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Alina Boyden




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 10:51 am    Post subject: Swords and the age of Mail         Reply with quote

I'm sorry if this has been posted ad nauseum here before but "mail" in searches basically gives me every reference to "e-mail" that anyone has ever used. So, my apologies for being a poor search function user.

Over on SFI I was running into the question of swords cutting through mail armour for the umpteeth time. However, this time, there was one key difference: I was the one arguing that it could be done. In the course of my studies as a budding medievalist I have read many period literary sources concerning roughly the 10th-13th centuries. All of my artistic sources and all of my literary sources (Maciejowski Bible, Manessa Codex, Parzival, Chretien de Troyes, etc) agree that swords can cut through mail armor. Now they don't say it is easy or common but they all agree that it can be done.

I've also looked at the oakeshott's typology and the development of swords over the time period. As mail defences improved, we see the development of swords geared even more heavily for slashing such as the type XIIIA and also other great war swords such as the type XIIA. If swords could not cut through mail armour and were instead only capable of cutting through more lightly armoured opponents on the battlefield then why would the great war sword have been developed? It would seem superfluous were the crux of the matter not centered on dealing with the heavier armour of noble opponents. Also, as plate developed, slashing swords began to be phased out of existence. Everyone seems to agree that this is because the earlier swords couldn't defeat plate armour and a new approach was needed. But if the sword wasn't ever able to cut through armour to begin with then why the need for a change?

I wouldn't be having this problem were it not for the fact that I really respect the experience and knowledge of at least one of the men I'm arguing against. I can't very well agree with the claim that the sources are representational artwork or hyperbole. After all, the Manessa Codex depicts a perfect I.33 shield knock. Why the realism there and with the equipment of the warriors but not in the armoured battle scenes? Furthermore, the sources all agree with one another they just don't agree with what modern experimental archaeology is saying. Besides all of that, I'm a medievalist - I'd rather slit my own wrists than throw out my precious sources Wink

I was hoping that people like Peter Johnsson and others experienced in dealing with period originals might be able to help me out on this.
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Gary Grzybek




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 11:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Although it is far from easy there has been some success at shearing through maile links with larger war swords. We must realize though that these test do not ideally mimick actual battle field encounters so we have to take them for what their worth. What I have seen and tested is the effects of blunt trauma that can delivered beneath various types of armor. Although the sword may not penetrate, the damage beneath such protection can be devastating.

Be cautious of period artwork since it can often be misleading. An artist may have added some embelishment to make it more exciting or interesting. When I see swords splitting helms in two I have to wonder.

Anyway, this is my views so I'm sure the experts will elaborate.

Gary Grzybek
ARMA Northern N.J.
www.armastudy.org
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Steve Fabert




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 12:33 pm    Post subject: Re: Swords and the age of Mail         Reply with quote

Alina Boyden wrote:
Also, as plate developed, slashing swords began to be phased out of existence. Everyone seems to agree that this is because the earlier swords couldn't defeat plate armour and a new approach was needed. But if the sword wasn't ever able to cut through armour to begin with then why the need for a change?


Your question is a good one. Clearly mail armor and cutting swords coexisted for a very long time, so neither of them was so effective that it rendered the other impractical. Whether cutting swords were effective despite the use of mail primarily because they could sometimes penetrate mail completely, or because they could inflict serious bruises and break bones even without penetrating, seems to me to be both a technical question that could be answered with modern testing, and a tough historical question, given the limited historical record.

Let me offer one explanation for the arrival of plate armor that detracts a bit from the inference that it must have been needed because mail was not adequate to protect against cutting swords. The prime motive for the development of plate armor may not have been the need to protect against cutting swords, though that is clearly one result of its use. It is possible that plate armor was made necessary by the arrival of early thrusting swords, not by the effectiveness of traditional cutting swords in piercing mail. Plate armor became common at about the same time that swords primarily intended for thrusting became more common than cutting swords. I have not seen any really good evidence for the popular assumption that the thrusting sword was a response to plate armor, rather than the other way around. If we view these weapons as stages in an arms race, the sequence may be a bit different than the conventional wisdom assumes.

A sword that could more easily penetrate mail would be needed even before plate was used, if standard cutting swords had only limited effectiveness against mail. And thrusting swords really are not very effective against plate itself, rather than being usable against the joints between pieces of plate armor. If the sequence of events was cutting sword > mail > thrusting sword > plate, the progression seems to make more sense under the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention. Maces and polearms appear to be the more likely response to plate armor in this arms race, not thrusting swords.

