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Bowmen of England (Pen & Sword Military Classics) [Paperback]

Donald Featherstone
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 Mar 2003 Pen & Sword Military Classics
From the twelve to the fifteenth centuries, the longbow was the weapon that changed European history more than any other. In the skilled hands of English and Welsh archers, it revolutionized all the medieval concepts and traditions of war. Donald Featherstone's study of the English longbow from its early development until the Wars of the Roses is an inspiring and authentiv reconstruction in human terms in an age of courage, vitality and endurance.

Product details

  • Paperback: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Pen & Sword Books Ltd; New edition edition (1 Mar 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0850529468
  • ISBN-13: 978-0850529463
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 20 x 13.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 718,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Donald Featherstone is a military expert who is the author of Poitiers 1356, Warriors and Warfare in Ancient and Medieval Times and Victorian Colonial Warfare. The Introduction is written by the pre-eminent medieval scholar Richard Barber.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not great 1 July 2004
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The problem with this type of book is that they tend to be written by enthusiasts, not writers. So while the facts are all there, so too are the tortured syntax and cod medieval English. Surely it's possible to write about the middle-ages without resorting archaic English and expressions such as "cleve his helmet in twain". Actually, I blame the editor for failing to turn a fairly poor manuscript into what could have been a good book.
Robert Hardy's book on the longbow suffered the same affliction and didst cause me on innumerable occasions to project said volume across my parlour in a fit of ire and pique, exclaiming "forsooth, tis a sorry thing whenst I didst purchase this miserable volume from the purveyor of literary material on the information superhighway that is known as Amazon!"
Fortunately "Bowmen of England" isn't as verbose and pompous as Hardy's book, but there are plenty of other failings. Such as a general failure to put various battles into historiacl context, and a willingness to accept Conan Doyle's works of fiction as historical fact. The reader should also take into account the fact that this book was written in the 1960s and doesn't refer to recent(ish) finds on the Mary Rose.
Not a bad effort, but it could have been a lot better: plain English, more critical treatment of source material, and maps with "north" marked on them, to name but a few.
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13 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent read 3 Dec 2003
By A Customer
The best book on the subject I've ever read. Clear, concise, even the illustrations are better than that usually seen. To anyone interested in the story of the war bow I'd recommend they buy this today.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Is it really fair to write a review on a 40 year old book, and put it against modern contemporary works? The book contradicts itself in numerous places, stating looking at terrain, and reserves were uncommon in medieval warfare. It then goes on to give reviews of battles and explain that reserves and terrain were nearly always present.

The author relies a lot on a Conan Doyle book, using dialogue from a fictional work to try and explain how the archers actually thought of their enemies, akin to using a Sharpe book as factual basis of persons emotions.

the battles always seem to devolve into archers on the flanks, men at arms in the middle, with the archers always seemingly winning the day. The fact that the author openly admits that all his accounts of the battles of the Hundred Years war are taken from one work, means that one has to be careful of the standard of research done.

The archers all seem to be '6 foot tall, strapping keen eyed' and hero worship means that this is not what could be called an objective analysis. However, it is very accessable, and if you want a rough idea of how things happened its worth 2 quid. I certainly wouldn't recommend it to a serious scholar, looking for an analysis of the impact of the English Longbow on medieval warfare.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Medieval Bowmen 12 Nov 2005
By Dr. Carl Edwin Lindgren - Published on
The Bowmen of England By Donald Featherstone

The classic account of the English Longbowmen written by Donald Featherstone over thirty five years ago still has relevance today. The Bowmen of England is one of the most approachable accounts of the longbow from its development to its last use. From this a more then basic knowledge of the weapon, made famous by its use in the Hundred Years War, can be gained.

Featherstone makes several points with his book. The longbow's origins can be traced to Wales. Its ancestor may have been the Welsh bows that were used for hunting in the valleys and mountains. These bows were slightly larger then the normal hunting bows of the time. The bows were made from wych elm. This was the only type of wood that grew in the mountains that was suitable to bow making. The Welsh bows were four feet long. These bows were known to have a better range and penetration power than any other type of bow at the time. Featherstone believes that these bows were the origins of the English longbow. The nature of the borders in this region would have permitted the traveling of these bows into England. This idea, that the bow originated in Wales is very likely. The English, who were always fighting with or against the Welsh, could have noticed the difference in the bows.

The accounts in the book of the Welsh Wars of Edward I are how Featherstone introduces the tactics of the longbow. He puts forth the idea that the familiar tactics of the longbow in France came from these battles with the Welsh who also had large numbers of bowmen in their armies. Edward I developed these tactics when dealing with the Welsh defensive formations of spearmen in a "hedgehog". This was a semi circular phalanx type formation with the spears facing outwards in all threatened directions. Edward discovered that the archers could cover the advance of the cavalry by disrupting these formations with arrows. From this the principle that the effectiveness of the longbow was much greater when combined in the offense with cavalry came about. The use of the longbow in this fashion against the Scots and their large numbers of pike men seem to prove that the tactics were from before this war.

