Subject: [Aoife-Links] Links: Medieval Handgonnes and related weapons
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 14:57:09 -0500

Greetings my faithful readers!

This week's Links List in on the subject of Medieval Handgonnes, Cannon, Arquebus and Matchlokkes. There is much to learn about such weapons, but I will beg you all to be extremely careful when doing so. History is littered with examples of folk who thought they knew what they were doing with guns, but didn't live to tell the tale. For example, please visit the link provided in the list that is from the Darwin Awards website (and what I believe to be their earliest story) to read about a man who thought he knew how to build a the Late Medieval era. Yes, guns and gun history are fascinating. They are also dangerous weapons and should not be used by those who are not trained to do so.

Remember folks, don't try this at home.



Handgonnes and Matchlocks: A preliminary Essay in the History of Firearms to 1500
(Site Excerpt) In 1132, fire lances are mentioned in historical records, in 1221, cast iron bombs, and in 1259, bamboo tubes containing powder and clay pellets. True gunpowder only appeared in China in the Mongol period (1260-1368) - this was confirmed by Blackmore's (1995) identification of a cannon dated 1332 - so we are left at an impasse.

The Musket Drill copyright Mark Gist
(Site Excerpt) The most common firearm during the first half of the 17th century was the matchlock musket. Rather than striking a spark to light the gunpowder, the musketeer carried a slow-burning piece of rope known as a slow-match. This was held in the "serpentine". When the trigger was pulled, the serpentine would move down, touching the burning end of the match to the priming powder.

History, Safety, Care, and Feeding Of Period Guns by Dexter Gupthill Based
on a class by George Paczolt, medievally known as Justinian Syke
(Site Excerpt) 14th Century: Earliest cannon, in 1326. An inventory in 1340 is the earliest reference to a portable firearm. By 1364, references to handheld firearms become common. These were miniature cannon barrels, some mounted on poles or handles, some simply built with a hook to fit over a fortification's wall and soak up the recoil. First reference to these as "handguns", 1386. Late fourteenth Century, slow-match - woven cord impregnated with nitrates by boiling with gunpowder.

(Site Excerpt) "The strong tall and best persons to be pikes, the squarest and broadest will be fit to carry muskets and the least and nimblest may be turned over to the Harquebush". (Gervase Markham 1625) I usually collect flint locks but recently I found a bargain match lock mechanism on eBay, and then a restocked English Civil War barrel from Peter Dyson and these things are addictive.

Arquebus and Matchlock Musket Page
Information and resources for these weapons

Range weapons in the Armory of the Dukes of Burgundy

Gunpowder Weapons of the Late Fifteenth Century
(Site Excerpt) Gunpowder weapons were the 'leading edge' of technology in the late medieval era. Gunpowder weapons took two forms: artillery, and hand-held guns. The two systems were employed tactically in sieges and battles, and in offense and defense operations. All forms of gunpowder weapons relied on chemical and metal-working advancements of the time, and their effective exploitation in warfare relied upon new thinking of the military commanders.

Cannons--That Diabolic Instrument of War
Written by David Lazenby - Middelaldercentret ©1999
(Site Excerpt) Following the previous two reconstruction projects, Leonardo da Vinciís Ornithopter and an early 15th century underwater diving suit, the next proposal investigates warfare, - "the mother of invention". Born in the middle-ages and destined to change the face of tactics forever, the invention of the firearm was to create a revolutionary impact on medieval armies and the race for military superiority.

News in Science: Medieval Weapons of Mass Destruction
Abbie Thomas in Manchester
(Site Excerpt) The medieval gunpowder was packed into a replica Loshult gun, a small canon-like gun from Sweden which dates from the 14th Century. The newly made medieval gunpowder was able to fire a lead ball as far as 945 metres (and reaching speeds up to 200 m per second), compared to a distance of 1100 metres for the commercial gun powder. The old recipes called for mixed powder to be 'stamped' - put under pressure - for at least 20 hours, but preferably 30. But even with very little preparation time the team achieved surprising results.

The Effects of Gunpowder on Medieval Society
© Jennie Seay 1995
Use without permission will result in a painful altercation with a catapult
(Site Excerpt) With the shot of the first cannon in the fourteenth century, gunpowder became the instrument of chaotic change, tearing down the calculated defenses of princes and kings and slaughtering the noble knight in his shining armor. Warfare was the core of political and social revolution in the Middle Ages. The bigger, better, more accurate weaponry made possible by the mysterious combination of saltpeter, sulfur and charcoal was a deciding factor in many key battles...

Medieval Technology pages: Cannon
This page is maintained and copyright by Paul J. Gans.
(Site Excerpt) By 1350 Petrarch wrote "these instruments which discharge balls of metal with most tremendous noise and flashes of fire...were a few years ago very rare and were viewed with greatest astonishment and admiration, but now they are become as common and familiar as any other kinds of arms." [quoted from Cipolla 1965 p 22]

Cannon, development
(Site Excerpt)Cannon were getting larger and better in the 14th century, so that pieces of more than 1,000 pounds were in existence by Du Guesclin's death. There was one at Mons in 1375 which ran to 9,500 pounds. But such monster guns were so immobile as to be practically worthless and so costly as to practically beggar their owners. As a result, most cannon remained fairly small.

(Site Excerpt) Any blend of roughly equal proportions of sulphur and charcoal with from 40% to 75% of potassium nitrate --saltpeter-- will flash with considerable noise and may thus qualify to be called "gunpowder". Precisely when the substance was invented remains obscure. Indeed, in view of the fact that the ingredients had been known and in common use from earliest times, it is surprising that gunpowder was not invented much sooner than was actually the case. Incendiary and pyrotechnic mixtures with military applications had been around since ancient times.

(Site Excerpt) Then there is an item in the chronicles of Ghent in Belgium for 1313 to the effect that one Berthold Schwartz, a friar from Breisgau in Germany, had in that year invented "bussen," that is "guns"; but there are several linguistic and stylistic oddities about the reference, which suggest that it was probably inserted some centuries after the fact. It is only in the 1320s that references to firearms begin to become reliable.

Social Impact of Cannon
(Site Excerpt) Artillerymen very early earned acceptance by the social order in the most perfect of Medieval fashions. Guilds of gunners appeared fairly early, replicating all the practices of the guilds which regulated and guarded the secrets of less spectacular crafts. And they soon acquired a patron saint of their own, St. Barbara, selected appropriately enough because her martyrdom is alleged to have been avenged by a timely bolt of lightning.

Darwin Awards: Urban Legend: A Medieval Tale
(Site Excerpt) During the night the people of Paks created the first wooden cannon in history, ready for deployment. They towed it up a nearby hill, and the entire village gathered around to watch the victory....

Mad Monk of Mitcham Home Page,
maintained by Andy Lubienski, member of the Medieval Siege Society Ltd.
(Site Excerpt) We are a group of enthusiasts of all ages - we even have three generation family memberships - who have combined to re-enact the conflicts & campaign life of the high medieval period, which covers the Wars of the Roses and the Hundred Years' War (circa 1350-1490 though currently the majority of members plump for the later end of this period). At present we form the largest medieval re-enactment group in the UK.

High Beam Research: How Chickens Helped Fire Medieval Cannon
(Free Trial Membership required to read entire article)
(Site Excerpt) MEDIEVAL gunpowder packed more of a punch than scientists thought, according to a project to recreate the explosive using dung pits, foot stomping and wood ash. Researchers at the Royal Armouries in Leeds were astonished by the results of a 10-year collaboration with European colleagues to recreate 14th century gunpowder recipes.