So there is good reason to assume that the thrusting sword was developed independently of the arrival of plate armor for use against opponents clad in mail, absent clear evidence to suggest the opposite sequence. If art works and the archaeological record show that plate armor and thrusting swords arrived at essentially the same time, then my bet goes to the use of thrusting swords as the reason for plate, not the other way around. And the fact that plate is essentially a complete defense against cutting swords would then be a bonus, rather than the primary motive for the development of plate.

Whether the cutting swords used up until the late 14th century could or could not sometimes penetrate mail, the thrusting swords that began to appear in the 14th Century would have been more effective at the same task. So the early thrusting sword may have been the last push that produced a demand for something better than mail, whether or not the earlier sword types were 'good enough' to defeat mail alone.
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 12:52 pm    Post subject: Re: Swords and the age of Mail         Reply with quote

Alina Boyden wrote:
I'm sorry if this has been posted ad nauseum here before but "mail" in searches basically gives me every reference to "e-mail" that anyone has ever used. So, my apologies for being a poor search function user.

Over on SFI I was running into the question of swords cutting through mail armour for the umpteeth time. However, this time, there was one key difference: I was the one arguing that it could be done. In the course of my studies as a budding medievalist I have read many period literary sources concerning roughly the 10th-13th centuries. All of my artistic sources and all of my literary sources (Maciejowski Bible, Manessa Codex, Parzival, Chretien de Troyes, etc) agree that swords can cut through mail armor. Now they don't say it is easy or common but they all agree that it can be done.

I've also looked at the oakeshott's typology and the development of swords over the time period. As mail defences improved, we see the development of swords geared even more heavily for slashing such as the type XIIIA and also other great war swords such as the type XIIA. If swords could not cut through mail armour and were instead only capable of cutting through more lightly armoured opponents on the battlefield then why would the great war sword have been developed? It would seem superfluous were the crux of the matter not centered on dealing with the heavier armour of noble opponents. Also, as plate developed, slashing swords began to be phased out of existence. Everyone seems to agree that this is because the earlier swords couldn't defeat plate armour and a new approach was needed. But if the sword wasn't ever able to cut through armour to begin with then why the need for a change?

I wouldn't be having this problem were it not for the fact that I really respect the experience and knowledge of at least one of the men I'm arguing against. I can't very well agree with the claim that the sources are representational artwork or hyperbole. After all, the Manessa Codex depicts a perfect I.33 shield knock. Why the realism there and with the equipment of the warriors but not in the armoured battle scenes? Furthermore, the sources all agree with one another they just don't agree with what modern experimental archaeology is saying. Besides all of that, I'm a medievalist - I'd rather slit my own wrists than throw out my precious sources Wink

I was hoping that people like Peter Johnsson and others experienced in dealing with period originals might be able to help me out on this.


Hi Alina,

This problem has been addressed several times on this forum. It is a complicated issue to say the least.

It is very hard to cut through mail. Several people have have done a simple experiment (Go to forth-armoury, com and look at FAQs): place a pice of mail on a piece of wood and swing as hard as you can with a sword. The result is a badly deformed but still mostly intact mail links.

this experiment is not representative of what mail armour will experience during battle for two reasons at least: 1) when hit our bodies move (there is a give), and 2) our bodies are softer than wood, hence the mail does not get stressed as much.

When taken together, these facts suggest that mail is a VERY EFFECTIVE defence against cuts, but it is not so good against blunt trauma (that is why it is used with padding).

The most effective way to defeat mail seems to be trusts. One of the reasons the Bodkin arrows gained popularity is because they have greater chance of piercing mail. I do not want to give the impression that this always works, or that mail is not an effective defence against bodkin arrows.

Medieval swords, in my opinion, evolved to be more efficient thrusting weapons, as compared to what they were during the age of the Vikings. Look at types XIV and later (even though type XIV still did not have reinforced point). Even types XII and XIIa have usable points

The question that is not clear and that is key to any such discussion, is what percentage of any army in any given period of time was protected by mail, or plate? We have these notions that most soldiers were protected, but I doubt that.

Medieval art mostly serves the knightly/aristocratic class (a minority on the battle field), and as such it mostly represents the armour of the wealthy. (This is speculative)

Now if we step back and assume that less than 30% of an army is well protected, then any sword is a good and efficient weapon. Which brings me to another point: swords were not the most common weapon on the battle field.

To get back to mail. Find in this and other forums posts form Erik D. Schmid . He is one of the world's experts on mail. Read through his discussions.

