The Complete Story of a Legendary Weapon
"Spendidly enthusiastic. . . . Soar's book is indispensable."—Bernard Cornwell
"A fascinating study of a forgotten weapon. . . . For centuries the longbow dominated battle, affecting the fates of nations"—Wall Street Journal
"Bowyers, bowhunters, target archers and students of archery history should all find cause for celebration with Hugh Soar's concise but authoritative text."
On a clear July morning in 1346, a small force approached the walls of Caen for battle. The attackers rode to the field on horseback, banners and pennants fluttering in the light breeze. Behind them marched bowmen in tightly ranked units. At the sound of a crisp battle horn, they halted. A twinge of apprehension rippled through the thousands of Norman defenders as they looked down at the opposing army, for precision archery formation had long since disappeared as a military concept in medieval France. Here was not the expected rabble of unrated bucolics cowed by the might of France; confronting them was a quietly determined group of trained soldiers armed not with the familiar arbalest but with a new and strange weapon of great length. The defenders of Caen were about to meet the English war bow and its deadly battle shaft. For the next 100 years, this weapon, the "crooked stick," would command continental battlefields, etching its fearsome reputation at Crécy, Poitiers, Agincourt, and Verneuil, while establishing England as an international power for the first time.
Although the longbow is best known for its deployment during the Hundred Years' War, its origins lie with ancient Saxon seafighters and Welsh craftsmen, while today the bow is a vibrant part of the traditional archery scene. In The Crooked Stick: A History of the Longbow, historian Hugh D. H. Soar pulls together all of these strings, presenting the engaging story of this most charismatic standoff weapon. After a careful consideration of Neolithic bows and arrows, the author describes the bow's use in the medieval hunt and its associated customs. The longbow made its deepest mark in warfare, however, and the author follows the weapon's development and tactical deployment from the hand-bow of William the Conqueror's campaigns to the continental set-piece battles between England and France. Although soldiers reluctantly gave up the longbow for firearms, its recreational use became immensely popular, particularly during the Regency and Victorian periods. In the twentieth century it appeared as if the longbow would disappear into the fog of legend, but a new interest in traditional craft and expertise gained hold, and the pleasure of using this ancient instrument is now firmly part of archery around the world.
Through a remarkable command of manuscript and printed sources and a judicious use of material evidence, including his own important collection of rare longbows, Hugh Soar establishes the deep connections of this bow to England, Scotland, and Wales. Figures in the past like William Wallace, Edward III, and Henry V appear alongside detailed descriptions of bows, strings, arrows, and arrowheads, while the rise of institutions and craftsmen devoted to the longbow are presented to show how knowledge of this weapon was carried forward across the centuries. Today, those in the sport of archery and military historians will find that The Crooked Stick will enhance their own interests in a weapon of legendary status.
In addition to the illustrated text, the book contains appendices detailing the history and design of bracers, tabs and tips, quivers, and arrowheads associated with the longbow.