The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe

The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe

4.5 2
by Sydney Anglo

ISBN-10: 0300083521

ISBN-13: 9780300083521

Pub. Date: 08/28/2000

Publisher: Yale University Press

Mounted encounters by armored knights locked in desperate hand-to-hand combat, stabbing and wrestling in tavern brawls, deceits and brutalities in street affrays, balletic homicide on the dueling field—these were the martial arts of Renaissance Europe. In this extensively illustrated book Sydney Anglo, a leading historian of the Renaissance and its symbolism,…  See more details below


Mounted encounters by armored knights locked in desperate hand-to-hand combat, stabbing and wrestling in tavern brawls, deceits and brutalities in street affrays, balletic homicide on the dueling field—these were the martial arts of Renaissance Europe. In this extensively illustrated book Sydney Anglo, a leading historian of the Renaissance and its symbolism, provides the first complete study of the martial arts from the late fifteenth to the late seventeenth century. He explains the significance of martial arts in Renaissance education and everyday life and offers a full account of the social implications of one-to-one combat training.

Like the martial arts of Eastern societies, ritualized combat in the West was linked to contemporary social and scientific concerns, Anglo shows. During the Renaissance, physical exercise was regarded as central to the education of knights and gentlemen. Soldiers wielded a variety of weapons on the battlefield, and it was normal for civilians to carry swords and know how to use them. In schools across the continent, professional masters-of-arms taught the skills necessary to survive in a society where violence was endemic and life cheap. Anglo draws on a wealth of evidence—from detailed treatises and sketches by jobbing artists to magnificent images by D¸rer and Cranach and descriptions of real combat, weapons and armor—to reconstruct and illustrate the arts taught by these ancient masters-at-arms.

About the Author:
Sydney Anglo is research professor of history at the University of Wales.

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Product Details

Yale University Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
New Edition
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Product dimensions:
7.88(w) x 10.45(h) x 1.23(d)

Table of Contents

Photographic Acknowledgements
IViolence in the classroom: medieval and renaissance masters of arms7
IIThe notation and illustration of movement in combat manuals40
IIIFoot combat with swords: myths and realities91
IVSword fighting: vocabulary and taxonomy119
VStaff weapons148
VIBare hands, daggers and knives172
VIIArms and armour202
VIIIMounted combat (1): jousting with the heavy lance227
IXMounted combat (2): cut, thrust and smash253
XDuels, brawls and battles271
Colour plates291

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The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Borrowed the book from my instructor for a paper, would LOVE it if the book was to be converted really soon for nook.  It would be nice to just sit and read for fun.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With this title Dr. Sydney Anglo establishes himself as the unquestioned modern expert on the subject of Medieval and Renaissance martial arts history. He does not merely shed light on long held myths and misconceptions, he unleashes a white-hot spotlight on mistake beliefs and sacred cows. Dr. Anglo makes a airtight case that the skills described within historical European fighting texts must be properly studied as ¿martial arts¿, and not as the traditional view of merely ¿fencing¿ (in the modern sense of the word). For most all of its history ¿fencing¿ meant not just swordplay, but the armed skills of fighting with weapons and always included unarmed techniques. At 384 pages and with more than 200 illustrations this is an immense treasure-trove for all those interested in swordsmanship and the history of European combat. The magnitude and wealth of information contained on masters of arms and their works from the 13th to the 17th centuries is, to put it simply, incredible. Dr. Anglo begins his volume not with a ¿history of fencing¿, but with the documentation for ¿masters of arms¿ (or masters of defence) within European civilization. His primary concern is how they created systems of notation to convey information about combat movement, the various ways they went about achieving this communication, and what they thought they were achieving as a result. He establishes that, fitting within the classic Western tradition of arts and letters, many masters of arms were purposely recording their martial teachings as literary works for the education of future students. He achieves a detailed task of putting the works of the masters of arms into their historical and social context while discussing the limitations of researching these texts. He also presents the material with frequent dry humor and appreciation for irony. The book is hard to put down and pleasantly written to avoid either academic jargon or lightheartedness. Most any chapter can be opened and read on its own. Though at times not an easy read (keep your dictionary handy) and while occasionally leaving the reader begging for further clarification at his teasing references, the range of the material covered is impressive. The work contains fascinating sections on definitions of swords and rapiers in historical documents as well as others such as ¿Foot Combat With Swords: Myths and Realties¿, ¿Diagrams, Mathematics, and Geometry in Swordplay¿, ¿Lawyers, Humanists, and the Martial Arts¿, and ¿Arms and armor¿. Annoyingly however, the footnotes are all in the back, which makes it inconvenient to look up what are in many cases highly relevant comments. Interestingly, what the book is not is a chronological summary of every historical fencing master from the period with a detailed description their significance and their techniques. Instead, we are given many valuable insights and observations on the works of the masters, including lesser known ones such as Andre Pauernfeindt, Hector Mair, Paulus Kal, Antonio Manciolino, Pietro Monte, Francesco Altoni, Frederico Ghisliero, Pedro Heredia, and others. Of the ten chapters, that on methods of notation and use of geometry within fighting texts is the longest and contains some of the book¿s major elements. It covers considerable ground not previously addressed in this subject. The comprehensive chapter on period wrestling and grappling (or unarmed fighting) is unquestionably the most detailed and authoritative treatment of the subject yet attempted. The chapters on mounted combat (with lance and sword) bring an authority and credibility to an area traditionally overlooked or given to incredulous speculation. There are also detailed sections on dagger use from the period. The most fascinating chapter however is that on vocabulary and lexicon of swordsmanship in which Dr. Anglo traces the major works and their significance as well as how the authors viewed their subject. This is accomplished with the goal of placing them (fi