A Public Opinion Survey

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AuthorTopic: A Public Opinion Survey
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #50
A seasoned army is not nearly as susceptible to disease as a conscript horde, but it's still a problem, and density is unavoidable. It's not a matter of guys standing shoulder to shoulder; it's that everyone is in contact with a lot of other people on a regular basis. If this isn't true, you don't have an army.

Sometimes you can't get a decisive battlefield victory, and you have to try for something else or give up. Sometimes the willingness of one side to try for something else is what prevents the battlefield victory from being so decisive after all. That doesn't mean that the quick win wouldn't have been a good thing if it had been possible, or that anybody who knows what they are doing isn't trying for it. The idea that anyone would forego heavy armor just because they preferred to fight indecisively still seems crazy to me.

And the idea that heavy armor was built with surrender in mind is also hard to believe. No doubt it was built with survival in mind, but if it helped fighters survive, then that seems to be a benefit unconnected to surrender customs. And there were certainly European battles in which many knights perished despite surrender customs and heavy armor.

I do buy that full plate armor was the end of a long development history, so that it might just be that the western Europeans got started on that tech tree first, and therefore got furthest up it before firearms cut it down for everyone. But this still leaves the question of why Europeans started pursuing heavier armor before anyone else. And it's not as though China was using plate mail when field plate ruled the west; there seems to have been a big gap in armor weight between Europe and the rest of the world. It seems in fact as though the Europeans were the only people really trying to climb the heavy armor tech tree. So we have the original question, still.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
Profile Homepage #51
It's my understanding that at least one of the reasons for the prevalence of heavy armour in the West was indeed simply that high-quality iron ore was simply more readily available there. (This is also one of the reasons that weaponsmithing techniques were more advanced in the East: the iron that was available had to be used to its full potential in order to make it effective.)

[ Thursday, September 20, 2007 00:12: Message edited by: Thuryl ]

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #52
This is the kind of thing I might really buy. Sword blades and arrowheads are quite differently shaped from either armor plates or chainmail rings, after all. If the metals available in western Europe were uniquely effective in making these structures, that would be a good reason why nobody else went for heavy metal armor.

Armor is metallurgically tricky stuff, I think. Your armor has to be hard enough that it doesn't get cut like butter, but also tough enough that it doesn't break like glass. Blades are thick enough that you can arrange to leave the back soft (or in a two-edged sword the inside), and temper the edge very hard, so that the blade as a whole will cut well, but also bend instead of snapping.
Japanese swords were expertly made in this way. But I think that achieving similar effects in armor might require the armor to be far too thick and heavy.

So maybe heavy metal armor does require special metal.

[ Thursday, September 20, 2007 01:07: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Lifecrafter
Member # 7557
Profile #53
quote:
Originally written by Jumpin' Sarrrcasmon:

Not having done any research, I would hazard a guess that Europeans were physically larger and more able to support the armorweight. Prolly their Neanderthal heritage.
Actually unless they were of really good stock and raised from infancy on a really good diet (Most people never ate vegetables as they thought they gave you wind) they were considerably shorter then humans today and lived to about 40 at the outside.

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First person to call me a mercenary gets necromatized.
Posts: 942 | Registered: Sunday, October 8 2006 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #54
I believe this is roughly true, though adult stature has more to do with childhood protein intake than eating your vegetables. The question is whether those shrimpy little European medievals may still have been bigger than their Asian contemporaries.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Infiltrator
Member # 4248
Profile #55
Also remember: from the amount of iron you need to make a full platemail, you could also forge a dozen swords or so. This in part can also explain why metal-poor civilisations went for offense instead of defense.

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Life is a neverending carneval where everyone has multiple costumes. I just hope mine are pleasing to the eye.
Posts: 617 | Registered: Tuesday, April 13 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #56
I googled for armor metallurgy, and found some informative sites that seemed to have plenty of respectable looking references. The impression I got is that the answer to my question may not yet be available, since there seem to be some important open questions about how medieval European armor got made. In particular it seems to be unclear just how it got made in the large quantities it did.

Some of the technical methods used by a few major armorers have been reconstructed, but some are only conjectured. And it apparently remains a puzzle how the known armor makers could have produced the known quantities of armor. This means we don't really understand how hard it really was for those medieval Europeans to make their armor.

If it turns out that the Europeans had some technical or economic trick for churning the stuff out, then maybe my answer is that other cultures lacked the trick. But since we don't seem to know how the Europeans did it, and since it will probably be even harder to know the counterfactual of how hard it would have been for other cultures to do it, then I'm afraid that a good supply side answer, of how Europeans could make metal armor more easily than others, is probably beyond current historical knowledge.

The demand side answer, explaining why Europeans wanted heavy metal armor more than other people, may yet be part of the whole answer. So far I at least haven't been convinced by the ideas suggested along these lines.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Infiltrator
Member # 4248
Profile #57
One thing that crossed my mind: you can make decent lamellar, or maybe even palte, armor from other materials than metal as well. The pictures I've seen of japanese armor seem to indicate that lamellar was favored is samurai armor, and many armorsuits I've seen don't look very metallic (although it might be due to the armors being painted or something). So maybe the reason japan, for example, didn't go for heavy iron armor, was that 1) the iron they had was better for weapons and/or unsuitable for making good armor and 2) there were other materials beside iron that were better at making armor for their needs.

