The longbow is the iconic English weapon of the Middle Ages, best known for its role in the victories at Crecy and Agincourt. It first appears in large numbers in English armies during the wars with Scotland, saw its heyday during the Hundred Years War and was a fading force by the time of the War of the Roses.
Loades clearly knows his subject. He is particularly strong on the development of armour during the Middle Ages, and on the layers of protection that went below the visible surface armour. This isn't always taken into account during tests of recreated longbows, which are often fired at plate armour or chain mail without the layers of padding that would have been worn below them. The longbow then achieves unrealistic levels of penetration, which is recreated on the battlefield should have resulted in massacres.
The book also has good sections on the construction of the longbow, the alternative arrowheads available and the technique of actually shooting a longbow (including a look at draw weights).
Loades is also very good on the practicalities of the longbow at war, from his analysis of the number of arrows that were available at particular battles and the way in which that must have impacted on the tactical use of the bow, to the possible use of multiple bows by each archer, taking into account the need for spares and possibly bows of different draw strengths for different occasions.
This is an excellent look at one of the iconic weapons of the Middle Ages.
Development - The longbow's genesis and production
Use - At full draw
Impact - Assessing the longbow
Author: Mike Loades