The big war swords (type XIIa, XIIIa) might not have been developed to deal with mail because at the time these swords became to emerge (13c, maybe late 12c), mail was a spoil for the rich and prosperous, and the majority of the army had to rely on other, cheeper means of defence. Further more, as Gary pointed out, these swords can deal severe blunt trauma.

Period representations are a valuable resource, but it is misleading to take them at face value. I do not wish to dismiss the wealth of information in such pictorial representations, but when I see conical helmets being split in two with one hand, I tend to just roll my eyes and concentrate on the more pertinent stuff, like the actual weapons and armour designs.

I hope that helps,

Alexi

Edit: Here is a link to a thread in this forum there mail effectiveness is discussed here
And a link to a discussion by Erik Schmid here

Some very good points, Steve! As you can read in my post, I completely agree with the trusting swords picking up popularity independently of the plate armour.
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Alina Boyden




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 1:16 pm    Post subject: Re: Swords and the age of Mail         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:

Period representations are a valuable resource, but it is misleading to take them at face value. I do not wish to dismiss the wealth of information in such pictorial representations, but when I see conical helmets being split in two with one hand, I tend to just roll my eyes and concentrate on the more pertinent stuff, like the actual weapons and armour designs.

I hope that helps,

Alexi

Edit: Here is a link to a thread in this forum there mail effectiveness is discussed here
And a link to a discussion by Erik Schmid here

Some very good points, Steve! As you can read in my post, I completely agree with the trusting swords picking up popularity independently of the plate armour.


And this is clearly my problem. Only the wealthy classes could afford such manuscripts. These wealthy men were members of a warrior elite in Europe. If the artwork would have made them roll their eyes at the lack of realism then why the focus on realism? As we can see, these illustrations spare nothing as entrails spill out, blood gushes forth, horses trample men, etc. If this kind of thing irritates the modern researchers because of the "lack" of realism in the events depicted then why would the knightly classes have wanted such things?


Edit:

Erik is a very knowledgable man when it comes to mail armour. However, I find that he has run into so much tripe regarding the efficacy of mail that he has become somewhat inflexible in telling you what it can and cannot do.

Dan Howard over at SFI is also a very knowledgable man when it comes to armour and he's the reason that I brought the discussion here. At SFI it has been rehashed so many times I didn't want to make the poor man crazy.
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 2:24 pm    Post subject: Re: Swords and the age of Mail         Reply with quote

Alina Boyden wrote:


And this is clearly my problem. Only the wealthy classes could afford such manuscripts. These wealthy men were members of a warrior elite in Europe. If the artwork would have made them roll their eyes at the lack of realism then why the focus on realism? As we can see, these illustrations spare nothing as entrails spill out, blood gushes forth, horses trample men, etc. If this kind of thing irritates the modern researchers because of the "lack" of realism in the events depicted then why would the knightly classes have wanted such things?


Maybe the "realism" as we understand it is not the point of these pictorial representations, nor the reason they were created or commissioned, but I think you (as a medievalist) know far more than I do about that .

These works usually have some moral; "Good" beats "Bad" for example (a made up example), or the army od X defeats Y. The fact that "Good" is cleaving "Bad" in half with a pocket knife (exaggeration) is beyond the scope of that the work is trying to convey, or alternatively the exaggeration was intended to show the might and capability of "Good" over "Bad", (but we interpret it as "Wow, what a mighty pocket- knife that must have been!!!"

I know mail makers have gotten Hell from some many of us amateurs, and at some point they simply stopped participating, as their involved and detailed arguments did not seem to make difference. I think that they did. Erick was very informative and careful when approached with specific questions, as opposed to the statements like "swords cleave mail like hot knife butter"

Alexi


Last edited by Alexi Goranov on Sun 05 Dec, 2004 8:54 am; edited 1 time in total
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Alina Boyden




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 3:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Swords and the age of Mail         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:
Alina Boyden wrote:


And this is clearly my problem. Only the wealthy classes could afford such manuscripts. These wealthy men were members of a warrior elite in Europe. If the artwork would have made them roll their eyes at the lack of realism then why the focus on realism? As we can see, these illustrations spare nothing as entrails spill out, blood gushes forth, horses trample men, etc. If this kind of thing irritates the modern researchers because of the "lack" of realism in the events depicted then why would the knightly classes have wanted such things?


Maybe the "realism" as we understand it is not the point of these pictorial representations, nor the reason they were created or commissioned, but I think you (as a medievalist) know far more than I do about that .

