Monday, 23 March 2015

You know how to shoot that thing?

Can't write about the history of Medieval England without archery. The nation's been at it's most warlike when archery has been a fashionable pastime. You can argue the point (and please do, that's what the comment box is for) that England's success in medieval overseas conflict went into decline as the bow itself declined in popularity.
Young people stopped shooting, and so didn't grow up to keep shooting all over Christendom

With archery popular at the same time that the early Robin Hood ballads were popular it's no surprise that the outlaws were depicted as archers. These were songs and plays for pubs. If the sport of the day had been football, they would have been footballers.
In the ballads, archery is used more as a sporting contest than deadly combat. Hood rarely shoots it out with an enemy, and rarely kills with the bow. Most of the time Hood and his opponent set a wand in the ground and shoot at this, with the winner being he that shoots closest.
Violence, when it happens in the poems is usually settled with swords.

Now personally, I've ignored this 'sportsmanlike' behaviour in my own novel. Looking at it with an ex-copper's set of eyes, the average bloke in 12C England had a social (and later, legal) obligation to practice with a bow, and often, a need to steal to feed himself.
It's the equivalent of every single person being trained to shoot, and having a gun in their home, but not enough money to eat.
Of course those bows are going to get used for violence.

side note - The practice of shooting at wands is pretty common in the ballads. It bears a striking similarity to 'clout archery'; shooting at pennants still practiced today.

I'm interested in the idea that archery is on the rise again. 

It's getting popular.
It's attracting attention.
Lets just keep it sportsmanlike though, eh?

As a parting shot, take a look at (see the note in the sidebar) on differences between modern shooting technique and medieval stance and draw, and the incredible 200lb draw bow!


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