Medieval Archers

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 defense and attack.

There were two main types of archer in medieval times *crossbowmen and longbowmen.

English enemy fire their arrow bolts at French Enemy

English longbowmen

Crossbowmen

Medieval Archer 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 the bow was invented in the later Paleolithic or early Mesolithic periods.

Almost all ancient civilizations had archers as part of their armies and thus it was this ancient trend that continued in medieval times as well.

 

Medieval longbowmen armour and helmets

Medieval longbowmen


Medieval Archer Weapons

medieval archers used crossbows and longbows, crossbows fired bolts whereas longbows fired bodkin tipped arrows. The longbow 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 wood could be used to make the bow commonly yew wood was used. Arrows came in multiple types during different eras and included long bodkins and short bodkins heads.

Bodkin-Arrowhead

Bodkin Arrowhead

Medieval Archer Types

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 operate.

Its accurate range could be anywhere between 300 to 400 yards, later metal crossbows had an even greater range, but they fired at a slower rate than the longbow *2 to 3 bolts a minute could be fired by trained crossbowmen.

Crossbow Parts

Crossbow Parts

The Longbow, on the other hand, required considerable skills and training. Its range was generally 200 – 300 yards with an upper range limit of around 400 yards, it could be fired at a much higher rate compared to the crossbow, around 10-12 arrows per minute.

Medieval Longbow used by Longbowmen

Longbow used by Longbowmen

Medieval Archer Training

Both types of medieval archers required training, however, whereas the crossbowmen could be trained in weeks it took longbowmen years to master their skills. The lords and armies of the medieval times attached particular importance to archery and thus paid special attention to the training of medieval archers.

In 1252, the 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.

English longbowmen Battle of Agincourt

English longbowmen Battle of Agincourt


Medieval Archers in Battle

Crossbowmen

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.

Crossbowmen typically took forward positions on the battlefield and used a large pavise shield as protection. *Crossbowmen would target both cavalry and infantry, the bolts they fired were accurate and effective from around 300-400 yards or further depending on the type of crossbow used.

Pavise Shield

Large Pavise Shield protects Crossbowmen

Longbowmen

The longbow was a long-ranged weapon so longbowmen were well out of the range of most weapons wielded on the battlefield, in later medieval periods large numbers of longbowmen were used in tightly packed formations.

These formations could create a cloud of arrows that rained down on the enemy. The battle of Agincourt was a famous battle in which these advanced battle tactics were used.

Battle of Agincourt French Knights Battle Ready

French Knights *Battle of Agincourt

Famous Battles *Archers

One of the most famous battles where medieval archers played an important role was the Battle of the Hastings, in 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.

Archers Summary

Medieval archers were a very important part of every medieval army and special attention was paid to the training of medieval archers. Archers used in medieval battles would be crossbowmen and longbowmen.

The Crossbow was easier to use compared to the longbow, it was accurate and powerful up to 400 yards, and fired bolts instead of arrows that could penetrate armour.

The longbow fired a bodkin tipped arrow and could be effective up to around 200 – 300 yards but had a faster firing rate of around 10-12 arrows per minute.


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