Medieval archers were medieval soldiers who were skilled in the use of bow and arrow. They were an inevitable part of every military and served a very important part during both defence and attack.
There were multiple types of medieval archers who were expert in their own type of archery. The person who made medieval bows and arrows for medieval archers was called an artillator.
Medieval Archers History
While medieval archers were part and parcel of medieval battles, the history of archery itself goes back to ancient times. It is generally thought that bow was invented in the later Paleolithic or early Mesolithic periods. Almost all ancient civilisations had archers as part of their armies and thus it was this ancient trend that continued in the medieval times as well.
Medieval Archers Weapons
The main weapons at the disposal of medieval archers were bows and arrows. The bow had two parts: a strip of flexible wood and a cord or string to generate the tension used to propel the arrow. Various kinds of materials could be used to make the bow. Arrows came in multiple types during different eras and included long bodkins and short bodkins.
Medieval longbowmen like this one were well protected with armour and helmets
Types of Medieval Archer
Broadly speaking, there were two types of medieval archers: the crossbowmen and the longbowmen. Among these two, the crossbow was relatively easier to use and required less training and skills to use. Its range could be anywhere between 350 to 400 yards but it could be shot at a slower rate.
The Longbow, on the other hand, required considerable skills and training. Its range was generally 250 feet but it could be shot at a much higher rate compared to crossbow.
Medieval Archer Training
Both types of medieval archers required considerable training, particularly the longbowmen. The lords and armies of the medieval times attached particular importance with archery and thus paid special attention to the training of medieval archers.
In 1252, first medieval archery law was passed in England according to which all men between the ages of 15 and 60 were to train themselves in archery.
Medieval Archers in Battle
Medieval archers were an essential part of every battle. Since the crossbow could be easily operated, it could be used by a single medieval archer without any assistance. The longbow, on the other hand, required cover for the archer while operating it and thus he also used a large shield as a cover during the battle. Use of large shield could also be done by the crossbowmen.
Medieval archers fire off their arrows at their French enemies
Medieval Archer Formations
The main role of the medieval archers was to start the action and advance in front of the main army. This is what happened during the famous Battle of the Hastings. The skirmish formation was when crossbowmen were involved in aggressive skirmishing ahead of the main army.
Famous Medieval Archer Battles
One of the most famous battles where medieval archers played an important role was the Battle of the Hastings, which the Norman King William killed the King of England, Harold, and began a new era in the history of England.
During this battle, the medieval archers started the action ahead of the army. Similarly, another major battle in which longbowmen played an important part was the Battle of Agincourt.
Medieval Archers Summary
Medieval archers were a necessary part of every medieval army and special attention was paid to the training of medieval archers. The archers would be either longbowmen or crossbowmen. The Crossbow was easier to use compared to the longbow, although it had less range.