Thoughts?

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Life is a neverending carneval where everyone has multiple costumes. I just hope mine are pleasing to the eye.
Posts: 617 | Registered: Tuesday, April 13 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #58
You can make armor out of paper, and in fact I read somewhere that Chinese armies used this a lot, in some period or other. It could certainly be better than nothing. In fact, either those paperclad Chinese armies were just stupid, or paper armor was overall the best option they had in their circumstances. Stupidity on one side or the other is possible in principle, but it should be an explanation of last resort.

So, sure: non-metallic armors might well have been better for the needs of various non-European cultures. The question is, Why, when they weren't good enough in Europe?

[ Friday, September 21, 2007 04:51: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Shaper
Member # 32
Profile #59
If you have enough troops, why waste the metal covering them in armor?

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Lt. Sullust
Quaere verum
Posts: 2462 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #60
But it seems this could go either way. Why recruit, supply, move, and control so many soldiers, if you can win with a few guys in armor?

If the net advantage lay with naked hordes in Asia, and with squadrons of knights in Europe, then the question remains, Why the difference?

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Shaper
Member # 32
Profile #61
Because of the difference in population size?

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Lt. Sullust
Quaere verum
Posts: 2462 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Warrior
Member # 6714
Profile Homepage #62
I'm willing to wager it's a combination of cultural factors, metal scarcity, AND population size.

Consider the Mongolians for instance...purely tribal, nomadic people. They weren't exactly big on building huge mines necessary for gathering and processing large amounts of iron and other metal ores. They also didn't really have the people necessary for that nor did their hit and run tactics require heavy armor anyway.

Whereas most European societies settled down. Their land was usually much better for farming and settling into larger and larger communities. The larger the community, the more people you have. Europe most likely had larger amounts of metal ore, and since the typical European was in a larger community there were more people to gather the metal ore and thus more armor.

Japan certainly does have scarce resources...it was one of the primary reasons for Imperial Nippon's invasion of China back in 1933, to gain more resources.

Obviously there are some flaws somewhere in my logic...there are probably also environmental concerns and certain variables I'm not considering here...but it's worth looking at, I think.

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Well that signature was out of date, since I've not been here in forever.
Posts: 91 | Registered: Thursday, January 19 2006 08:00
? Man, ? Amazing
Member # 5755
Profile #63
quote:
Originally written by DanielJacksonMPC:

flaws ... in my logic
The Mongols had banditry. Any people that created metals could be robbed, and likely were favored targets. India would be likely, except for the rather torturous journey through the mountains in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

There was also trade. The metal producing from the Caucus Mountains would have been easily transported to Europe or Asia via the inner coastal waterways, and was likely "discovered" fairly soon after the Europeans began their attempt to retake the Holy Lands.

But you are mostly right about the Mongols, they didn't carry much goods, so any steel was likely in the form of swords, arrow heads, or decorative objects. Not likely they would waste time carrying ingots when they knew they could just return later for another session of tariff collection.

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Synergy, et al - "I don't get it."

Thralni - "a lot of people are ... too weird to be trusted"
Posts: 4114 | Registered: Monday, April 25 2005 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #64
quote:
Originally written by Lt. Sullust:

Because of the difference in population size?
But they weren't playing against each other.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Infiltrator
Member # 4248
Profile #65
quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

You can make armor out of paper, and in fact I read somewhere that Chinese armies used this a lot, in some period or other.
The reasons were that 1) paper was cheap and 2) a thick paper armor was very effectice protection against early fire arms. If I recall right, one chinese general won several battles against fire-arm possessing enemies because of this trick. If you have a spare 1 - 2 inch thick book lying somewhere, you can try stabbing a knife through it. That'll give you a picture how good paper was for armor.

Of course, maintaining such armors must have been a pain.

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Life is a neverending carneval where everyone has multiple costumes. I just hope mine are pleasing to the eye.
Posts: 617 | Registered: Tuesday, April 13 2004 07:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #66
Actually, are we sure paper was so cheap? It's cheap today, but medieval Chinese folks burned it as a sacrifice. Making paper in large quantities is heavy industry today, and it uses chemicals that make whole towns smell bad.

I do believe that there was probably some sort of paper armor, but I doubt it was much like an inch thick book, and a quick google search makes me suspicious. There are a number of 'gee-whiz' references, but very little detail. I think it might turn out to be a complete myth; most likely there is some truth to the story but in fact the available evidence is very vague; possibly the truth is known but not as surprising as it sounds (maybe some sort of papier mache kind of stuff was used as padding in cloth garments, or something like that).

The idea that paper armor would defeat early firearms sounds
interesting. I can imagine there might be some truth in it, if the firearms in question were throwing blunt projectiles that could break hard armor but not cut paper. But it might also be nonsense: I have fired a musketball through a pretty thick chunk of wood.

