Home Forums Medieval Longbowmen: Short Arrows And Not Many Of 'Em Reply To: Longbowmen: Short Arrows And Not Many Of 'Em

Guy Farrish

Hi Steve, archer in my late teens, 5’9″ then and if I drew a 30″ arrow to my ear it came off the rest and waggled about rather alarmingly. I was pulling a 40lb bow and did use an 80lb a few times (extremely hard work for a soft A level student!).

The average height of the men on the Mary Rose was 5’7″ with the tallest reconstructed skeleton being 5’11”. We consistently underestimate height in the middle ages. Heights did fluctuate depending on things like climate changes affecting crop yields, plagues and wars but c1100 average male height was c5’8″ falling a bit from c1200 to a low c1300, rising again after the Black Death with a mean height of around 5’8.5″ between 1400 and 1650. It was later industrialisation and poor city conditions that stunted people. Average Heights

I’ve watched and talked with various mediaeval archery re-enactment groups and I too am impressed with speed, and accuracy at medium range. That was kind of my point! Because we can see someone do some things, we extrapolate that to all ‘professional’ mediaeval bowmen could and DID do the same.

But it appears the evidence suggests they probably didn’t have the arrows to shoot that many that fast and that they would need to wait until the targets were 50 yards or closer to inflict damage rather than the 3 or 400 metre ranges one reads all too often in blogs, forums and pop history sites.

I could certainly hit gold at 100 metres and could shoot a flight arrow nearly 200 metres but I couldn’t tell you what I was hitting at that range and I doubt I would have done any consistent damage to plate armoured men.

I’m not trying to demean English bowmen, just offer a slight corrective to the ‘WOW! That’s incredible!’ approach of popular portrayals. They are incredible, that’s the point.