

Read More…

Merry Christmas

If your idea of a Christmas present is watching a guy in 15C armor running on a treadmill, Merry Christmas. The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences), argues that steel plate armor doubled the energy expended by unencumbered soldiers. I seem to recall medievalists arguing that the finely-crafted balance of plate mail made it not much of an encumbrance at all, so I wonder if this is a revelation or not. Here’s the abstract from the journal article:

In Medieval Europe, soldiers wore steel plate armour for protection during warfare. Armour design reflected a trade-off between protection and mobility it offered the wearer. By the fifteenth century, a typical suit of field armour weighed between 30 and 50 kg and was distributed over the entire body. How much wearing armour affected Medieval soldiers’ locomotor energetics and biomechanics is unknown. We investigated the mechanics and the energetic cost of locomotion in armour, and determined the effects on physical performance. We found that the net cost of locomotion (Cmet) during armoured walking and running is much more energetically expensive than unloaded locomotion. Cmet for locomotion in armour was 2.1–2.3 times higher for walking, and 1.9 times higher for running when compared with Cmet for unloaded locomotion at the same speed. An important component of the increased energy use results from the extra force that must be generated to support the additional mass. However, the energetic cost of locomotion in armour was also much higher than equivalent trunk loading. This additional cost is mostly explained by the increased energy required to swing the limbs and impaired breathing. Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers’ physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles.

Of course this leaves all sorts of questions unanswered, assuming the scientists included all the relevant variables in their experiment. The British media has framed the question around the battle of Agincourt, no surprise, where the French men-at-arms famously dismounted and slogged their way across a ploughed field to get at the awaiting English. As an aside, the first exam in my first grad school foray into EMEMH (a Joe Guilmartin course) required me to put myself in the greaves of a French knight as I slogged across that soggy field. I don’t remember my grade, but I do remember ending it with dying thoughts of my petite chouchou back home, whom I would never see again. But I digress…

I wonder if the Agincourt framing is a bit misleading, since the English are generally said to be among the first to dismount their own knights, to shore up their archers. So I guess I’m left wondering how we incorporate this information into our understanding of late medieval battlefield tactics. Presumably it provided further encouragement for the preference for defensive dispositions in battle, as Cliff Rogers emphasizes. Any other thoughts?