Ohio 7th Grade World History/Weapons and Defense

Weapons and Warfare


Weapons and warfare played a vital role in the Middle Ages. They were used to conquer and defend territories. The strength of your army became the currency of the realm. If you weren’t a soldier or noble, you were a peasant in the feudalistic society. The weapons, such as the sword, pike, and spear, were a way of life. Political problems turned into military problems, starting wars and feuds. The shield also played an important role. Many soldiers forsook the shield for their swords, but the more organized armies had strategy. This led to the growth of kingdoms, and the end of feudalism, sending Europe into the Renaissance era.

During the Middle Ages, fighting and death reached an all-time high. Even though this was happening, military skill and tactics were a joke compared to Greek, Roman, Persian, etc. warfare styles. The weapons and armor had, of sorts, degenerated, and the fortifications had become cheap wooden walls with houses inside. With the Church’s domination over Europe, everyone was pitted against each other to win favor in the eyes of the Christian God. So with the mix of constant war, Catholic followers were eager and willing to kill their neighbor to earn kudos with the Church. It was a very dangerous, primitive time.

Artwork depicting a battle during the Crusades.

Two of the biggest wars that happened during the Middle Ages were the Crusades and the 100 Year War. Each was a massive series of battles, where thousands died on each side. The weapons never changed much, even though the Middle Ages were over 600 years.

The Crusades and 100 Year War weaponry varied from battle to battle, but they all kept the same basic weapon format. Most of the poorer infantry would use simple iron swords and pikes, simple wooden or iron shields, and, if possible, simple leather armor. The "slingers" or archers would generally have simple slings or short bows. And the typical cavalry would generally have a long sword and shield, and leather or iron armor.

As the Middle Ages continued, weapons became more advanced and more powerful. Swords became stronger and sharper, so the killing of the enemy would be much faster and easier. The English started using longbows instead of small bows so that larger, longer arrows could be shot from a farther distance. Knights wore more flexible armor, so extra movement could give them the upper hand in a battle. Siege weapons became bigger and better, especially because of the invention of European gunpowder, so simple catapults became long-range trebuchets and castle walls became obsolete with the first cannon. Because of these advances, battles, and then wars, became faster and a lot more dangerous.

Castles and Defense

A castle surrounded by a moat.

A castle is defined as a fortified stronghold or a fortified residence of a lord or other important person. During the Middle Ages, castles were revolutionary in there architecture, impenetrability, and defense capabilities, they were the heart of defense efforts, and the peak of defensive capability for several decades and throughout many wars, including the crusades. They were designed to be safe against charges from cavalry and knights. They were built to withstand long sieges and extended battles. Because of there importance and there reputation as safe havens, castles often employed many staff and housed large amounts of well equipped defense forces, to operate war equipment and fight off attackers.

A castle is made up of many parts, all vital to its running smoothly. A moat is a ditch dug around a castle, as a fortification, and filled with water to prevent attackers from entering. A drawbridge is a bridge across a deep ditch, often a moat, which may be raised or lowered to restrict or allow entrance into a castle. A portcullis, is a sliding timber or iron gate suspended over a gateway, which can be raised or lowered to allow or prevent access to various areas. They are much like metal doors. Inside a castle are many rooms. There are towers, dungeons, halls, and more.


Art depicting jousting

After the crusades, weapons started to change more. In fact, a sport was created where you fight for fun. Jousting and tilting were sports where you wore special armor and rode on a horse with a long 14-foot-pole called a lance. The point of the game was to run at the other person making them fall of the horse with your lance. You need to protect yourself with a shield. With the lance, you must thrust into a target on their shoulder. This is extremely thick armor for extra protection. It had poor flexibility and did not look good, but it was extremely strong and weighed from 80-100 pounds. This was one of three kinds of steel armor.

The next kind of armor is decorative armor. It had very good flexibility and looked very fancy. It was not used for fighting but just for decoration. It wasn’t very thick and it weighed from 20-70 pounds. This kind of armor was worn at parades and ceremonies. Only wealthy people wore this. It was very artistic.

The last and most important type of armor was combat armor. It was extremely complicated, though strong, flexible, and it looked good. It consisted of over 200 pieces. It weighed from 45 to 80 pounds. It had built in joints and could be used for any occasion. It was easy to get back on a horse if you fell off with this armor. This armor included a helmet that was properly ventilated and you can see well with it on.

The results of the 100 Year War

The 100 Year War helped create nationalistic feelings among the populations of participating countries.

Intense Nationalistic feeling grew in both England and France. Most of the war was fought on French soil so there were great population and property loses that weakened France for the next hundred years. England lost territory in France but it allowed the English kings to centralize their power further and concentrate only on the English nobles. New weapons were introduced which weakened the power of the Knights and the castle, thus ensuring the destruction of the feudal system in both England and France. The system continued in many of the Eastern European region especially Russia but was absent in Spain, Portugal, city-states in Inlay, Prussia, and the Holy Roman Empire.