In this video blog we present measurements from a variety of original medieval swords from The Oakeshott Institute. These swords span about seven hundred years of European history and range from quite thick and rigid to very thin and flexible. Importantly, some of the most flexible blades are from the period of maille armor, a fact that contradicts many contemporary assumptions about the rigidity of swords designed to "pierce armor". These swords were clearly designed to be thin and flexible and not, as is often imagined, to "punch through maille".
In the scholarship of the sword it is important to realize that we as modern scholars do not have the practical real world input of how a sword is working in the field and that the design elements chosen by the smiths and sword users of the past can inform us about what they felt was important and needful in their time. It is a danger that modern sword users and scholars can fall into, to think that we know more about practical sword use than they did.
In future posts we will further analyze what we think that this variation in thickness and rigidity between original swords suggests, but for now please enjoy the video.
Thickness of Medieval Sword Blades
Nathan Clough, Ph.D. is Vice President of Arms and Armor and a member of the governing board of The Oakeshott Institute. He is a historical martial artist and a former university professor of cultural geography. He has given presentations on historical arms at events including Longpoint and Combatcon, and presented scholarly papers at, among others, The International Congress on Medieval Studies.
Craig Johnson is the Production Manager of Arms and Armor and Secretary of The Oakeshott Institute. He has taught and published on the history of arms, armor and western martial arts for over 30 years. He has lectured at several schools and Universities, WMAW, HEMAC, 4W, and ICMS at Kalamazoo. His experiences include iron smelting, jousting, theatrical combat instruction and choreography, historical research, European martial arts and crafting weapons and armor since 1985.