A discussion forum for history enthusiasts everywhere
 
HomeHome  Recent ActivityRecent Activity  FAQFAQ  RegisterRegister  Log inLog in  

Share | 
 

 Qin crossbow against English longbow

View previous topic View next topic Go down 
AuthorMessage
PaulRyckier
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1773
Join date : 2012-01-01
Location : Belgium

PostSubject: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Wed 18 Jan 2017, 22:38

Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Thu 19 Jan 2017, 08:32

Paul, it would help if you actually held an opinion on this.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Thu 19 Jan 2017, 13:15

Surely the two weapons were intended for completely different functions and so are not really comparable. An "English" longbow had a maximum range of about 400m and could be shot at a rate of 5 or 6 a minute (for a limited time). The Qin bow, IF it really had a range of 800m, must have had a considerably larger draw weight (ie the force to pull back the string). To me this immediately implies some sort of mechanical method of drawing the bow as was used for medieval European crossbows (although these in part had such high draw weights because the bow was relatively short, unlike the Qin bow). As such the Qin bow would have had a considerably slower rate of fire compared to a longbow and I doubt they were very accurate at the 800m range ... although the Chinese also invented a rapid-fire repeating crossbow, but that is something else. Seeing as a longbow could readily penetrate plate armour if used over a moderate distance, say 150-200m, then I don't see that a slower but more powerful Qin bow offers much advantage on a battlefield. Although of course a longbow was only as good as the archer, and the success of English longbowmen depended entirely on a lifetime of training ... and so the social circumstances that led to the longbow's success only really existed for about 200 years.
Back to top Go down
PaulRyckier
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1773
Join date : 2012-01-01
Location : Belgium

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Thu 19 Jan 2017, 19:56

nordmann wrote:
Paul, it would help if you actually held an opinion on this.

I promised to do it today, Nordmann... Wink

Kind regards, Paul.
Back to top Go down
PaulRyckier
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1773
Join date : 2012-01-01
Location : Belgium

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Thu 19 Jan 2017, 21:50

Meles meles wrote:
Surely the two weapons were intended for completely different functions and so are not really comparable. An "English" longbow had a maximum range of about 400m and could be shot at a rate of 5 or 6 a minute (for a limited time). The Qin bow, IF it really had a range of 800m, must have had a considerably larger draw weight (ie the force to pull back the string). To me this immediately implies some sort of mechanical method of drawing the bow as was used for medieval European crossbows (although these in part had such high draw weights because the bow was relatively short, unlike the Qin bow). As such the Qin bow would have had a considerably slower rate of fire compared to a longbow and I doubt they were very accurate at the 800m range ... although the Chinese also invented a rapid-fire repeating crossbow, but that is something else. Seeing as a longbow could readily penetrate plate armour if used over a moderate distance, say 150-200m, then I don't see that a slower but more powerful Qin bow offers much advantage on a battlefield. Although of course a longbow was only as good as the archer, and the success of English longbowmen depended entirely on a lifetime of training ... and so the social circumstances that led to the longbow's success only really existed for about 200 years.

Meles meles,

look at the shooting in the documentary around the 23th minute..
it seems that they pulled the cord with their hands laying on their backs and pushing the bow with their feet. And the power was more in the standardization of phenomenal amounts of arrows and of bows. They speak of tens of thousands of archers all with the same bows, the same mechanisms, the same high quality arrows.
And there was a quality control: in each piece was a stamp to indicate by which craftsman or by what equipe master it was produced and if wrong the penalties were very high.
The big difference with the English longbow was that they according to the documentary could be used by untrained peasants. It needed so to say only minutes to
master this crossbow method and that by peasants that were available in their hunderd thousands...
It was mentioned that the arrow had a wider range than a modern army assault riffle, that I want to investigate nevertheless...
So far for today, tomorrow more comments...

Kind regards, Paul.
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Fri 20 Jan 2017, 09:48

Ah ha .... I hadn't watched the youtube, but I have now.

I don't really see much difference between the Qin crossbow and a medieval European crossbow ... except of course that the Qin bow is about 1500 years earlier and that it had a very simple trigger mechanism that was specifically designed to be mass-produced. Note also that at about the same time a similarly powerful composite crossbow, the gastraphetes, was used in ancient Greece. The gastraphetes was cocked by using the entire body weight to push down on the sliding bar which pushed the string back up to the trigger:


(After a design drawn by Heron of Alexandria c.50 AD, although the weapon had been described centuries earlier and was certainly used by Alexander the Great's army).

