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The Longbow Puzzle


I don’t think I’ve spent too many sleepless nights worrying about why many medieval nations stuck with using crossbows when England switched to the superior longbow. In fact, as much as I’d thought about it at all, I’d assumed that the crossbow was the more advanced weapon, using engineering to enable an average soldier to achieve what it took an expert to exceed with a simple longbow.

Recent research however suggests I’ve just not been trying hard enough. Apparently economists Douglas Allen and Peter Leeson have dug back into history and determined that it was the relative stability of English society that encouraged the ruling classes to take the risk of putting a weapon that was both more powerful and much easier to manufacture into the hands of its people, even mandating the necessary practise time for its citizenry.

From what I recall, if England was regarded as stable, France and other European nations must have been in a real mess! Perhaps I ought to dig in an actually read the paper referred to?

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