In the 14th century there were four main forms of bow, the longbow, the English bow, as used by the English, the short bow, as used by the southern Europeans, and the crossbow. Each weapon was used in different ways and had its own strengths and weaknesses. First, let us have a brief overview of the different bows, then we can look in more detail at the methods in which they were used.

The Longbow was a powerful weapon which the English first encountered when fighting the Welsh in the early medieval period. The king, at that time Edward I, saw the potential of this weapon and adopted it for use in his own army, and it was this weapon that gave England mastery of many battle fields throughout the middle ages. Made of a single piece of wood, of which yew was preferable although ash was also used in large quantities, and standing approximately 6 foot in length this was the machine-gun of the middle ages.
The English bow had lost popularity by this time, at least on the battlefield. Being shorter and normally less powerful than the longbow it was still used domestically as a hunting weapon.

The short bow came to Europe from the southern regions and was often made of a laminate of sinew and bone or wood. While not as powerful as a longbow, it was still a strong weapon and the ease with which it could be used from horseback, something that the longbow lacked, gave it other advantages.
If the longbow was the machine gun of the middle ages then the crossbow was the high-powered rifle. Made originally of a wooden haft with a wooden bowstave, later the bowstave was replaced with a steel one for greater strength. These weapons could be made to be incredibly powerful, but with that power came a trade-off in the form of speed.

About Ian Piddington

I have been involved in re-enactment since 1993. My main group now is the SCA in New Zealand, although I still do some bits with the local Jousters. Within the SCA I am Baron Sympkyn of the Moor
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