These works usually have some moral; "Good" beats "Bad" for example (a made up example), or the army od X defeats Y. The fact that "Good" is cleaving "Bad" in half with a pocket knife (exaggeration) is beyond the scope of that the work is trying to convey, or alternatively the exaggeration was intended to show the midge and capability of "Good" over "Bad", (but we interpret it as "Wow, what a mighty pocket- knife that must have been!!!"

I know mail makers have gotten Hell from some many of us amateurs, and at some point they simply stopped participating, as their involved and detailed arguments did not seem to make difference. I think that they did. Erick was very informative and careful when approached with specific questions, as opposed to the statements like "swords cleave mail like hot knife butter"

Alexi



Well part of my problem is that I really trust our armour experts like Erik and Dan Howard and others. But what they are saying flies in the face of everything the period sources say as near as I can figure. While my research on the subject is still preliminary, I've not found a single source that states mail cannot be cut through with the exception of one reference from Chretien de Troyes where he talks about the mail being so good and so far beyond the norm that none of it could be cut not even from the edges.

So if this is a superlative quality then clearly the "ordinary" standards for the time involved mail that was capable of being cut. If ordinary mail could not be cut through by a man wielding a sword, as has been proposed, then this comparison would be stupid. Chretien de Troyes was writing for the nobility and the knightly classes and he was exceedingly popular. You don't get popular amongst soldiers by making war movies that have no realism and you don't become popular amongst knights by claiming things to be spectacular that are actually very ordinary.

I think another part of my problem is that until I can find a source from the high middle ages stating that mail was impervious to swords I won't be satisfied with the results of their tests. Testing things like spearpoints being dropped onto a stationary piece of mail isn't very convincing. I realize that putting it on a well padded body and putting into a fight stacks things even more heavily in favor of the armor. However, I think it is that sort of testing that would really change my mind on things.
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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 3:28 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The main problem with this argument is the same as most others. The opposing parties tend to approach the argument from opposite ends of the extreme. Some say that maille was easily penetrated while the other side claims that maille could withstand a bazooka round.

As with most other arguments the truth is more or less in the middle. Just like today there were good and bad qualities of Maille so that throws a huge variance into the argument. Maille was certainly effective. It wouldn't have been a main form of body armor for over a millennia if it weren't. On the other hand it wasn't inpenetrable either (logic dictates that nothing is perfect or fool proof). A good solid forceful blow might penetrate it. But getting a good solid strike in a run jump and chop match is a hard thing to do.

Alexi brought an outstanding point, and one that bears more upon sword design of the period than how good maille was/is. Maille was the state-of-the-art body defense in it's heyday. As such it was very expensive. Other cheaper and less effective armour was used by far more combatants than were all-encompassing suites of maille. Regardless of the period, if you want to accurately portray the common soldier get a shield and spear or some kind of pole arm. Combine that with some type of helmet and it's probably a more accurate interpretation than what's shown in most period illuminations.

Cutting swords were used for as long as they were because they were effective for the time. If they weren't they simply wouldn't have been used. By the classical age of maille swords had been around for about two thousand years, and the majority of them were some kind of cutting design. They were effective primarily because most combatants weren't clad from head to toe in suites of maille. Not to mention the fact that those chaps that could afford the stuff were probably more interested in capturing each other for ransom than in killing their social equals. There were plenty of poor peasant levies for that.

"I'd rather go upriver with 7 studs, than a 100 sh!theads." - COL Charlie Beckwith, founder SFODD
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Shane Allee




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 9:11 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

This is one of those topics I always end up kicking back laughing at because of the logic people try to come up with. It always seem to come down to people continually limiting their perspective and making more and more absolute statements, that really falls apart when you look the much larger picture. I don't think I ever recall people talking about this subject outside of the realm of medieval europe. Kind of funny considering that all manor of both cutting and thrusting, plate, mail, and various other types of armour had all been used well before then even in europe. Usually they don't even get into other weapons unless talking about opening up plate. Rarely though are weapons more like the spear ever mentioned or looked at to see how styles may have come in and out of fashion depending on armour. For that matter though battlefield technic is often times severely overlook in discussions like this. The scope of the matter is huge, but people always seem to focus to the point where is it pointless because any conclusion reach fall apart in the big picture.

Shane
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Erik D. Schmid




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PostPosted: Sat 04 Dec, 2004 11:36 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

First off, so that we understand one another, let me say that this post is going to come across as somewhat rude in its tone. I am quite sure that most of you understand the reasons for this. Wink I am only posting here because my name was mentioned.

