A longbow is a type of bow. It may not have been as strong as a crossbow, but it could shoot more arrows per minute. Also, the basic equipment cost little, and could be easily mass produced. Metal-tipped arrows could go through armour. Only the strongest armor would stop it. Archers (longbowmen) would usually have a second weapon, often a battle-axe, if the fighting came close to them.
The longbow was mainly used in the Middle Ages until the 1500s.
It was made from a single piece of hard wearing, flexible wood, often from a yew tree. Yew was cut during the winter when there was no sap. The flat side of the bow facing the target was flexible sapwood while the belly (facing the archer) was round and made of strong heartwood (from the center of a tree).
Groups of longbowmen would shoot at the same time. The arrows would come down like hail. This often scared the enemy.
The Welsh were the first people to use longbows. In AD 633 Offrid, son of Edwin, king of Northumbria, was killed by an arrow shot from a Welsh longbow. This was during a battle between the Welsh and the Mercians — more than five centuries before any record of its use in England. Despite this, the weapon is more commonly known as the "English longbow" than the "Welsh longbow".
In the Middle Ages, the English and Welsh were famous for their very powerful Welsh longbows. They were used to great effect in the civil wars of the period and against the French in the Hundred Years' War (with notable success at the battles of Crécy (1346), Poitiers (1356) and Agincourt (1415).
The average length of arrowshafts recovered from the 1545 sinking of the Mary Rose is 75 cm /30 in.
The bows were pretty easy and quick to craft, yet was quite lethal and could pierce through armor.
A longbow has practical advantages compared to a modern recurve or compound bow; it is usually lighter, quicker to prepare for shooting, and shoots more quietly. However, other things being equal, the modern bow will shoot a faster arrow more accurately than the longbow.
Effects on the human body change
Bowmen had to practice for many years before they could shoot a longbow well. Also, longbows are very strong. This made archers' bodies different from other people's bodies. The skeletons of medieval bowmen are different from other people's skeletons. The arm and shoulder bones are thick and a little bent. These bones supported the large muscles that grew on the archers' arms and backs as they practiced with the bow. On some archers, the right shoulder was higher than the left shoulder. This is because archers almost always shot on the same side. They did not switch hands.
- Fadala, Sam 2011. Traditional archery. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, p. 13/14.
- Mark Denny, Ingenium: Five Machines That Changed the World (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007), p. 6
- "English bowmen". King Richard III Visitor Centre. 7 August 2019. Archived from the original on 29 June 2022. Retrieved March 29, 2022.
- The Hundred Years War (Part II): Different Vistas, eds. L.J.A. Villalon; D. J. Kagay (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 37-132