Ewart Oakeshott: The Man and his Legacy: Part II
An article by Chad Arnow, Russ Ellis, Patrick Kelly, Nathan Robinson, and Sean A. Flynt
Compiled and produced by Nathan Robinson

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Blade Forms
Oakeshott's blade typology, as with his typologies for pommels and crosses, is meant to be a starting point. As he knew all too well, many swords do not fit neatly into a type. Some simply do not fit at all. Oakeshott reclassified others when he published new works. In one case, he discusses a sword previously classified as Type XVIIId but notes that in another of his books, he "had the sense not to classify it." Some types, such as Type XIIa, did not appear in Oakeshott's earlier works, having been added later in his life after further research.

Shown below is information relating to the period of General Usage, average Blade Length and Fuller Length, Tang shape/form, blade Cross-section, Pommel Type, and Cross Style for each type and subtype. These are largely based on Oakeshott's writings and are intended only to show information on average or "typical" swords of the type. For example, the period of time listed under General Usage denotes the period during which Oakeshott determined the type to have seen its most widespread use, despite the fact that clearly dateable examples may exist outside of that span. Similarly, clearly identifiable examples may exist whose blade lengths, number/shape of fullers (or lack thereof), or pommels fall outside of the realm of the typical example.

For some, this system may seem limiting, as many examples do not neatly fit into these categories. When viewed from Oakeshott's perspective, however, this is how the system is to be used. The typologies are not meant to pigeon-hole a sword into a particular group, but rather to provide a descriptive framework for generalized groups of swords.

It should be noted that though the following illustrated examples have been classified by Oakeshott as belonging to a particular type, they are not necessarily to be taken as an archetype for the class.

Type X | Type Xa | Type XI | Type XIa | Type XII | Type XIIa | Type XIII | Type XIIIa | Type XIIIb | Type XIV | Type XV | Type XVa | Type XVI | Type XVIa | Type XVII | Type XVIII | Type XVIIIa | Type XVIIIb | Type XVIIIc | Type XVIIId | Type XVIIIe | Type XIX | Type XX | Type XXa | Type XXI | Type XXII 

Type X
Although it is the archetypical Viking sword, the Type X can also be viewed as a transitional type, falling between Viking era swords (Wheeler Types I-IX) and true medieval swords. It retains many of the characteristics of its progenitors such as its blade profile and lenticular cross-section, but it also shows development towards new cross and pommel types that would be favored through the rest of the medieval period. The blade is typically broad and flat and tapers gently to an often nearly rounded point.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
??? - 1200 31-33 inches Nearly full blade length Flat and broad tapering to pommel Lenticular A, B, G, H, I, J, K, M 1, 2, 3
Type Xa
The Type Xa is nearly identical to the Type X in every respect. The only real difference is a narrower fuller. The blade is typically broad and flat and tapers gently to an often nearly rounded point.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
??? - 1200 31-33 inches Nearly full blade length Flat and broad tapering to pommel Lenticular A, B, G, H, I, J, K, M 1, 2, 3

Type XI
The Type XI in many respects can be considered a diametric opposite of the Type X blades. It is long where they are shorter. It is narrow where they are typically wide. Its fuller is narrow and poorly defined where the typical Type X has a broad well-defined fuller. Even its manner of use is different, being designed to be used from horseback where the Type X is usually considered to be an unmounted warrior's weapon. The blade's edges typically run parallel almost the entire length of the blade. The point is more often acute than spatulate.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1100-1175 36-37 inches Most of blade length Broad, but not so flat as the Type X Lenticular A, B, G, H, I, J, K 1, 2, 3
Type XIa
In almost all respects the Type XIa is identical to the Type XI. The only real difference being that the blade is broader than that of a normal Type XI. The blade may retain its length, or may be shorter, and the fuller remains poorly defined and narrow.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1100-1175 33-37 inches Most of blade length Broad, but not so flat as the Type X Lenticular A, B, G, H, I, J, K 1, 2, 3

Type XII
Type XII is the archetypical knightly single-handed sword. It is a well-balanced weapon to be used with a shield or without, mounted or on foot. This is probably the most common sword to be found during the high Middle Ages. These swords almost always exhibit the characteristic fuller and taper steadily to an acute point.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1170-1350 32-34 inches 2/3 of blade length Flat with almost parallel sides Lenticular Any, but Type I is prominent Any, but Style 3 is prominent
Type XIIa
If the Type XII is the archetypical knightly single-handed sword, the Type XIIa might be considered the archetypical knightly two-handed sword. Along with Type XIIIa, these can be considered the "great swords" of popular literature and history. These swords exhibit the same fullers and acute points of the smaller Type XII.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1250-1400 36-40 inches 2/3 of blade length Flat with almost parallel sides Lenticular Any, but Type J is prominent Any, but Styles 1, 2, and 3 are prominent

Type XIII
It appears that Type XIII was not a common type and there are few surviving examples. The swords are typically broad and flat, featuring very little profile taper and spatulate points. The Type XIII is an interesting sword because it appears to be a single-handed length blade but with a two-handed length grip.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1240-1350 30-31 inches 5/8 of blade length Thin with almost square cross-section Lenticular Any, but Types D, E, and I are prominent 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
Type XIIIa
The Type XIIIa blade mirrors that of the Type XIII in almost every way except that this type is much bigger. They appear to also have been much more common than the smaller Type XIII.