My rule of thumb these days is to be skeptical of any supposed historical fact. A lot really is known about the past, but a lot of what passes for historical fact is mere speculation based on very feeble evidence.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Infiltrator
Member # 4248
Profile #67
quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:

Actually, are we sure paper was so cheap? It's cheap today, but medieval Chinese folks burned it as a sacrifice. Making paper in large quantities is heavy industry today, and it uses chemicals that make whole towns smell bad.
We're not talking exactly medieval here. I don't remember when firearms became common in China, but I'm quessing somewhere around 17th - 18th century. And I believe paper has been relatively abundant in China for more than a thousand years. Of course, it was not the same kind of paper we use today; I think it was either rice or silk paper.

About the cheapness; I don't think it was exactly cheap, but could have easily been cheaper than metal. And, I think, definitely easier to work with.

quote:
Originally written by Student of Trinity:


The idea that paper armor would defeat early firearms sounds
interesting. I can imagine there might be some truth in it, if the firearms in question were throwing blunt projectiles that could break hard armor but not cut paper.

The italicised part was the key idea, if I remember right. It also had something to do with the flexibility of layered paper.

I am also skeptical about the historical accuracy of paper armor. What buggers me most in this thing though is that I don't remember where I read about it in the first place; that account certainly was detailed, and would be good starting point for further research. If you find something through google, please tell me. I'm more comfortable searcing through real books. Sometimes a good encyclopedia beats internet 10 - 0.

[ Tuesday, September 25, 2007 02:53: Message edited by: Frozen Feet ]

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Life is a neverending carneval where everyone has multiple costumes. I just hope mine are pleasing to the eye.
Posts: 617 | Registered: Tuesday, April 13 2004 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 6785
Profile #68
PBS' Globetrekker series showed a reenactment of the Battle of Hastings recently. The rationale for chainmail armor was protection from penetrating wounds that could lead to later infection. Platemail and later heavy armor was designed to deflect blows as well as block direct hits from projectiles so that only crushing blow damage would happen unless you penetrated at a joint.

Armor fell aside as the English with the longbow and other nations with crossbows became a means to penetrate armor before an enemy could physically engage. The end of the Hundred Years War had this as a characteristic of key battles. This lead the shift back to lighter armor for melee engagements where some protection was needed, but it wasn't possible to withstand firearms or arrows.

The reasoning behind the East not using metal armor was probably economic where it was cheaper to mass produce without using metal. After all the bulk of European armies used leather armor and metal was used by the wealthier nobles.
Posts: 4643 | Registered: Friday, February 10 2006 08:00
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #69
The idea that heavy armor went out of fashion in Europe because of longbows and crossbows was always my understanding as well. But on a list I just found while searching for paper armor, I found reference to a recent scholarly tome that apparently concludes the opposite: longbows went out of fashion because they could no longer penetrate improved armor.

I had always supposed that bows ruled until firearms replaced them. But it should be easy to check. When did longbows fade from the scene? When did crossbows? And when did plate armor?

If it's true that armor outlasted bows, then presumably firearms alone killed armor.

Also, although infection was a horrible problem until modern times, I don't think anyone wore chainmail in battle primarily to stave off gangrene. In addition to giving you nasty infections, penetrating wounds are much more likely than blunt ones to kill you directly. Sure, being bashed really hard is really bad. But being hit equally hard with a sharp edge or point has got to be worse, unless you're wearing armor.

[ Tuesday, September 25, 2007 06:24: Message edited by: Student of Trinity ]

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Nuke and Pave
Member # 24
Profile Homepage #70
About bows v. crossbows and early firearms, I've usually heard that the main advantage of the latter was the ease of mastering them. It took lifetime of practice to master the bow, while anybody could learn to shoot crossbow or musket reasonably accurately in a few months. I've heard that early muskets actually had pretty low penetrating power, especially because of low quality gunpowder available at the time. Their fire rate was also very low. However, if you had just gathered a bunch of recruits, it was much faster to train them to use muskets/crossbows reasonably well than to use longbows expertly.

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Be careful with a word, as you would with a sword,
For it too has the power to kill.
However well placed word, unlike a well placed sword,
Can also have the power to heal.
Posts: 2649 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 6785
Profile #71
Muskets were loaded at about just under minute depending upon the type so for warfare there were men just to reload and an extra loaded one was available to rotate. This worked better when you were in a fixed position and could protect the loader. That's why musketeers still used a sword.

Most Western armor was still fairly cheap leather and leather with partail metal covering for the majority of the army. Heavy cavalary was the elite. Even then a large number of low armor men could destroy heavy armor if they could reduce the armor's advantage by swarming or keeping a horseman from reaching them. Swiss pikes would block cavalry from approaching if supported with enough archery.
Posts: 4643 | Registered: Friday, February 10 2006 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 6785
Profile #72
double post

[ Tuesday, September 25, 2007 14:16: Message edited by: Randomizer ]
Posts: 4643 | Registered: Friday, February 10 2006 08:00

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