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Swords and Swordsmen (Hardback)

Reference Ancient History Greenhill: Equipment & Tech. Photo Books Colour Books Types of Warfare Weapons

By Mike Loades
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 494
ISBN: 9781848841338
Published: 6th October 2010

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£40.00


Star Review

This is a gorgeous book. Pen and Sword have done Mike Loades proud with the production values—it’s nicely laid out, beautifully illustrated, and has a deeply satisfactory heft to it - The Oikofuge

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This magnificent book tells the story of the evolution of swords, how they were made, how they were used, and the people that used them. It doesn't claim to give comprehensive coverage but instead takes certain surviving examples as landmarks on a fascinating journey through the history of swords. Each is selected because it can be linked to a specific individual, thus telling their story too and giving a human interest. So the journey starts with the sword of Tutankhamun and ends with the swords of J E B Stuart and George Custer. Along the way we take in Henry V, Cromwell and Uesugi Kenshin, and there is the most detailed discussion you'll find anywhere of all of George Washington's swords. The chapters on these specific swords and swordsmen are alternated with more general chapters on the changing technical developments and fashions in swords and their use.

The reader's guide on this historical tour is Mike Loades. Mike has been handling swords most of his life, as a fight arranger, stuntman and historical weapons expert for TV and stage. He considers the sword as a functional weapon, work of art, fashion statement and cultural icon. As much as his profound knowledge of the subject, it is his life-long passion for swords that comes through on every page. His fascinating text is supported by a lavish wealth of images, many previously unpublished and taken specifically for this book.

Mike Loades is best known as the presenter of Weapons that Made Britain and Weapon Masters, but has appeared in dozens of other documentaries as an historical weapons expert and military historian. As a fight arranger he has choreographed fight and battle sequences (most of which involved swords!) for over a hundred television productions, plays and operas. He has also directed several historical documentaries for National Geographic and History Channel. He has lectured and written widely on arms and armour, contributing to both periodicals and books. Swords and Swordsmen is his first full-length, solo book.
Although British, Mike now lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife and dogs, where he continues to work on various television and writing projects.

The individual history of each of the swords also helps us envision a small portrait of the time they were designed and used , very important to position ourselves virtually at the time and better understand the concepts data.

5000 years of history portrayed perfectly in the 494 pages that make up this volume.

A curious and interesting book and a good source of documentation.

Read the full Spanish review here!

José Manuél Rico Cortés (Mister JM) - Miniaturas JM

While Loades admits his book is far from comprehensive on the subject, all of the most common and iconic styles of sword are covered in impressive detail. This, combined with a wealth of images, both of the great treasures of the world's collections and of speciments from the author's “armoury”, makes Swords and Swordmen useful for experts and general readers alike. The book occasionally meanders from its stated purpose. Histories of duelling, Anglo-Saxon military structures and the English Civil Wars are abundant elsewhere; in-depth examinations of the sword and its use, however, are not. Furthermore, amid the hard data may be found a few specilative statemnets that seem cavalier; the facts (or lack thereof) are sometimes placed second in favour of a good story. Generally speaking, though, this is an excellent introduction to a vast and fascinating topic.

Times Literary Supplement

This is a 'must have' book for anyone who has an interest in edged weapons. This is a truly beautiful book that is written by a highly recognized expert on the subject. I found this book to be very interesting and very hard to put down. Mike Loades holds the reader's full attention with each sword's story that he tells. This is a book that will bring the reader many hours of reading pleasure. Rated as WOW!

The Lone Star Book Review

Author Mike Loades utilizes his practical knowledge gained from years of
extensive stage, screen & production experience and combines it with
in-depth knowledge and a deep appreciation of the subject matter.
Following the trajectory of history, “Swords And Swordsmen” sets the
reader off on a unique examination of swords, their development and use. The handsome, 494 page volume (including glossary, bibliography and index) investigates both the technical aspects as well as the societal impetus behind sword evolution in a way that is both academic as well as highly fascinating.

Beginning in ancient Egypt and wrapping up in the early 20th Century, this comprehensive book covers manufacturing and smithing techniques, sword anatomy and typology, fencing, dueling and the role of honour concepts. Most interestingly, “Swords And Swordsmen” presents swords as seen through the eyes of prominent historical figures who used them and of particular interest is the highly detailed focus on actual pedigree pieces. Generously illustrated with period images, fine line drawings and photographs of original antique swords from museums and private collections. Whether a new enthusiast just starting out, a practitioner of the sword arts or an advanced aficionado or collector, there is something in “Swords And Swordsmen” for everyone and Mike Loades brings this book to life in a manner which has become widely recognized as a hallmark of his superb work. This book is a must for your bookshelf!

Swords Forum

The recent development of the discipline of reconstructive archaeology is greatly to be applauded as it allows researchers gain a better understanding of the practicalities of use and manufacture of historical artefacts. When it comes to antique/vintage firearms, collectors have published the results of test firings since the 1950s so this technique is not new in that field. However, your reviewer is unaware of it having been applied to swords and other edged wepaons so this book breaks new ground.