If one is comparing the Qin bow to the medieval English longbow, then to my mind the same comments apply as for any crossbow. An English longbow required a lifetime of training and regular practice to be effective, but any peasant, even someone not physically strong, could be given a crossbow and taught to use it very effectively in a few minutes. The documentary makes much of the penetrating power of the Qin bow, but a trained longbow archer could easily do the same damage to a man in armour. But the social and economic circumstances that allowed the English (and to a far lesser extent other European states) to field massed ranks of trained archers only really existed from about 1250 to 1450. Thereafter crossbows and firearms became the missile weapons of choice: they didn't out-perform archers, at least not initially, but any conscript given a few minutes training could easily bring down even a fully armoured man-at-arms.

I agree that the key thing about the Qin bow is the simple trigger mechanism that allowed the bow to be mass produced. Longbows and crossbows were mass produced in Europe but were more sophisticated in construction and were labour intensive to make. Mass production on the scale of what was possible for the Qin bow didn't really occur in Europe until the manufacture of standard firearms (around mid 16th century). But surely that is more a reflection of the vast population size, and of the social, industrial and bureacratic nature of ancient Chinese society, when compared to the small states of feudal Europe.

The Qin bow appears to be a recurved bow and rather longer than a typical European crossbow (so potentially more powerful) but the latter more than made up in power by usually being made of a composite of materials. The method of drawing the bow by lying on the back would be a bit unusual in Europe (and to my mind not terribly practical on the battlefield) and anyway I doubt it would have given much more pulling power than the simple two-handed or waist-hook techniques used in Europe before the advent of more sophisticated mechanical devices. In the absence of any mechanism to draw the Qin bow other than using human strength I am sceptical of the claimed 800m range. The documentary quotes an estimated draw-weight of 200 pounds-force (890 Newtons) but the draw-weight of English longbows has been estimated to have sometimes been as much as 180 pounds-force (800 Newtons) and this gave a maximum range of only about 400m, although typically the draw-weight and range of longbows was much less, say a draw-weight of 110 pounds-force (490 Newtons) and a maximum range of about 300m.

Here's a Norman archer (circa 1100) spanning a European crossbow without any mechanical aid. I don't see that he is much disadvantaged by not lying on his back ... quite the contrary in fact. His fairly simple crossbow would typically have a range of only about 200-250m, but was nevertheless perfectly capable of penetrating mail or leather armour at a distance of up to about 100m.


Incidentally I believe some peoples in the Americas, both North and South, not only drew powerful longbows lying down like that but also fired them from the lying position, aiming between their toes as it were (but I can't find a reference for this).
Back to top Go down
PaulRyckier
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1773
Join date : 2012-01-01
Location : Belgium

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Fri 20 Jan 2017, 22:13

Thank you very much for this summary and comparison Meles meles.

From what I read it says it all and I have nothing to add.

Thanks again for all the effort to enlighten this question and kind regards from Paul.
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Sat 21 Jan 2017, 18:47

Well it's not gospel Paul, just a personal opinion.

Although when I was at Imperial College one of the professors in my research group was a keen toxophilist and so through him and his contacts our group did some mechanical testing and analysis on a few longbows recovered from the 'Mary Rose'. That's why I know (though I had to look the figures up - my memory's not that good) that some of the measured draw-weights were surprisingly high. Previous estimates had put typical draw-weights at about 500 N, but we found the draw-weights of the bows from the 'Mary Rose' to be up to 800 N. This figure was obtained when the bow was drawn for an arrow of 30 inches which was the standard English arrow length ... but if the bows were drawn back even further the draw-weight, and hence the power imparted to the arrow, could be even higher. Whether any normal archer could actually pull a load much higher than 800 N is doubtful, but the bows could certainly deliver ... even after being buried for 400 years in the mud of the Solent.