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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1240-1350 37-40 inches 5/8 of blade length Thin with almost square cross-section Lenticular Any, but Types D, E, and I are prominent 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7
Type XIIIb
This type is almost identical to Type XIII, the only difference being the length of the grip. In this case the grip length is of ordinary single-handed length: 4.5 inches rather than the approximately six inch length of the Type XIII.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1240-1350 30-31 inches 5/8 of blade length Thick with almost square cross-section Lenticular Any, but Types D, E, and I are prominent 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7

Type XIV
This type is typically shorter than its contemporaries, with a broad and acutely pointed blade. It appears to have been very popular. It can be considered the last of the swords designed to oppose mail.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1275-1340 26-33 inches Half of blade length Thick and parallel sided Lenticular Always wheel form, usually Type K 6, 7

Type XV
This type of sword shares characteristics with the thrusting swords of the Celtic Iron Age and as such could be said to be the longest lasting type of them all. This particular variation was developed directly in response to the advent of new forms of plate armour. The sword's stiffened cross-section and acute point make this sword more usable with the thrust, but the type is still able to perform adequately as a cutter.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1290-1415 29-33 inches N/A Narrow, usually with rectangular cross-section Flattened diamond, sometimes with a strong midrib Any Type. Mostly G, H, I, J, K Any Style, but 8 is dominant
Type XVa
These swords were very common. They are also the first of the true "bastard" swords made to be used with either one or two hands. Their grips could be rather long: as much as ten inches. In all other respects they are very similar to the normal Type XV. They exhibit the same flattened diamond cross-section with the acute point, although like the grips, the blades are sometimes a bit longer than in Type XV.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1350-1420 29-37 inches N/A Narrow, usually with rectangular cross-section Flattened diamond, sometimes with a strong midrib Any Type. Mostly G, H, I, J, K Any Style, but 8 is dominant

Type XVI
This sword type clearly shows the continued evolution of blades meant to attack armour of mixed type. As plate became more prevalent, a stiffened diamond cross-section was needed, but because mail had not yet gone out of fashion the ability to use powerful cuts was still useful. The Type XVI is a compromise sword meant to be able to do both with equal facility.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1300-1350 28-32 inches Slightly more than half of blade length Wide and flat, usually with rectangular cross-section Flattened diamond G, H, I, J, K, T, T1, T2 Any Style
Type XVIa
What distinguishes this type from the regular Type XVI is the difference in cross-section (hexagonal rather than flattened diamond) and the grip length, which is large enough to facilitate the use of two hands. This shows both the increased demand for a sword with good thrusting capabilities and the need for two hands to give enough power to thrust into the improved armour of the time.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1330-1380 32-35 inches 1/3 of blade length Wide, usually with rectangular cross-section Hexagonal Any type but mostly K or H1 Any Style

Type XVII
The Type XVII was designed in an attempt to allow the sword some utility against the increasingly prevalent plate armour of the period. In many ways, a Type XVII is more like an impact weapon designed to crack armour or provide blunt force trauma than a cutting weapon.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1335-1425 34-38 inches 1/4 of blade length Stout with quadrangular section Hexagonal Type H1 or Type T/Type T variant Any, Style 1 and 6 seemed to be most popular

Type XVIII
With the advent of the Type XVIII we see the return of the true cut and thrust sword. The increased use of projectile weapons was slowly driving plate armour from the field in this late period. With the return of lighter armours, a less specialized, more versatile sword could be used and the Type XVIII and its subtypes fit the bill admirably. The blade of Type XVIII tapers in gentle curves to an acute point.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1410 - 1510 27-36 inches N/A Rectangular Flattened diamond Type I, J, T, or T variant Generally of the curved forms. Style 11 is popular
Type XVIIIa
The Type XVIIIa is basically identical in usage and period as the Type XVIII. It is set apart by its more slender blade and, often, a grip configured for hand and a half use.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1410 - 1510 27-36 inches 1/3 blade length in some cases Rectangular Flattened diamond Any Type Any Style
Type XVIIIb
The Type XVIIIb is always of hand and a half or two-handed type. This design was especially popular in Germany.



