The physics of medieval archery

Discussion in 'Defence & Strategic Issues' started by A.V., Apr 17, 2010.

  1. A.V.

    A.V. New Member

    Feb 16, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Moscow, russia
    Don't let the word 'physics' put you off - read the article for an insight into how modern science can help us understand the history of the weapon we now use for sport (and ignore the formulae if you must!) It is generally believed that the main factor responsible for the English victory at the battle the Agincourt in 1415 was the longbow. Gareth Rees describes from a physicist's point of view why we believe this simple weapon was so devastatingly effective.

    Battle of Najera

    In 1415 King Henry V of England took a small army to France to try to enforce the English claim to the French throne. By late autumn things were not going well for the English. The weather was poor, and Henry's army was short of provisions, exhausted, and badly stricken with dysentery. Henry decided to make for his stronghold at Calais for the winter, but the French saw an opportunity to annihilate the English forces and advanced with a huge army to do battle.

    The two armies met at the little village of Agincourt on the evening of 24 October, after the English forces had marched 260 miles in 17 days. King Henry's offer to buy peace was rejected, and on the following afternoon one of the decisive battles of the Hundred Years' War took place.

    The battle of Agincourt has entered English folklore - and, indeed, popular culture as a result of the Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branah film versions of Shakespeare's Henry V. No more than 6000 soldiers in the service of the English king faced about 50,000 French soldiers. Apart from the gross disparity in numbers, the other substantial difference between the two armies was in their use of the longbow. The English army was composed largely of bowmen (about 80%), whereas the French used virtually none.

    The massive French cavalry charge was met by a storm of English arrows, as a result of which the cavalry fled back through the front columns of the French infantry. The English soldiers waded into the chaos armed with hatchets and billhooks and, backed up by their own small cavalry and the threat of their longbows, succeeded in dispersing the whole French army.


    The bow - any bow - is basically a spring. The archer does work on this spring as he draws the bow, storing potential energy in the elastically deformed bowstave. When he releases the string, some of this potential energy is converted into kinetic energy of the arrow, through the action of the tension in the bowstring accelerating the arrow, the arrow leaves the bow at high speed and wings its way towards its target. Its orientation is stabilised by three fletchings at the rear of the arrow.

    read more from link
    Vinod2070 and ahmedsid like this.
  3. Vinod2070

    Vinod2070 मध्यस्थ Stars and Ambassadors

    Feb 22, 2009
    Likes Received:
    I think no one in history used the bow as effectively as the Mongols. They were a terror with their bows on their ponies. Deadly range and accuracy and discipline.
  4. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

    Feb 23, 2009
    Likes Received:
    Interesting discussion. I think the English/Welsch longbow, which dominated the battlefield in the 13th and 14th centuries, holds more physics applications for modern weaponry than do most of its other variants. I know Stephen Grancsay, an excellent medieval weaponry scholar and archer, published statistics on cranequin-based experiments he conducted with the longbow and crossbow in the late 80's. He showed, despite a drawweight of about 11 times a longbow with bolt weight merely 5 times a longbow arrowhead, the longbow loosed a projectile with the same or even more the initial velocity as the crossbow!
  5. Known_Unknown

    Known_Unknown Devil's Advocate Stars and Ambassadors

    Apr 21, 2009
    Likes Received:
    If anyone's interested, there's this medieval based game called "Mount and Blade", in which you take part in massive battles of more than 100 players on horseback, using bows, crossbows, lances, swords etc. Also has castle sieges (attack/defend) etc.
    A.V. likes this.

Share This Page