But were these bows typical? To pull that sort of load you have to have considerable arm strength: I tried to pull one myself and couldn't get it anywhere near fully back. Medieval English longbowmen must have been superb athletes, and indeed the skeletons of the archers that were found in the 'Mary Rose' show extreme development of the arms and whole upper body. Yet by the time the 'Mary Rose' sank (1545) it was becoming increasingly hard to find really good archers in England. The 'Mary Rose' was however the pride of Henry VIII's navy and so I feel sure her contingent of archers were probably some of the best available ... hence maybe the bows were not typical of those used by the regular rank and file. Which again reinforces a major disadvantage of the longbow ... even a weedy bloke like me could be given a crossbow or firearm, a few minutes instruction, and then be able to effectively operate a weapon with much the same range and power as a longbow in the hands of a trained professional.
Back to top Go down
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Sun 22 Jan 2017, 12:47

I wrote: "The 'Mary Rose' was however the pride of Henry VIII's navy and so I feel sure her contingent of archers were probably some of the best available ... hence maybe the bows were not typical of those used by the regular rank and file."

But that is just my own conjecture.

By contrast the author CJ Sansom, in his historical novel 'Heartstone', has the contingent of archers on board the 'Mary Rose' as a London-based group of conscripts. He sees them as a disparate group of apprentices, younger sons, and others who haven't been able to avoid military service ... either because they can't argue a case for their exemption on economic grounds; who haven't got a powerful patron; or who simply don't have the cash to bribe the recruiting officers. They are drawn from the same London parishes and so mostly know each other, but while some are excited at the possibility of travel (outside the City) and combat (though none have ever seen anything beyond a street brawl), most just want to get it over with and go home to their families. And while they can all shoot a longbow - regular archery practice is after all obligatory - none are professional trained archers.

Do any of the more recent archaelogical analyses cast any light on the background of the archers onboard the 'Mary Rose' ? Is there anything to suggest they were well-paid professionals as opposed to just conscripted militia men?

And to be honest a longbow is not best suited to use on a warship in a naval engagement: fighting from a warship is more akin to a defending a fortification than to fighting on an open battle field. In such a situation I'd have thought crossbows would be a much more effective weapon.


Last edited by Meles meles on Sun 22 Jan 2017, 13:05; edited 1 time in total
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Sun 22 Jan 2017, 13:04

The skeletal remains revealed a high incidence of the condition "os acromiale" amongst the crew, and it has been deduced from this that the affected remains were of full-time longbow archers, principally because exactly the same condition also affects modern archers and especially ones who started in the discipline early in life. This is not conclusive proof that they were professional archers, but it does seem to indicate people selected at an early age for their prowess with the bow and less likely to be mature adolescents or young adults arbitrarily selected and then hurriedly trained.

Although archery was a skill which laws dictated all young males should practice, this is rather over interpreted in modern times to indicate the majority of young males either had opportunity or inclination to comply. The truth is rather different - documentary records support the view that only a small minority of males did anything like regular archery practice, and these were largely of a social class which would not have constituted rank and file soldiery except in rather extreme circumstances. However what was far more prevalent an option was a local squire supporting and maintaining an elite corps of locals who then "represented" their community in terms of the legal obligation to provide full compliments of archers at short notice for occasional expeditionary requirements. As sponsored and almost full-time practitioners these men effectively constituted a professional class, and the Mary Rose evidence does nothing to contradict the view that those on board came from this class. Their skeletal remains, as well as their belongings in terms of equipment and attire, appear to confirm that they were anything but conscripts in a "press-gang" sense, but in fact probably some of the higher status crew, especially when compared to the common sailors.

Regarding the suitability of the longbow in naval warfare this was indeed something that contemporaries discussed. The Mary Rose represents a time of transition from archery to guns, though even as late as then it was expected that close quarter naval combat conformed to tradition, which in England by then was a "wall" of javelins from behind which cascades of arrows would be launched. The longbow, with its very highly arced trajectory, was actually better suited to this formation, the crossbow used in the same way from behind a high obstacle being very difficult to calculate regarding range and any ballistic exactness. Once two ships came too close for this to be effective the bulk of the damage would be caused by gunfire, and also by strategically placed sharpshooter archers, who indeed may well have used crossbows at that point in time. Contemporary depictions nearly always show them however operating as individuals with unique (normally high) deployment in the rigging and structure of the vessel. Longbow archers are depicted in formation on deck, much as they would have operated on land.
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
LadyinRetirement
Decemviratus Legibus Scribundis
avatar

