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These kinds of discussions can be difficult because everyone has a view based on the sources they have read which come from different periods and different parts of Europe. Here are some sources from the period I am interested which ends around 1410.

  • You can find a selection of militia laws in this Armour Archive thread on Aketons, Pourpoints, and Gambesons There are also some from Scandinavia around the 12th and 13th century which require people of a certain status and property to own certain weapons or pay a fine. Acta Periodica Duellatorum has a 14th century list of who had what from Germany or Austria, a list from Troyes in 1474 in Fasciculi Archaeologiae Historicae 5 came up on MyArmoury
  • The London Coroner’s Rolls from 1300 to 1340 are available in a book from 1913 or a complicated website, the London Medieval Murder Map.
  • Two Prague city laws from 1327 and 1331. On 8 September 1327 (law no. 19), the judges and burgers of the city of Prague decreed that no one present or living in the city of Prague shall carry sword or stabbing knife in the city of Prague unless they have at least ten marks of property. In 1331, they expanded this: “Sword and stabbing knife and all forbidden weapons and harness, as they are generally called, shall be forbidden to the poor and rich, the lords and country people, the burgers and to all in general within the city, so that no one from now on shall carry them.” (law number 37)
  • A number of English royal or parliamentary decrees from around 1330 against bringing swords, daggers, axes, bows and arrows, aketons, steel caps, etc. to Westminister to disturb peace and the holding of parliament (probably on British History Online, I can’t find them in the time available)
  • The Luttrell Psalter, the Allegory of Good and Bad Government in Sienna, and the Tacuinum Sanitatis MSS
  • English civic laws, from Matt Easton:

    Which was the topic of my lectures at both SWASH and Dijon. People were not allowed to walk around in the streets with swords in any English city, unless they were a knight, the squire of the knight, an alderman or one of the Mayor’s other officials, or a traveller arriving or leaving the city. However, ownership of swords was never mentioned in law, because everyone owned swords and were expected to for the defence of the realm (and longbows, of course). … Inn keepers were required by law (between the 13th and mid-15th centuries) to keep safehold of travellers’ weapons during their stay in the city. That law was repeated several times during the 14-15thC. Outiside of the cities anybody could carry whatever weapon they wanted.

    One of the reasons that fencing and jousting was conducted at Smithfields was that it was on the edge of the City boundary, so outside the law.

    By the 16thC sword carrying by anybody and everybody seems to have been socially acceptable in cities, and the old laws were ignored.

    He is not great at citing things, but in one thread he cites Calendar of letter-books of the city of London: H: 1375-1399 (1907) Folio lxiii

    Ordinances for safeguarding the City, to the effect (inter alia) that the gates of the City be fortified with portcullises and chained, and have “barbykanes” in front; that the quays between the.
    Folio lxiii b.

    Tower and London Bridge be bretasched (bretassez), and the keys of the City gates kept by two persons of the neighbourhood; that the Aldermen keep the names of hostelers in their Wards, and cause each inhabitant to swear that he will be ready with his harness (hernoys) to maintain the peace, if affray arise; that all hostelers and those dwelling with them be taxed according to their estate, except servants and apprentices, at the discretion of the Aldermen; that special guard be kept at the gates in view of the forthcoming expedition; that no one carry any arms except a baselard by day, but a Knight to have his sword borne after him, his page having a baselard, but not a dagger; that each Alderman put his Ward into array under his pennon, bearing his arms in relief, and lead his men whithersoever commanded for the defence of the City

    This was passed when Edward III was dying and there was fear of a French raid or invasion, I’d love to see what other sources he found but he’s more interested in Victorian stuff these days.

  • Geoffrey Chaucer, General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales where anyone of substance carries a knife in a fancy sheath but only a few travellers carry swords and bucklers and the ?miller? who carries too many big knives is mocked
  • “Prenegard, prenegard, Thus bere I myn baselard” which makes fun of someone who gets a fancy knife in a fancy sheath and starts parading around with it and causing trouble

I am not as knowledgeable about the late medieval and early modern Germanies as you are, and a lot of the things we ‘know’ about medieval Europe are true for England or France but not Florence or Bohemia (or true in one century but not another). But what I see in those laws from Prague and 14th century German and Austrian art is not so unfamiliar.

  • This reply was modified 3 years, 3 months ago by Philologus.