Mike Loades is well known as the presenter of the TV programmes 'Weapons that Made Britain' and 'Weapon Masters', and has appeared in dozens of other documentaries as an historical weapons expert and military historian. As a fight arranger he has choreographed fight and battle sequences for over a hundred television productions, plays and operas. He has also directed several historical documentaries for National Geographic and History Channel. He has lectured and written widely on arms and armour, contributing to both periodicals and books.

Whilst this book is an excellent general history of the development and use of the sword, the author devotes individual chapters to studies of surviving swords owned by historical personalities. It starts with the khepeshes of Tutankhamen and ends with the swords of the American Civil War's two greatest cavalry generals J. E. B. Stuart and George Armstrong Custer.

It is written with great passion and the author's love of swords is apparent throughout. This enthusiasm is tempered by thoughtful observations based on practical experience. Accepted wisdom is routinely challenged in a thought provoking and persuasive manner. For example, Mr Loades maintains that the 1796 Pattern Light Cavalry sabre was the best sword every issued to the cavalry and that the much vaunted 1908 Pattern was no more than a short lance. Only someone who has handled both in simulated combat situations is in a position to make such a bold assertion.

Swords and Swordsmen is bound to delight anyone who loves les armes blanches. Highly Recommended!

Classic Arms and Militaria

For modern fencers, SwordsandSwordsmen vividly brings to life the weapons from which our sport derives as Mike Loades shares his passion
and fascination for the sword and takes the reader on a journey through history. Meticulously researched and beautifully illustrated by over 200
photographs and 100 line drawings, this book is well worth its comparatively high price of £40. It is published by Pen & Sword Books.

The Sword

For anyone interested in military history, this is a fascinating book. The author looks at the swords that belonged to famous historical figures. Using this as a framework, the book looks at the evolution of swords, how they were made, how they are regarded as art objects, but, often the most overlooked function of course, at how they were actually used and the lethal practicality of their design. The author, who is an historical weapons expert, has arranged fight sequences for stage and screen, and this practical experience brings a unique perspective to the study of weapons.

The book’s contents cover all periods from ancient Egypt to the late nineteenth century. Some of the famous names included are Henry V, Oliver Cromwell and George Washington. I am including a review here as the first chapter is on the swords of Tutankhamun (see a shortened version of this chapter in this issue of AE) and also on the sword of Alexander the Great. This is the first study I have seen on Tutankhamun’s swords, which often have warranted only a line or two in previous publications. Interestingly, the author identifies some of the many ‘walking sticks’ from Tutankhamun’s tomb as fighting sticks. The use of sticks for fighting is depicted on many tomb and temple scenes. In the case of the Tutankhamun examples, it would seem that they have lost their leather hand-guards (leather was not preserved well in the tomb).

Well illustrated and written, this is a social and martial history all in one, with at least two chapters that will be of specific interest to AE readers, but whose other chapters are equally interesting and worth reading.

Ancient Egypt Magazine

“There is something profoundly and intrinsically poetic about the use of the sword ….”

With this intriguing introduction by Dr. Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour for the world-famous Wallace Collection at Hereford House in England, we are launched into a world steeped in legend and ever-more sophisticated technology in this magnum opus Swords and Swordsmen. This is a volume which must not be missed.

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In his introductory remarks the author notes, “From the great deeds of mythical heroes to the gentlemanly art of duelling and the swash and swagger of the silver screen, the sword remains at the heart of our romantic imagination. It is the weapon that gives the hope that skill can triumph over brute force. It is an enchanted weapon, the one with which the hero wins out over impossible odds. Moreover it is the continuity in fiction that makes the sword such an enduring icon from Beowulf to the Lord of the Rings.”

In this work by Mike Loades—veteran BBC director, program host, fight arranger and historian—the reader is quickly drawn into a journey into man’s past that is both illuminating and entertaining. If more scholarly works were as well researched and as scintillating, the hallowed halls of academia would be that much more attractive!

Beginning with the swords associated with and discovered in the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun we are shown the evolution of one of mankind’s most constant, if destructive, tools—the sword—and we quickly learn there is infinitely much more to this weapon than its mere appearance and use. Loades takes infinite care to explain how the weapons in question were manufactured and how they evolved over time. Step by step, we are introduced to individual weapons from the mining and refining of raw materials to the forging, fashioning and finishing of the blade, to its ultimate use in battle or single combat. From ancient Egypt to pre-Hellenic Greece and upwards into Europe, Loades uncovers weapon after weapon, each associated with a particular figure prominent in history, from Phillip of Macedon to Henry V at Agincourt. In each case the research into and ultimate understanding of the object in question, its manufacture and use, is both stunning and fascinating. As a military historian of some skill myself I was delighted to learn things which were previously a mystery to me and time and again was delighted by the revelation.