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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1410 - 1510 32-42 inches N/A Rectangular Flattened diamond Usually a G, H, I, J, or K but also a T or one of its variants is common Any Style; 1, 2, and 10 are prevalent
Type XVIIIc
View Spotlight Article The Type XVIIIc is typically a beefier weapon than its longer Type XVIIIb counterpart, but maintains the essential characteristics of the Type XVIII.

General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1410 - 1510 32-34 inches N/A Rectangular Flattened diamond Usually a G, but H, I, J, K is common Mostly Style 12
Type XVIIId
View Spotlight Article This seems to be a rather badly defined subtype, but it can safely be said that swords of this type exhibit typical Type XVIII characteristics in blade shape but are further characterized by their extremely slender profile and single-handed grip.

General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1410 - 1510 27-36 inches Often full length if present Rectangular Flattened diamond Usually a G, but H, I, J, K is common Often Style 12 or compound hilt form
Type XVIIIe
This type is one of the few that can safely be tied to a specific region. Type XVIIIe swords have been found almost exclusively in Denmark although some of the finest examples may actually be German or Italian in origin. The unique and defining characteristic of this type of sword is its unusual narrowed ricasso.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1410 - 1510 32-42 inches N/A Rectangular Flattened diamond Type T or variant is common Mostly Style 7, 9, 12

Type XIX
This sword enjoyed a relatively long-lived period of use, from the high Middle Ages until nearly the end of the renaissance. The defining characteristic of this sword is a short ricasso and a hexagonal cross-section. Incised grooves on the ricasso are a common feature.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1350 - 1600 32-34 inches 1/4 to 1/3 length of blade Rectangular Hexagonal G, H, I, J, or K are common as are Type T variants Mostly Style 5 or 6

Type XX
The Type XX can be seen as the last of the true massive fighting swords of the XIIa or XIIIa family. This type was used well into the mid fifteenth century. The defining characteristic of the Type XX, besides its large size, is the unusual layout of its fullers. Often, the sword has two parallel fullers or two parallel fullers flanking a larger central fuller.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1350 - 1450 34-42 inches 1/4 to 1/2 length of blade Rectangular Hexagonal G, H, I, J, or K are common as are Type T variants Often Style 7 or 9
Type XXa
The Type XXa is a variant of the Type XX with a more acute blade profile. It typically exhibits the same fullering configuration, but often of a simplified form.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1350 - 1450 22-34 inches 1/4 to 1/2 length of blade Rectangular Hexagonal G, H, I, J, or K Often Style 7 or 9

Type XXI
This type takes its stylistic influence from the famous cinquedea sword (supposedly meaning "five fingers" and named for the width of the blade at the base). It is a transitional type from the end of the high medieval to the beginning of the renaissance period. In it we see the beginning of the last stand of the civilian broadsword and the new renaissance ornamentation which would in many ways typify the period. These swords were often highly decorated with elaborate etching, carving, and inlays. Some period examples even show large enameled or gilt areas.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1450 - 1560 28-34 inches 1/4 to 1/2 blade length, usually multiple fullers Rectangular Hexagonal G, H, R or Cinquedea type cap Often Style 9 or 11

Type XXII
This sword type is another of the last medieval holdouts in that uneasy transition between the medieval period and the renaissance. These swords share many Type XVIII characteristics as far as blade profiles goes, but are often rather large and in many cases the surviving examples are bearing or parade swords.


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General Usage Blade Length Fuller Length Tang Cross-section Pommel Type Cross Style
1440 - 1570 26-40 inches Typically paired 1/3 of blade length Rectangular Flattened diamond F G, H or Cinquedea type cap Often Style 1 or 9



 Continue to Part 3







Sources
Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry, The, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
Sword in the Age of Chivalry, The, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
Records of the Medieval Sword, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
European Weapons and Armour: From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution, by R. Ewart Oakeshott
Sword in Hand: A History of the Medieval Sword, by R. Ewart Oakeshott

Acknowledgements
Most of the accompanying text written by Chad Arnow
Typology in Detail table data and the pommel/cross descriptions supplied by Russ Ellis
Typology illustration created by Nathan Robinson and based on the work of Ewart Oakeshott
Sword line drawings created by Nathan Robinson, based on swords from Records of the Medieval Sword
Pommel, cross, grip, and sword family line drawings created by Nathan Robinson, based on the work of Ewart Oakeshott
List of published works created by Patrick Kelly
Contributions and fact checking provided by Craig Johnson of The Oakeshott Institute
Editing tasks provided by Nathan Robinson, Chad Arnow, and Sean Flynt
Production services provided by Nathan Robinson

Additional Information
Please see our Spotlight Articles on each Oakeshott sword type:
  Type X, Type XI, Type XII, Type XIII, Type XIV, Type XV, Type XVI, Type XVII, Type XVIII, Type XIX, Type XX, Type XXI and XXII

 














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