A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour

A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour

A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour

A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour


A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour covers the entire period from the fifth to the fifteenth century, a thousand years which saw huge changes in military technology in most of the world's major civilisations. Arms and armour in Europe are the principal focus of the studies, but those of neighbouring civilisations, including the Byzantine Empire, eastern Europe, the steppes and the Islamic world, are also investigated, both for the impact upon them of European technological developments, and for their influence upon developments within western Europe. Arms and armour in Europe developed dramatically during the thousand years from the fifth to the fifteenth century. During this broad sweep of time civilisations rose and fell and population movements swept from east to west, bringing in their wake advances and modifications absorbed and expanded by indigenous populations. So although the primary focus of this book is on the arms and armour of Europe, it also includes neighbouring cultures where these had a direct influence on developments and changes within Europe, from late Roman cavalry armour, Byzantium and the East to the influence of the Golden Horde. A truly impressive band of specialists cover issues ranging from the migrations to the first firearms, divided into three sections: From the Fall of Rome to the Eleventh Century, Emergence of A European Tradition in the High Middle Ages, and New Influences and New Challenges of the Late Middle Ages; throughout there is particular emphasis on the social and technological aspects of medieval military affairs.


A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour focuses on the period from the fourth to fifteenth century AD, though some of the articles also make reference to centuries before and after this period. While the anthology deals primarily with European arms and armour in their relevant historical and military contexts, the book also seeks to place the subject of medieval arms and armour within a broader framework by looking at neighbouring civilizations which had an influence, sometimes directly and at other times less directly, upon developments and changes within Europe.

At the same time the phrase ‘European arms and armour’, as used in this anthology, is taken to include the whole of what is today regarded as the European continent, including Eastern Europe, the Balkans, European Russia and the northern part of the Caucasus region. Indeed those articles dealing with the Late Roman and Byzantine empires naturally look at these political, cultural, military and technological entities in their entirety. As a result substantial parts of what are now considered the Middle East and North Africa are similarly covered. Other articles discuss the degree to which European arms, armour and horse-harness, like so many other aspects of medieval technology, developed within a Eurasian land-mass that saw a far greater degree of technological diffusion and mutual exchange of ideas than is generally recognized.

The most significant non-European or at least non-Christian civilization which bordered that of medieval Europe was, of course, the Islamic world. The question of the degree to which Christian and Islamic civilizations influenced each other continues to be a major subject of scholarly debate, whether such influence was in terms of ideas, or in art including architecture and literature, or in science and technology. At one extreme there are those historians who have characterized the medieval world as one of divided regions, in which the flow of ideas, influences and indeed trade was at a very low level. At the other extreme are those historians who have argued that, during what Europeans call the ‘Middle Ages’, there was in effect no ‘West’ and no ‘East’. In other words, they suggest that a proper understanding of both European and Asian history during the so-called medieval period, is only possible if the history of the entire Eurasian land-mass is taken into account. Even if one discounts both such extremes, it remains the opinion of the editor that any history of medieval European technology, including any study of arms and armour, must at the very least be aware of comparable technologies in the Middle East – both Byzantine and Islamic including Islamic North Africa and the Iberian peninsula – as well as comparable technologies in Turco-Mongol Central Asia.

A Companion to Medieval Arms and Armour is intended for readers with an interest in medieval military affairs, particularly the social and technological aspects of this subject. Hopefully, it will also be useful to those who are interested in the general question of ‘diffusion’ and more specifically the flow of mutual influences between Western European and neighbouring cultures in Eastern Europe, the Middle East and West-Central Asia.

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