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16th Century English Weapons Essay, Research Paper
During the 16th century England and much
of Europe found itself in turmoil and in a constant state of war.
The outbreak of fighting led to the invention and development of new weapons
and the growth and change of weapons of old. The development of weapons
was a trademark of the time, with a sort of renaissance, or re-birth in
the field of weaponry (Miller). The technology was highlighted by
the invention of gunpowder by the Chinese which eventually found its way
to England (Grolier). However, the use of gunpowder was minimal,
because the use of had yet to be perfected. The technological advancement
most useful during the period was progression of the metals used in weaponry.
The new forms could be found in the production of swords, arrows, cannons,
and armor, as well as varies siege weapons.
The three major categories of weapons
used during the 16th century were handheld, siege, and missiles.
The primary use of handheld weapons is for the obvious is hand to hand
combat in close quarters. Handheld weapons were not always the most
efficient weapons but played a major role in battle because of their simplicity.
An entire army would depend on the use of foot soldiers and simply outnumber
their opponent while fighting in the trenches (Grolier). Siege weapons
were effective not on battles on an open area, but rather when one army
would attack the fortress or castle of the other army. The siege
weapons were used to either knock the gate at the entrance of the castle,
or other wise gain entry, or to hurl large objects or arrows over the defensive
walls around the perimeter of the castle. Fire was another common
tactic used with siege of castles, as well as the use of the newly found
gunpowder (Revell, “Missile”). The third type of weapons are missile
weapons, which came to be the signature of the time period. The missile
weapons were fired or projected from a distance and were found effective
due to their range, but accuracy became important and so did the skill
involved in warfare.
Handheld weapons represented a large portion
of the weapons used during 16th Century warfare (Iannuzzo). Most
commonly used was the sword. Throughout the middles ages, metals
were developed to withstand more abuse and thus became more effective (Iannuzzo).
The metals now had to strong enough to pierce through the newly developed
armor of the time (Revell, “Armour”). The use of carbonized iron,
which was heated, beaten, and cut the process repeated many times over
to form a solid and durable and lighter than previous swords. The
double edge sword was far superior in strength and sharpness of the other
swords of the time (Grolier). The 16th century also brought forth
the use of flamberge sword that had an undulating cutting edge, that was
believed to be able to easily pierce the armor, but was too awkward for
battle and was eventually abandoned. By this time the Great sword,
sometimes over six feet in length, were being deployed. This sword
was deadly only because of the pure size of it. The great swords
required enormous strength just to hold and even more to be effective.
Eventually the great sword became too awkward to use in battle just as
the flamberge. These two inferior swords took a back seat to the
smaller and more agile estoc sword. The estoc had a narrow triangular
blade that was used to pierce the joints in the armor, rather than slash
through it. But the progression in the strength of these swords made
it able for the estocs to be strong enough to pierce through entire plates
of the armour (Revell, “Armour”). This more effective sword led to
a revolution in the art of sword fighting, because now a soldier must be
able to beat an opponent with speed and quickness, rather than raw strength.
The second type of handheld weapon that
made an impact during the 16th century, were maces. The mace was
as a secondary weapon that was used after the initial charge, where swords
were the primary weapon (Iannuzzo). Maces were heavy lead balls attached
to a chain, which was attached to the metal handle that the warrior would
hold. They were small and quick enough to crush a man?s skull (Revell,
“Armour”). Early maces that were smooth were found to slide off the
armor and not cause much damage. This lead to the elaboration of
putting metal spikes on the ball that would be able to puncture the armor
and cause injury to the opponent. The mace was also used by medieval
knights, who would hang them by their side and use them when they were
too close to use their swords or they had lost it. It was also a
weapon used heavily by churchmen while defending their church (Rowse).
The last type of handheld weapon were the pole arms that were primarily
used to guard other weapons while they were loading (Revell, “Armour”).
Siege weapons were the vital weapons when
an army needed to attack their opponents? stronghold. The two types
of siege weapons were catapults and ballistae, with catapults being the
predecessor (Iannuzzo). The catapults would heave large objects over
the enemies? walls and varied in size, from small for one or two soldiers
to operate and to large, which required up to ten people to operate.
The catapults would use large objects such as boulders, firepots, and dead
animals as ammunition. The boulders would cause damages from impact,
the firepots would start fires, and the dead animals would spread diseases
inside the town or castle into which it was thrown (Revell, “Missile”).
Ballistaes were gigantic cross bows that were capable of firing multiple
arrows at a single time, as well as firing arrows with multiple heads.
These arrows were much greater in size than those of the common bow and
arrows, which were carried by a single soldier. The ballistae weapons
were more complex than the catapults, and were required to be built prior
to battle, due to their complex configuration. In addition it took
many men to move them, but their effectiveness was well worth the extra
manpower that was used for the transportation.
The missile type of weapons was commonly
used and was very effective because they could be fired from afar.
The bow and arrow was effective but slow in firing at opponents.
The arrows were fired high into the air and would then come down with greater
force then if they were fired straight at the enemy. The arrows were
placed in the bow and pulled back against the tension and then release,
thus propelling the arrow with great momentum in the direction they were
aimed (Revell, “Missile”). The crossbows on the other hand were horizontal
and would be drawn back and latched. The arrow was then released
by pulling a trigger (Brigatta). The next weapon used the relatively
new, at least to England, gunpowder. The discovery of gun powder
by the Chinese lead to the development of the matchlock musket. The
musket was small enough to fit under the arm of the soldier. The
gun consisted of a wood base and a barrel made of lead strips held close
by spirals and welded together (Brigatta). The arquebus was a matchlock
weapon that used a trigger for the first and was found to be effective.
This replaced the lever action and now made the matchlock easier to hold
steady while aiming and firing (Revell, “Missile”). The use of gunpowder
made the armies of the 16th century more dependent on supply trains and
more powerful while attack strongholds (Grolier). The cannons then
became the primary use of gunpowder, because of their effective use and
rather simple mechanics. In 1543 England made the first single-cast
iron cannon and ensured England as a dominant producer of military supplies
The 16th century was a time when the weapons
of warfare took on a rebirth and the force of the armies greatly increased.
The handheld weapon alone became quicker and easier to manage and thus
deadlier then ever. This was through the development of the shape,
size, and texture of the swords and mace. The siege weapons also
became so effective that the castles were no loner effective enough to
stop the onslaught brought on by the catapults and ballistae. Both
of these weapons were so effective that new architectural designs were
needed for the castles. The missile weapons most likely had the greatest
evolution, from the somewhat primitive design of bow and arrows to the
rather modern introduction of the matchlock musket. The advances
in weaponry were a gigantic step into the direction weapon technology we
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