June 16, 2010

THUS, THE WELL-ORDERED MILITIA:

Do Englishmen Still Have To Show Up For Longbow Practice?: According to medieval archery law, they do. (Kevin Underhill, 06.16.10, Forbes)

It is clear that there were laws requiring archery practice dating back to at least the 13th century. The motive was to make sure England had enough men trained to use the longbow, which for centuries was a crucial weapon for the English. (The most famous example is Agincourt, a battle that Henry V won in 1415 and is still going on about.)

The training requirement was usually combined with prohibitions on other kinds of games and sports so that people would focus on archery instead of, for example, "tennis, football, [quoits], dice" and other "games inappropriate." The point was not so much to condemn games as to make sure they did not get in the way of longbow training. In other words, they saw nothing morally wrong with tennis, it's just that it is hard to kill a French knight with a tennis ball, no matter how good your serve is.

In 1511 the requirement was expanded by "An Act concerning Shooting in Long Bows," even though by then the importance of the bow was declining. This law provided that "All sorts of men under the age of 40 Years shall have bows and arrows" and practice using them. The playing of games continued, however, and in 1541 the law was expanded yet again by "An Act for the Maintenance of Artillery, and debarring unlawful Games," the preamble to which declares that said games were believed to be the "Cause of the Decay of Archery" skills in England (There was another very important cause by then, namely guns--or, more specifically, bullets--but games always seem to get blamed for social problems.)

The archery requirement was extended to all men under age 60, and the list of banned games was expanded. As before, though, these restrictions did not apply to the aristocracy. They tended to become knights, not archers, plus they had the God-given right to play games if they liked. According to them, that is, not God.

At least some of this was still on the books well into the 19th century, but was probably repealed during the reign of Queen Victoria.


A vast improvement on the 2nd Amendment.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2010 4:25 PM
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