The Efficacy of the English Longbow: A Reply to Kelly DeVries

The Efficacy of the English Longbow: A Reply to Kelly DeVries

Rogers, Clifford J.

War in History, 1998 5 (2)

Every profession needs its gadflies: men and women who shake our complacency and force us to re-examine assumptions we have rarely if ever questioned before. Sometimes revisionists lead us, as the word itself suggests, to see things in a new way, and convince us that our former understanding of an event, a process, a person or a thing was fundamentally flawed. At other times the process of reappraisal leads us back to the same conclusions which we held when we began, but enables us to maintain with new confidence – now that they have been tried – that they are true.

One topic which has recently been subject to a dose of historical revisionism is the efficacy of the medieval longbow. Until recently, there has been general agreement that the ability of fourteenth- and fifteenth-century English archers to strike down charging Scotsmen or French men-at-arms, whether mounted or on foot, was of decisive importance in the battlefield triumphs of Edward III, the Black Prince, Henry V and the Duke of Bedford, from Halidon Hill (1333) through to Verneuil (1424). Over the past few years, however, this view has been challenged by Professor Kelly DeVries.

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