Posts : 739
Join date : 2013-09-16

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Sun 22 Jan 2017, 18:43

I had the idea - could be my memory playing me false as it's such a long time since I learned about the Battle of Poitiers at school - that one of the reasons the English won was that their archers were able to load their arrows into longbows more quickly than crossbows could be loaded with bolts.  I see that nordmann has said above that the longbow was suited to the naval circumstance mentioned in his post. However, as I have discovered over the years that sometimes the version of history taught at school may have been somewhat simplified, so I don't know what to believe about the different types of bows now.  I know that history can't be revised in the sense that nobody could claim that the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht were wrong (because they were committed to paper) but I am sometimes in a quandary wondering what was right and what was wrong in what I was taught all those years ago, though as I say I might have a false memory.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Sun 22 Jan 2017, 19:01

An episode of Time Team, in an admittedly very unscientific experiment, once pitched a longbow archer against a crossbow archer to see who could fire shots off quickest. The longbow won by a country mile. But I think speed was only one facet of an archer's training. Synchronised firing was almost more important than accuracy or speed, so a huge consideration in assembling and training an archers corp was maintaining their numbers at expected levels. This must have lent practitioners a certain advantage when negotiating wages, I would imagine - though I'm really only guessing. However a body of men whose main worth to their employer is as an assembled body are traditionally best placed to ensure their labour is correctly rewarded. Collective bargaining must have come with the role.

Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Meles meles
Censura
avatar

Posts : 2849
Join date : 2011-12-30
Location : Pyrénées-Orientales, France

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Sun 22 Jan 2017, 20:39

I'd say that your memory is largely correct LiR.

At Poitiers (1356) there were about 2,000 English archers against some 8,000 French mounted men-at-arms. The English archers could fire at about 6 arrows a minute, albeit only for a limited time before they tired. Even so in the few minutes that the French took to deliver their main cavalry charge, each horseman would have received several hits, and the French were so massed together that few shots would have missed.

The terrain at Poitiers was ideal for the use of longbowmen and the battle occurred just at the time when England could draw upon a huge reserve of trained archers. But just 80 years later, at Agincourt (1415) Henry V was struggling to recruit enough good English archers, ... and by 1513 during Henry VIII's first 'Enterprise of France', the king was forced to recruit German crossbowmen to make up the numbers of archers. Henry VIII was fortunate in that his campaign didn't involve any great set-piece battles, it being mostly skirmishes and sieges. But had a big pitched battle actually occurred, it might well have shown the weakness on relying on longbowmen.

As it was the Battle of Flodden, fought at exactly the same time (under Catherine of Aragon's Regency: she was the Commander-in-Chief, and apparently a very competent one too), actually showed the opposite in that it was won by the old medieval combination of archers and billmen. But at Flodden the Duke of Norfolk had called upon the levies of the northern shires: men traditionally loyal to the Stanleys, the Percys, the Nevilles; men who were still trained to the bow if for no other reason than they still needed to defend their farms against border cattle raids. Also Flodden was fought against Scotland: it was an important battle but nevertheless rather a side-show in the great European theatre, and militarily things in Europe were already moving towards dropping even crossbows in favour of guns.
Back to top Go down
Anglo-Norman
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 261
Join date : 2012-04-24

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Tue 21 Feb 2017, 21:21

The Mary Rose had a number of 'gun-shields' aboard, essentially a breech-loading matchlock pistol projecting through a round, metal-faced wooden shield.  I'm not aware of any replicas being tested, but they can only have been effective at close range, as they have very short barrels.  They certainly had an odd variety of ranged weapons aboard.

Because of their shorter draw-length, crossbow bolts apparently lost power much more rapidly than arrows shot from a longbow, so even late-medieval crossbows, with their enormously powerful steel prods, could potentially be less effective at longer ranges than the longbow (although having said that at closer ranges they were more useful against armour).
Back to top Go down
Anglo-Norman
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 261
Join date : 2012-04-24

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Wed 22 Feb 2017, 19:52

Incidentally, I've done a bit of searching on ranges.  It's true that the Qin crossbow had a range of roughly twice that of a modern assault rifle (assuming that estimated range is accurate, of course!).  However, it's less impressive when you consider that the rifles are deliberately designed to have an effective range of around 400m.  German studies concluded that most combat took place at ranges less than 400m, and so they designed the StG 44 - the very first assault rifle, introduced towards the end of the Second World War - to have an effective range to match that, and most arms manufacturers have followed suit ever since.  Compare that to the Mauser Kar 98k, the standard German bolt-action rifle of the War, which was sighted to up to 2000m.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Wed 22 Feb 2017, 20:56

I found this on YouTube - replica 14th century English longbow and crossbow comparison done by an ex-marine guy called Robert Lee Ermey. I'm not sure of the range distance they set up, and the crossbow looks quite lightweight (I think they mention 120 pounds draw), but I was still impressed with how the armour held out against both.

Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Anglo-Norman
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 261
Join date : 2012-04-24

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Wed 22 Feb 2017, 22:03

The experiment is not terribly useful.  On the one hand, the armour lacks the various layers backing it.  On the other hand, the bows are far too weak.  The bow only has a 45lb draw weight.  They admit a war bow could be twice as powerful, but in fact it would be far more, potentially up to 180lbs.  The crossbow only has a 60lb draw-weight; the 'expert' claims they could be up to 120lbs, but a typical 14th crossbow had a draw-weight of 350-450lbs, later 15th century bows even more (for which reason they were forced to use mechanical methods to operate them).
Back to top Go down
Priscilla
Censura
avatar

Posts : 1888
Join date : 2012-01-16

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Wed 22 Feb 2017, 22:47

That potential 180lbs surely needed a big bloke to effect, AN. What of them - and their training? And what of the weight of a crossbow? They appear to be heavy.
Back to top Go down
nordmann
Nobiles Barbariæ
avatar

Posts : 5684
Join date : 2011-12-25

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Thu 23 Feb 2017, 10:46

You might prefer this one, Anglo-Norman, from Nick "Bigbowbrum" and his mate Martin. It's a rather pointless "speed" test in that the result is a foregone conclusion, but they also refer to the pointlessness of direct comparison between the weapons' respective draw weights, the crossbow requiring almost three times that of the longbow to achieve a comparative range. How this pushed the crossbow beyond a normal human's ability to draw it unaided while standing, and the various solutions to this, are also well explained. The notes accompanying the video are also very informative.



It is also refreshing to see something on YouTube approaching a million views in which the viewers' comments are also by and large polite and informative additions, rather than the usual fare on that site. And that Nick takes time out ten years after posting the video to politely answer inquiries after his and Martin's health. It's probably a bit like how all YouTube would be if Americans were denied access ...
Back to top Go down
https://reshistorica.historyboard.net
Anglo-Norman
Consulatus
avatar

Posts : 261
Join date : 2012-04-24

PostSubject: Re: Qin crossbow against English longbow   Fri 24 Feb 2017, 14:04

Thanks, Nordmann.  An interesting video despite, as you say, the result not being in doubt.  I watched a couple of videos last night on the katana: one on the katana vs the longsword, again by R. Lee Ermy (who concluded that the katana was far superior), and another which was a critique of the same, which concluded the experiment was nonsense and the longsword had been seriously maligned.  In the comments, the fury of the katana fans who saw their sword being criticised was something to behold!

Priscilla, a lngbow with a 180lb draw would be exceptional, probably only wielded by the sort of professional bowman who were employed full-time in the Households of the nobility.  However, the size of the wielder would not be particularly significant.  Archers were supposed to be trained from childhood (about 7-9) using increasingly powerful bows to build up their strength.  Technique was also important.  Medieval illustrations often depict archers in a very awkward looking pose, bending forward at the waist, bum sticking out, curving their back inwards.  It looks like bad artistry, but the number of times it appears indicate they are depicting a genuine method, and modern archers who had tried to recreate the technique have found it highly efficient, in essence allowing the strength of the whole body to be used to draw the bow.

As for crossbows, I've handled (but sadly not shot) a replica 15th century military example (I forget the poundage, but I believe it was meant to be mechanically spanned); it was not particularly heavy, and I'm a bit of a weakling!  The key is that the designers had found a way of packing considerable power into a relatively small package.
Back to top Go down
 

Qin crossbow against English longbow

View previous topic View next topic Back to top 
Page 1 of 1

Permissions in this forum:You cannot reply to topics in this forum
Res Historica History Forum :: The history of people ... :: War and Conflict-