An Elegant Counter

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Categories: Medieval

A few years ago, an article on the locomotor costs of moving in armour was published which made many steel-clad heads meet desks. Most of those heads belong to people who would be happy to explain what was wrong with the article in person, but are not used to writing up what they know with academic phrasing and careful footnotes, while the authors did not seem inclined to seek out more experts in making and wearing armour and humbly ask what they were missing, so it looked like article and response would continue to exist in two different worlds. But then a French scholar published his own article and shot his own video on the topic. And while the video does not mention its nemesis, the film has the kind of elegant beauty of a volta which sends an iron-shod spear-butt into an unprotected face.

I don’t have the strength in me to do that much when something is wrong in the library, unless writing the article has some hope of leading to a career. So praise him with great praise!

Further Reading: The peer-reviewed article which was the basis of this video is available at DOI: 10.1080/01615440.2015.1112753 The one to which it responds is doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.0816

Edit 2018-01-18: Another response, which focuses on the way in which the early sources on Agincourt present marching across a muddy field in armour as only one of the many problems which the French faced, see Kelly DeVries, “Technological Determinisms of Victory at the Battle of Agincourt,” British Journal for Military History, Volume 2, Issue 1 (2015) pp. 2-14 http://www.bjmh.org.uk/index.php/bjmh/article/view/67 DeVries says that Andy Deane, one of the test subjects, was not at all impressed with the conclusions which the experimenters drew from their discovery that running in armour is tiring.

0 thoughts on “An Elegant Counter

  1. Jeff S. says:

    In addition to the obvious foolishness of not consulting with experienced armour-wearers, is your sense that there was something not quite right with the peer-review process as well?

    1. Sean Manning says:

      Well, I think that a project like this, which requires skills from several disciplines not all of which are based at university, is hard to review. The editors of a biology journal may not know where to find a medieval historian and an armoured fighter or armourer to judge those aspects. But I am not sure why Askew et al. kept describing a sample size of 4 subjects in terms of mean and standard deviation (“Four male subjects (mean +- s.d., height 175 +- 4 cm, mass 79 +- 10 kg, age 36 +- 4 years) … The mass of the armour (including arming doublet…) averaged 35 +- 5 kg, representing 44 +- 3% of the individual’s body mass.”) I suspect that if you know the right people at the Royal Armouries, they would be happy to tell their story of how the study came to be, but I don’t have those contacts.

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