Ms. Boyden,

I'm sorry if this has been posted ad nauseum here before but "mail" in searches basically gives me every reference to "e-mail" that anyone has ever used. So, my apologies for being a poor search function user.

Ad nauseum is an understatement. Why would you need to use the search function when looking for information regarding this subject? You have partcipated in other discussions on this subject over at SFI. Apparently you did not like the answers you got or are getting now. Is that a fair assessment?

Erik is a very knowledgable man when it comes to mail armour. However, I find that he has run into so much tripe regarding the efficacy of mail that he has become somewhat inflexible in telling you what it can and cannot do.

Oh really? Where did you pull that out of? Have you ever asked my opinion on this subject? Have you ever e-mailed me about it as many others have who by the way have each received plenty of information to satisfy their minds, especially when that person happens to be a woman? I say that because I tend to not butt heads with women as much as I do men for some odd reason. Happy It seems I have only been in one thread you participated in over at SFI and that was one that happened earlier this year. I made two posts on the thread. Part of one sums up this whole subject quite well I think. Granted it was referring to arrows, but you can easily replace the word arrow with sword without changing the meaning:

Can some arrows defeat some mail some of the time? Yes. Can some mail defeat some arrows some of the time? Again, Yes. However, was this the norm? I highly doubt it. There are an incredible number of variables involved here. But, this is only my opinion for as much as that's worth.

In a nutshell that is the best statement I can make on this subject. I will even go so far as to say that this is probably the only statement anyone can honestly make on this subject. In a general sense that is. You could of course get into the specifics pertaining to the infinite number of variables that make up this subject, but you would be researching that from now until rapture and still not uncover all of the information that it encompasses. Your mentioning of my running into so much trip is humorous because you are adding to that tripe by starting this post.

That thread you were involved with at SFI earlier this year should have helped you out immensely, but by you bring this subject up again it seems you have disregarded the information presented in it out of hand. One of your recent posts at SFI seems to indicate that you will not accept any "modern" ideas about armour effectiveness which have in part been acquired through the use of experimental archaeology:

However, I'm getting to the point in my academic career as a medievalist where I am required to go by what the sources tell me.

Required? WTF?! If that is the case then you are destined to become one of the many academics who view gentelman scholars, whose ranks include many people from these forums you frequent, that are involved in either the exact replication of period armour or the study of period fectbuchs, in a very non-favorable light. The esteemed Ewart Oakeshott is viewed this way by many "academics" because he believed in practical experience.

The response given by Patrick is the best one on this thread I think. Well... after mine that is. Razz Now, as I and others have stated in this thread, if you are looking for specific information please feel free to get in touch with me. My phone number is listed on my website along with my e-mail address. For what it's worth I'm really not as cranky as I appear on these forums. At least not for the most part. Laughing Out Loud
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Jeremy V. Krause




PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 8:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I was so glad to see a response from you Mr. Schmidt!

I and many others regard your expertise as among the highest pinnacle on this subject and I hope that your research and feedback may lead others to begin making more authentic mail and increase us non-artisan's understanding of the mutitude of facets of the construction, use, and, properties of period maile.

With my period of interest 1050-1200 (Yes fellow forumites- I know I have been saying this a lot lately) I have basically come to the conclusion that I will not be able to own mail that is authentic enough for MY tastes, now I know that the question of how authentic is authentic enough? is another difficult question. But what is out there just isn't close enough FOR ME- so I hape that your knowledge, Mr. Schmidt can help remedy this. For the foreseeable future I will be looking for quality gambessons which are available especially by custom.

I, for one, will take you up on the offer to communicate. . .

Thanks everyone, Jeremy
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Alina Boyden




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 12:10 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Erik D. Schmid wrote:
First off, so that we understand one another, let me say that this post is going to come across as somewhat rude in its tone. I am quite sure that most of you understand the reasons for this. Wink I am only posting here because my name was mentioned.

Ms. Boyden,

I'm sorry if this has been posted ad nauseum here before but "mail" in searches basically gives me every reference to "e-mail" that anyone has ever used. So, my apologies for being a poor search function user.

Ad nauseum is an understatement. Why would you need to use the search function when looking for information regarding this subject? You have partcipated in other discussions on this subject over at SFI. Apparently you did not like the answers you got or are getting now. Is that a fair assessment?

Erik is a very knowledgable man when it comes to mail armour. However, I find that he has run into so much tripe regarding the efficacy of mail that he has become somewhat inflexible in telling you what it can and cannot do.

