Longbow Weapon

Longbows *Discover how the Longbow became such an Effective and Important Weapon During Medieval Warfare


Medieval Longbows had a long wooden stave usually made of yew wood that had a rounded central section similar to a D shape, they are recorded as being used in ancient times.

The Viking also used Longbows and they were popular weapons throughout the medieval period.

Although longbows were an effective weapon it was not until later in the medieval period that military commanders realised how effective the Longbow could be in battle when used by a large army of tightly packed, highly trained, and organized longbow archers.


Medieval Footsoldiers longbowmen in the Battle of Crecy

Longbow v Crossbow

The longbow was a very effective weapon, but it was harder to use and required greater strength than the crossbow which was easier to load as it had a mechanised loading system, this also meant it took less time to train soldiers to use a Crossbow.

The Longbow had some advantages over the crossbow however as it was easier to load and fire, typically a longbowman archer could fire his arrows at a much faster rate than a crossbowman.


Medieval Military Loading up a crossbow

Longbow *Hundred Years War

Longbows really cemented their reputation as invaluable weapons during the hundred years war between England and France and they were the decisive weapons used in many battles such as the battle of Crécy.

During the battle of Crécy around 1000 tightly packed longbowmen were able to defeat the French army conclusively, the well-trained usually dominant French knights had no answer to the constant stream of arrows that rained down on them mercilessly from the longbows of the English archers.


Longbowmen Firing on the enemy

Longbows | How they were made

The medieval Longbow was made from sapwood on the outer side and heartwood on the inside, this gave the body of the longbow called the stave a natural spring which helped produce a powerful firing action.

The typical length of a longbow was around 6 feet and they were designed to be in proportion to the height of the archer using them, so that the draw back was around chest height.


How were Longbows Fired?

In the center of the Longbow stave was a thicker area that was designed to improve grip. The longbow was held in the left hand, the right hand would be used to draw back the string which was usually made of gut or hemp.

The string of the Longbow was looped over each end of the longbow stave, and the center of the string was also strengthened at what was called the nocking point.


Medieval Longbow was made by bowyers

Using the medieval Longbow

A Longbowman would draw the longbow string back towards his chest, this required considerable strength, and medieval Longbowmen were very strong people, training was developed to increase the Longbow man’s strength and the constant practice of firing the longbow also helped to improve the longbowman’s strength.

Longbowmen would spend numerous hours learning the best way to fire an arrow from a longbow for the maximum effect, they had to know when to release the arrow at the best moment of the drawback, however, this would eventually become second nature for the medieval Longbowmen after years of practice.


Medieval Longbow used by Longbowmen

Tactical uses of the Longbow

Longbows could be used in many different ways, some medieval tales described how Robin Hood used the weapon in the woodlands and forests of Nottingham in ambushes, however, it wasn’t until later in the medieval period that the longbow came into its own.

New tactics were developed and medieval Longbow archers were tightly packed together in large units of up to one thousand men, these footsoldiers would fire at enemy positions in unison creating a devastating effect on the enemy forces who were unable to avoid the arrows that rained down on them.

These tactics were used to great effect and were decisive in the following battles of the 100 years war between England and France

  • Battle of  Crécy 26 August 1346
  • Battle of Poitiers 19 September 1356
  • Battle of Agincourt 25 October 1415

Battle of Crecy – Longbowmen defeat the French Knights

Longbowmen | Mercenaries

Good Longbowmen were in high demand during later medieval periods due to the effectiveness of these longbow formations and they were wanted all over Europe, many longbowmen realised that they could hire out their services for high rewards and would travel far and wide fighting for any army that would pay them well. Scottish Longbowmen for example were hired by the French during the Hundred Years War to fight against the English.


Medieval archers (mercenaries) fire their arrows at the enemy

The end of the Longbow

Just as with other medieval weapons the medieval Longbow declined with the invention of guns and gun powder, Longbowmen were no longer needed as they couldn’t compete with these new weapons, however, the English were reluctant to let go of one of their best medieval weapons and the Longbowmen survived right up until Tudor times even though their effectiveness had declined considerably.

Medieval Gun Powder Medieval Inventions

Medieval Longbow facts:

  • The Longbow was used in many battles during the Hundred Years’ War
  • The Longbow came into its own during the Battle of Crécy in which France’s medieval knights were destroyed
  • The Longbow was a better and more powerful weapon than the Crossbow
  • Longbows were used as early as Roman/Viking times
  • It was the improvements made to the Longbows design and tactical use that made it so effective
  • The Longbow had a wooden stave and a string made from gut or hemp
  • Longbows were designed to be in proportion to an archer’s height
  • Most medieval longbows were around 6 feet in height
  • The best way to draw back the string of a medieval Longbow was towards the chest
  • Robin Hood was believed to have used Longbows in medieval tales
  • Longbows were used decisively in the battle of Agincourt, Crécy, and Poitiers
  • Longbows were used up until and including the Tudor period
  • Longbowmen were in high demand in medieval times and were paid well as mercenaries
  • The invention of gunpowder and guns led to the eventual decline of medieval Longbowmen