Nor is Loades content to remain fully in the thrall of Western civilization but argues that one must also be aware of the amazing contributions to swordmaking peculiar to Japan. It was, Loades notes, the legendary Shogun Tokugawa Ieyesu who declared, “The soul of the samurai lies in his sword.” We are taken on a remarkable and wonderfully instructive side trip into the history of swordmaking in Japan with a visit to the snowy Japanese Highlands of Honshu and the forge of Ono Yoshimitu, a modern day swordmaker designated a National Treasure by the Japanese nation. With Yoshimitsu and his assistants hammering in the background, Loades takes us step-by-step through the process of forging and finishing a sword such as that employed by the famed 16th-century Samurai warlord Uesugi Kenshin.

All too soon we are back in central Europe to follow the evolution of the sword from the two-handed war sword of Maximillian I to the delicate paired rapier and dagger of Henry IV. This is part of the intrinsically alluring charm of this volume—each phase of the development and use of the sword is anchored to a specific, often easily recognizable, historic figure associated with the sword and its uses both in combat and as a symbol of authority or office. We are introduced to the blades associated with Oliver Cromwell and then led seamlessly through a maze of gentlemen swordsmen who announced their presence and worth wielding cold steel.

Armchair General.com

Many readers will know the author from television programmes on martial combat, where his enthusiasm, energy and skill at arms never fail to dazzle. Now this man who has wielded so many swords takes up his pen to record this iconic weapon across five millennia and a dozen cultures. His approach is episodic, choosing a remarkable individual, a particular event or a cultural feature, such as duelling, in order to explore the diversity apparent in the long metal hand-arm. He emphasises the human aspect with studies of Tutankhamen, Raedwald, King of the Angles, Henry V of England and the great American Civil War cavalryman JEB Stuart and GA Custer, amongst others, and their personal weapons. There are also some fascinating facts, such as the sword of the Chinese emperor buried with the thousands of protectors of his Terracotta Army: ‘was discovered still sharp and still gleaming because of its chromium coating’. The famous samurai sword is not neglected, and throughout there is careful attention paid to techniques for producing quality steel for the very best weapons, often visible in the watery marks on the blade. This book is truly a high quality product, beautifully produced and with lavish illustration throughout, many in full colour. As well as pictures of weapons, often in close-up, there is a wide range of pictures showing swords being used for ceremonial purposes, in battle and for sport. A great read and highly recommended.

Military Illustrated

In his introductory remarks the author notes; "From the great deeds of mythical heroes to the gentlemanly art of duelling and the swash and swagger of the silver screen, the sword remains at the heart of our romantic imagination. It is the weapon that gives the hope that skill can triumph over brute force. It is an enchanted weapon, the one with which the hero wins out over impossible odds. Moreover it is the continuity in fiction that makes the sword such an enduring icon from Beowulf to the Lord of the Rings." It is rare indeed in this world characterized by a surfeit of 'information' that one comes across a reference work which is more than one would hope. From Tutankhamen to Henry V and from George Washington to George Custer author Mike Loades, renowned host of BBC and History Channel programs on weaponry and combat instructor for the London stage, takes the reader on a fascinating tour through the world of the sword. With superb observations on the design, construction, evolution and use of edged weapons through history it is a book to be savored. Seasoned with marvelous personal anecdotes of his pursuit of an intimate knowledge of the weapons in question, Loades' book is sure to be a classic and a "must have" for every serious military historian, collector, and curator. This is a volume which must not be missed.

Frederick J. Chiaventone - Novelist, Historian, Screenwriter

Long-time action arranger, fight choreographer, and student of historical arms and armour, Mike Loades combines a lifetime study of the noble weapon with an intriguing and personal look at the subject. With the historian's gift for entertaining context and a practitioner's intimate familiarity he writes with an ease that makes a readable work for any enthusiast. Offering something for everyone he takes this most personal weapon and makes it a personal tale of real people. Following an original approach that includes everything from swords in the Ancient World, through the Middle Ages, into the Baroque era and even the American Civil War, it weaves famous and not so famous personalities with the weapons they wielded. Entertaining enough for general audiences while educational for the hardcore student, and effectively illustrated, this is a not-to-miss title covering a huge gamut of the subject. A refreshing and original work to compliment any fencer's bookshelf.

ARMA - The Association for Renaissance Martial Arts

I have read it and it is a great book. The author's enthusiasm for the subject comes through on every page and the anecdotes of Mike's personal experience with the weapons sets it apart from other history books.

Mike Loade's Facebook Page
 Mike Loades

About Mike Loades

Mike Loades is best known as the presenter of Weapons that Made Britain and Weapon Masters, but has appeared in dozens of other documentaries as an historical weapons expert and military historian. As a fight arranger he has choreographed fight and battle sequences (most of which involved swords!) for over a hundred television productions, plays and operas. He has also directed several historical documentaries for National Geographic and History Channel. He has lectured and written widely on arms and armour, contributing to both periodicals and books. Swords and Swordsmen is his first full-length, solo book.
Although British, Mike now lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife and dogs, where he continues to work on various television and writing projects.

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