Oh really? Where did you pull that out of? Have you ever asked my opinion on this subject? Have you ever e-mailed me about it as many others have who by the way have each received plenty of information to satisfy their minds, especially when that person happens to be a woman? I say that because I tend to not butt heads with women as much as I do men for some odd reason. Happy It seems I have only been in one thread you participated in over at SFI and that was one that happened earlier this year. I made two posts on the thread. Part of one sums up this whole subject quite well I think. Granted it was referring to arrows, but you can easily replace the word arrow with sword without changing the meaning:

Can some arrows defeat some mail some of the time? Yes. Can some mail defeat some arrows some of the time? Again, Yes. However, was this the norm? I highly doubt it. There are an incredible number of variables involved here. But, this is only my opinion for as much as that's worth.

In a nutshell that is the best statement I can make on this subject. I will even go so far as to say that this is probably the only statement anyone can honestly make on this subject. In a general sense that is. You could of course get into the specifics pertaining to the infinite number of variables that make up this subject, but you would be researching that from now until rapture and still not uncover all of the information that it encompasses. Your mentioning of my running into so much trip is humorous because you are adding to that tripe by starting this post.

That thread you were involved with at SFI earlier this year should have helped you out immensely, but by you bring this subject up again it seems you have disregarded the information presented in it out of hand. One of your recent posts at SFI seems to indicate that you will not accept any "modern" ideas about armour effectiveness which have in part been acquired through the use of experimental archaeology:

However, I'm getting to the point in my academic career as a medievalist where I am required to go by what the sources tell me.

Required? WTF?! If that is the case then you are destined to become one of the many academics who view gentelman scholars, whose ranks include many people from these forums you frequent, that are involved in either the exact replication of period armour or the study of period fectbuchs, in a very non-favorable light. The esteemed Ewart Oakeshott is viewed this way by many "academics" because he believed in practical experience.

The response given by Patrick is the best one on this thread I think. Well... after mine that is. Razz Now, as I and others have stated in this thread, if you are looking for specific information please feel free to get in touch with me. My phone number is listed on my website along with my e-mail address. For what it's worth I'm really not as cranky as I appear on these forums. At least not for the most part. Laughing Out Loud


I apologize for saying that I found you to be "somewhat inflexible." I didn't mean any offense by it at all and I very much respect your knowledge and input on these issues. Allow me to explain why I made that statement. The only times I have heard you behave in an intractible manner are those times when you are completely exasperated by the lack of evidence being presented to support an argument that makes no sense. Unfortunately for both of us, that pretty much sums up every time I have heard from you. I suppose that is the nature of forum communications. However, I really shouldn't have said that at all or at the very least I should have worded it better.

Now, I haven't said anything ridiculous and what I have said has been backed up by period sources. Furthermore, I'm perfectly happy with Patrick Kelly's response to this issue. The problem is, I haven't heard anyone from the ranks of "gentleman scholars" give me an answer that wasn't completely one sided. The thread you are referring to from last year (almost exactly a year ago) started as a thread about swords and mail but quickly degenerated into the battle of Agincourt and longbow vs. plate. Now, I was on your side then and I still am. My sources tell me that not only could longbows not penetrate plate, but that archers in the East had an incredibly difficult time piercing the mail armour of the crusaders. In fact, the sources describe the Europeans as looking like porcupines but being completely unharmed within their armour. So, if this had anything to do with the last discussion (Archery vs Armour) then I wouldn't hesitate to conclude that such a thing is so rare as to be negligible.

However, where those sources agree with you on the issue of archery, they disagree with you on the issue of swords and lances against mail armour. Now, perhaps if I'd stated, "Lance vs Mail" this thread might be slightly less tired. However, the reason I am interested in sword blows versus armour is because they are frequently mentioned in the sources and frequently discounted by others. My difficulty is that no-one had said, anything like what Mr. Kelly said. When I brought the issue up one of the members at SFI said, "And the vast majority of eye-witness accounts say you can't. I know which I'd rather believe. This is consistent with modern experimental results." There is no attempt to reconcile what the historical sources say and what the experimental results say.

The problem is that most of the people involved in such discussions have become so polarized about it that they refuse to treat it as a friendly intellectual discussion. Maybe it is because I have less emotional investment put into my knowledge of mail armour than you do, I don't know; but I really don't think the kind of snippy responses I've been getting are warranted. I intentionally brought this question up over here in preference to SFI because the people here are much more level headed, friendly, and knowledgeable.

