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The Two-Handed Sword (ePub)

History, Design and Use

Military > Weaponry

By Neil Melville
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 90.8 MB (.epub)
Pages: 230
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781526733146
Published: 10th January 2019


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The two-handed swords found in modern museums are often so large and elaborately decorated that the onlooker might question whether such an apparently impractical weapon could ever have been a serious weapon of war. Yet during the Late Middle Ages, although never numerous, such weapons could instil dread in those that faced them on the battlefield and in skilled hands posed a very real danger, being capable of inflicting fearsome wounds.

Neil Melville explains how, from the late-13th century, technological advances made the development of larger swords requiring both hands both possible and desirable. From their origins in Germany he traces their development and divergence into regional variations. He examines the evidence for their use on the battlefield over 300 years, most notably in the hands of the Swiss, the German landsknechts and the Scottish clans, before considering their later use in fencing and as ceremonial weapons. Practical advice on fighting with the two-handed sword is also given, drawing on contemporary fencing manuals. The detailed and informative text is beautifully enhanced by dozens of illustrations.

I consider this book to be a rare treat because it is dedicated to a specialist variant of a particular weapon type i.e. the sword. Given its impressive breadth and depth in coverage of the subject material, I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who maybe a Zweihander aficionado in search of well-researched historical content and some practical guidelines on how to use the said weapon in a duel context. 5 stars.

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Amazon Customer, Kunwon Saw

Referenced in 'rules and further reading' part of Pirates of the Hebrides article

Wargames Illustrated, December 2019

Author article 'The two-handed sword' as featured by

The Armourer, October 2019

As featured by

VaeVictis - n° 144 - mars/avril 2019

Overall this is an interesting book on a rather specialist subject, but one that should appeal to the general reader as well as the weapons specialist.

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History of War

Editor's Choice in

The Armourer, June 2019

An absolutely superb book and one that deserves a place on every member’s bookshelf if your interest even vaguely covers the 15th to mid 17th Centuries.

Pike & Shot Society

There are lots and lots of pictures of two handed swords and I feel this book is a great addition to anyone’s library who has an interest in big swords.

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Medieval Sword School, Jason Hulott

The Book fills an existing gap so far through serious and rigorous analysis.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

A very interesting book that brings the weapon to life.

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As featured in

Medieval Sword School

About Neil Melville

Neil H T Melville cannot remember a time when he was not fascinated by arms and armour and they have become a lifetime interest. This books is the culmination of many years’ research, in the course of which he has visited most of the major arms collections in Europe.

He holds degrees from the universities of St Andrews (Classics) and Strathclyde (Italian) and taught Latin, Greek and Ancient History in state schools in Scotland before retiring to concentrate on the study of arms and armour from the time of ancient Greece to the 19th century, but especially the Middle Ages.

Practising what he studies, he is a keen fencer (though with a foil and sabre rather than a two-handed sword!). He is also a long-serving member The Earl of Loudoun's Regiment which re-enacts campaigns of the Civil War and the Jacobite Risings. He has also represented Scotland at fencing. He lives in Stirling Scotland.

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