Wednesday, September 19, 2007


This Day in the History of Battles Won by Superior Technology

On this day in 1356, at the Battle of Poitiers, an English army led by the Black Prince defeated the French at the end of the first phase of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). It was the Welsh invention of the yew long bow (with a 150 pound pull) that provided the edge here (and not at Agincourt in 1415) because the bodkin point arrowhead could pierce even the steel plate armor the French knights wore (and of course any arrowhead could take out their horses). This was the second big battle on the fields outside Poitiers, but the first is also known as the battle of Tours where in 732 Charles Martel stopped further Islamic expansion.
And how cool a name is the Black Prince?



Are you saying the longbow did not provide the edge at Agincourt? Terrain played a large part in that battle but so did the longbow.

Neither terrain nor the longbow but French pride was the reason for the slaughter of the knights. Read Keegan's The Face of Battle. I guess terrain counted if it means the mud of the fields.
The Royal Armouries have shown pretty conclusively that a bodkin-pointed arrow loosed* from a longbow will not significantly penetrate steel plate, even at very short ranges. The longbow was a good weapon, and efficient at killing horses and piercing armors other than plate or very good chain. Used with the correct tactics, it was very effective early in the 100-years war, but by the end of the war, the French had largely solved the tactical problem (and without significant technological improvements).

Further, the evidence is pretty good that a decent short composite bow (recurve bow made from laminated horn, wood, and other materials) can impart as much energy to an arrow as that imparted by a longbow. (Much of the energy from the longer bow goes into accelerating the arms of the bow, not into accelerating the arrow.)

* Thank you for not using "fired".

I think we had a cocktail @ Agincourt. Certainly French pride was a factor but the battle was fought on a stretch of newly ploughed fields bordered by woods on either side. The effect was to funnel the heavily armored French into near impassible, muddy ground where first they were slaughtered by arrows and then in hand to hand combat by the English who were less encumbered by armor when the supply of arrows were exhausted.

Thanks for teh reference to Keegan.

You have the gist but not the detail, at least as Keagan sees it.
Thanks for your continued good comments.
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