Now, as to my own inflexibility on the issue, it isn't that I am incapable of accepting modern experimental archaeology. I really like modern experimental archaeology. The problem I have is when people hold up the experimental results and say, "A sword could never have cut through mail armour. Look, it takes XYZ joules of energy to cut through plate if you hit it with a replica of such and such weapon." And then, these people never try to reconcile those results with what the people actually living in the time period had to say about such things. They use words like "never, impossible, negligible, etc." I won't be satisfied with that kind of response to the question because it really doesn't take all evidence into account. As a medievalist, I work mostly with written sources. This is what I do with my life. And I have been very well trained not to say one damned thing if I can't back it up with a period source. So, I hold those tests up to the same scrutiny. If you are going to say that it was impossible for a sword to cut through mail armour, and you're going to hold up your experimental archaeology, then you'd damn well better hold up some period sources to show that your experiments have any bearing on the reality of the situation in the middle ages. That's it, that's all I want. Either tell me, "It was possible but probably less likely than blunt trauma damage." Or tell me, "It was impossible, here are the test results, AND here are some sources to show you that this was acknowledged and accepted by the knights themselves." I don't think that's too much to ask for and I really don't think I've been rude, or ignorant in the way I've gone about things. And I certainly haven't shown disrespect to the community of "gentleman scholars."
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Chad Arnow
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 1:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alina Boyden wrote:

My sources tell me that not only could longbows not penetrate plate, but that archers in the East had an incredibly difficult time piercing the mail armour of the crusaders. In fact, the sources describe the Europeans as looking like porcupines but being completely unharmed within their armour.


I'm far from an expert on this, but I don't believe the "archers in the East" would have had a true longbow. I think the long bow ("borrowed" from the Welsh), it's useage and ammo are different than what armies opposing the crusaders might have used.

Happy

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Alina Boyden




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 1:29 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Chad Arnow wrote:
Alina Boyden wrote:

My sources tell me that not only could longbows not penetrate plate, but that archers in the East had an incredibly difficult time piercing the mail armour of the crusaders. In fact, the sources describe the Europeans as looking like porcupines but being completely unharmed within their armour.


I'm far from an expert on this, but I don't believe the "archers in the East" would have had a true longbow. I think the long bow ("borrowed" from the Welsh), it's useage and ammo are different than what armies opposing the crusaders might have used.


Well plate and mail are also vastly different armours. My point was that in the period sources archery rarely is capable of defeating armour be it plate or mail.
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 1:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alina Boyden wrote:


Now, as to my own inflexibility on the issue, it isn't that I am incapable of accepting modern experimental archaeology. I really like modern experimental archaeology. The problem I have is when people hold up the experimental results and say, "A sword could never have cut through mail armour. Look, it takes XYZ joules of energy to cut through plate if you hit it with a replica of such and such weapon." And then, these people never try to reconcile those results with what the people actually living in the time period had to say about such things. They use words like "never, impossible, negligible, etc."


The only place I found these words was in you post Big Grin
All opinions posted in this thread have been more or less moderate. People DID recognize that mail could be penetrated but that it was not as easy as might seem from the manuscripts. None the less, the general opinions voiced that mail was an effective armour in its day, and had been for hundreds of years before. There might be a reason for that, right?

I did try to reconcile what was presented in the period manuscripts by interpreting the images not as a "factual representations of what arms could do to armor" but rather as literary expressions an symbolisms describing (and exaggerating) a story and a moral.

Quote:

I won't be satisfied with that kind of response to the question because it really doesn't take all evidence into account. As a medievalist, I work mostly with written sources. This is what I do with my life. And I have been very well trained not to say one damned thing if I can't back it up with a period source.


I have been similarly trained. With the difference that I have to back my arguments experimentally. And in this case the experiments have been done (in an inaccurate way and setting, but still very, very suggestive)

Quote:

If you are going to say that it was impossible for a sword to cut through mail armour, and you're going to hold up your experimental archaeology, then you'd damn well better hold up some period sources to show that your experiments have any bearing on the reality of the situation in the middle ages.


I'd love to have such sources, but until then "experimental archeology " will have to suffice. I hope you know that failure to detect/ find/ see something does NOT mean that it is not there. Negative results mean very little.

Quote:

That's it, that's all I want. Either tell me, "It was possible but probably less likely than blunt trauma damage." Or tell me, "It was impossible, here are the test results, AND here are some sources to show you that this was acknowledged and accepted by the knights themselves." I don't think that's too much to ask for and I really don't think I've been rude, or ignorant in the way I've gone about things. And I certainly haven't shown disrespect to the community of "gentleman scholars."


