Maces and flails are among the most iconic of medieval weapons, in part due to their prevalence in popular culture. At the most basic level a mace is a weighted club, and a flail is a weapon with a striking head attached to a handle via a flexible chain, cord, or thong. Both of these varieties of impact weapons varied in form over time and space. While maces probably evolved from simple cudgels, flails were initially agricultural tools for threshing grain.
The forms of both these weapons that seem prominent in the popular imagination are those with round, spiked heads. Extant examples of these types of maces and flails tend to be from the late 16th century, a period when arms and armor became highly ornate and decorative.
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.