The most interesting point that Featherstone makes is that the longbow's use ended before its useful life was over. Several facts support this idea. The longbow was not used as a major military weapon after the early Sixteenth Century. At this time the armies of Europe were beginning to switch over to firearms on a large scale. The longbow could fire three or four times for every time of a musket. This was evident until Eighteenth Century. The effective and accurate range of a long bow was nearly 250 yards. This was far greater then the effective range of a musket which was around 100 hundred yards. An arrow was much heaver then a lead shot from a musket and had a greater ability to kill or main a soldier. With this said the need for lifelong training was one of the largest draw backs for the longbow. Firearms training could be effective after a few weeks. Weather also had a greater effect on bows then on firearms. While rain and water could affect both, if the powder was kept dry a firearm could function in the rain. However a bow has a more difficult time. Wind also had a much greater impact on archery than on shooting a firearm. The properties that the arrow uses to fly a stable projectory make it very susceptible to wind. For these reasons the switch to firearms was inevitable.

There are several major weaknesses with The Bowmen of England. Donald Featherstone spends a great deal of the book on the military use of the longbow. He does this by using major and a few minor battles as examples of their use. He spends a great deal of time narrating the story of the battle. However he lacks a useful description of the direct use of the longbow. The tactics and logistics of the English armies in these battles would greatly benefit the reader. One of the more important problems of the text is his 'use' of citations. The lack of any citations in the book greatly hurts the reader's ability to track down the sources of some of his information. The bibliography in the book in useful, but it does not give an account of the source of specific information. At times the book seems to use the descriptions of C.W.C. Oman's The Art of War in the Middle Ages. Some of the passages of both books are remarkably similar. It may not be the case but it is difficult to prove one way or another because of the lack of any type of citation.

The book is well written, easy to read and is a useful resource as a one stop source for the history of the longbow. Other histories of the longbow are often incomplete. Hugh Soar's The Crooked Stick spends a great deal of time with the history of the recreational use of the longbow. Featherstone covers the information that is often overlooked regarding the years under Edward I, the connection with Wales and the later uses of the longbow in the Scottish inter clan struggles. The book is a useful one, but should be used with caution. There are many questions that need to be asked regarding the source of some information as well as the light treatment of the longbow in the battle histories. In all Featherstone is a good source for a different look at the Hundred Years War.

Jamison Clark and Dr. Carl Edwin Lindgren

American Military University
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars English Long Bowmen 2 April 2005
By Kay's Husband - Published on
This is volume 1 in the Pen & Sword Military Classic series. The series was initiated in 2003 with 26 titles. The series is a continuing one, and looks to cover a multitude of military subjects, all well worth reading should one have both time and money to do so.

This one particularly caught my eye due interest in medieval times, and the revolutionary English longbow. A device so simple, yet so deadly, as to its impact on warfare of that time, giving ripple effect into much later times as well. As the author states that time began in the Hundred Years War. With the skill and perfection of it all happening in the 14th & 15th centuries.

The English longbow is a long, hand-drawn bow, used in medieval England, sometimes exceeding 6 feet (1.8 meters) in length. It took both strength and skill to handle the bow, but in the hands of a skilled archer, it was as deadly as a modern day bullet. I find it of great interest that an arrow could very easily penetrate much of the armor of that time. Not only were armored knights at risk, but so too the horse they rode, be the steed armored or not.

And when the arrow did not provide a killing shot, an archer now fighting on foot, could approach the downed and disabled armored knight, much as a turtle on it back, to thrust a knife blade through the chink of said knight's armor to apply the killing blow.

I found everything is this slim volume of less than 200 pages of interest. Should I have to pick a most memorable chapter, it would be the prologue. Wherein the author pretty much describes not only the use of the bow in action, but also the bowmen themselves. It's as close to medieval combat as we are get without actually be present.

To be able to find a book such as this on today's bookstore shelf is truly joyous. Read this one for sure if you have any interest in English history, medieval history, or that most wonderful invention the longbow.

Semper Fi.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Popular History 23 Feb 2004
By S. J. S. Esq - Published on
I've recently bought all the Pen & Sword Military Classics thus far released and have started reading them in order. This title is #1 in the series. I found it an enjoyable read on a period of history with which I was not very familiar. Featherstone does an admirable job of describing the tactics employed by English archers in the period of their ascendance in European warfare. He also provides some details on who became archers and their place in English society. Short but clear descriptions of battles like Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt round out the picture. Featherstone has a pleasant writing style, although he uses a lot of technical terms regarding bows and armor that I think most people will need to look up in an unabridged dictionary.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read for those interested in longbow military history 1 Jan 2010
By Mike - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book visits some of the great battles where the longbow turned the tide. It has nice pacing and never got dull.
4.0 out of 5 stars Archery warfare and more 7 Mar 2010
By E. Jaksetic - Published on
This is an interesting history about the role of the English longbow in warfare from about 1200 A.D. to about 1500 A.D. In the course of discussing the English longbow in warfare, the book touches upon some issues of warfare that go beyond combat archery itself, including the following: The role of combined arms in combat; The importance of military logistics; The effects of tradition and social mores on military strategy and tactics; and How traditional enemies draw different lessons from the battles they fight and wars they wage. I recommend this book because it provides an interesting discussion of the English longbow that puts it in a broader context beyond just the battlefield itself and points out some facets of archery warfare that are worth considering. Anyone interested in archery warfare should also consider reading Vic Hurley's Arrows Against Steel: The History of the Bow (Mason/Charter Publishers, Inc., 1975).
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