I doubt that you will get a definitive, one sentence answer. If that were the case we will not have such lengthy discussions.
I think you will have to sum up the period information and our little "backyard cutting experiments" and sum them up your self.

Even better, get some of these $3 riveted mail samples from "Historical Enterprizes", pick your biggest sword, and swing away. Find for your self in your own determined settings how protective mail is. Yes, the mail you will get is not 100% accurate in construction (metal might have different properties from Wrought Iron, the overlapping area of the links is flattened too much, the inner diameter of the links is barely within range) but should be good enough.

I do have a prejudice, as I am an experimentalist, but I do not want to impose my opinion, just express it.

I hope I did not sound confrontational, as I did not intend to.

Alexi
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Alina Boyden




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 2:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alexi Goranov wrote:
Alina Boyden wrote:


Now, as to my own inflexibility on the issue, it isn't that I am incapable of accepting modern experimental archaeology. I really like modern experimental archaeology. The problem I have is when people hold up the experimental results and say, "A sword could never have cut through mail armour. Look, it takes XYZ joules of energy to cut through plate if you hit it with a replica of such and such weapon." And then, these people never try to reconcile those results with what the people actually living in the time period had to say about such things. They use words like "never, impossible, negligible, etc."


The only place I found these words was in you post Big Grin
All opinions posted in this thread have been more or less moderate. People DID recognize that mail could be penetrated but that it was not as easy as might seem from the manuscripts. None the less, the general opinions voiced that mail was an effective armour in its day, and had been for hundreds of years before. There might be a reason for that, right?

I did try to reconcile what was presented in the period manuscripts by interpreting the images not as a "factual representations of what arms could do to armor" but rather as literary expressions an symbolisms describing (and exaggerating) a story and a moral.

[Alexi


I never accused you or anyone in this thread of making claims such as these. This is why I didn't reply to Patrick Kelly and had left the thread alone until Erik Schmid's post. My references to words such as "never, impossible, and negligible," came from previous posts on previous boards. I mentioned them only because they were the reason that I brought the question here in the first place. I don't think answers such as those benefit the study of history very much. As I said before, I find the people here at myArmoury to be very intelligent, well-informed, and level-headed. I was very satisified with the points that were made and I agree with what has been said. I merely replied to Mr. Schmid because I felt that I should clarify things for him as I didn't want it to appear that I was angry with him or intended to insult him or his research. So, I think I've heard from all sides of things and I will now leave this thread alone.
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Alexi Goranov
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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 2:38 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Alina Boyden wrote:


I never accused you or anyone in this thread of making claims such as these. This is why I didn't reply to Patrick Kelly and had left the thread alone until Erik Schmid's post. My references to words such as "never, impossible, and negligible," came from previous posts on previous boards. I mentioned them only because they were the reason that I brought the question here in the first place.


Point Taken.

Alexi
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S Ott




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 5:20 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am so much less of an expert than all of you gentlemen. But think I remember seeing something on the history channel abou the arrows of the mongols peircing medevil armour or mail. Any truth to that. I know it's a sidenote but curiosity got a hold of me and I had to ask
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David R. Glier




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PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 7:41 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
I'm sorry if this has been posted ad nauseum here before but "mail" in searches basically gives me every reference to "e-mail" that anyone has ever used. So, my apologies for being a poor search function user.


Just as a tip, try searching for "maile" or "maille" instead of mail. Just like the online armour community has claimed the british spelling for plate and chain, we've adopted the antique spellings to mean coats of chain. I'm still not sure how many L's we're supposed to use, but I always go with two. Laughing Out Loud
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Patrick Kelly




PostPosted: Sun 05 Dec, 2004 8:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

David R. Glier wrote:
Quote:
I'm sorry if this has been posted ad nauseum here before but "mail" in searches basically gives me every reference to "e-mail" that anyone has ever used. So, my apologies for being a poor search function user.


Just as a tip, try searching for "maile" or "maille" instead of mail. Just like the online armour community has claimed the british spelling for plate and chain, we've adopted the antique spellings to mean coats of chain. I'm still not sure how many L's we're supposed to use, but I always go with two. Laughing Out Loud


Me too, just because I like the way it looks. Big Grin

"I'd rather go upriver with 7 studs, than a 100 sh!theads." - COL Charlie Beckwith, founder SFODD
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