Swords and Daggers of the Past

The History of Metal Sword Production

Long Swords (one & two handed), Two-handed Swords, Claymores, Scimitars,

Broad Swords (one & two handed, Short Swords, Great Swords, Bastard Swords, Daggers


The Development of the Sword through the Ages

The development of metal weapons began around 3500-3000BC. These weapons (mainly swords) were first made of copper and were generally no longer than a long dagger.

About 2900BC, bronze was discovered which allowed the first real, strong blades of suitable length to be made.

Then, around 1500BC, a great technological advancement was made; the smelting of iron. This allowed swords of great strength and length to be made, however with a human of that time period standing around 1.7 metres tall (5 feet 6 inches) made any swords longer than a metre (40 inches) almost totally ineffective to use in combat.

It was about this time that sheaths (also known as scabbards) became prevalent due to the fact that swords could be sharpened to an edge not known with bronze or copper swords. This made sheaths useful in protecting sharp swords.

Then in the early 3rd century AD long swords became widespread after the defeat of the Roman Empire - partly because the swords used by the Roman soldiers were plagued with problems in their design - especially around the handle.

The popularity of the long sword was also due to its use on horseback, this sword was an effective weapon for cutting rather thrusting. From the 3rd century AD to the beginning of the Charlemagne period, the long sword remained unchanged.

Throughout the early middle ages improvements were continued to be made, with most improvements taking place in the region known as France in Europe.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, sword craftsmanship reached its peak, with grips being engraved and inlaid; the pommels were large and highly decorated and the crossguards were often so large that they made the sword look more like a cross than a weapon.

Then, during the 15th and 16th centuries, armies began to get bigger and more mobile and because of a lack of people able to use the longbow, swords began to be issues en-masse to soldiers and what was once the main part of nobles and knights for many years became common-place and therefore generally useless.

And finally, up until the beginning of World War One, swords were still used in combat even though firearms became widespread.

The long swords were the primary weapon used for combat throughout the middle ages. They first came into widespread use after the defeat of the Roman Empire in the 3rd century AD but had existed in various forms for about a thousand years before then.

During the middle ages, the long sword was mostly used by nobles and knights as it was a weapon of authority. This changed in the 15th and 16th centuries when longbow men were in short supply, forcing people to learn how to use the sword. At this time the sword lost its prestige among the knights and nobles and became a commonly used weapon in combat.

Of all the weapons from this period of history, the long sword is the best known of them.

Long Sword (10035 bytes)

Long Sword

These swords are a very large and heavy weapon usually used to deliver direct overhead blows. Because of their bulk these swords made it nearly impossible to hit any but the least nimble of opponents.

The Swiss used the two-handed swords almost exclusively until the end of the 15th century when the sword was suppressed and Pikes became the weapon of choice.

Two-handed swords were mostly used in the eastern countries although the Chinese nor the Mongolian hordes ever adopted this weapon by choice. The best known swords of this kind were the Japanese Katana (fighting swords).

The Claymore is a Scottish version of the two-handed sword. This sword got its name from a Gaelic translation of the words 'Great Sword' which is another name for the 'two-handed swords'.

This sword was in use for a number of centuries but became widespread in the 15th and 16th centuries.

With the size of the sword it was used mainly to deliver a tremendous overhead smashing blow. Because of this, these swords were generally only used in fighting and were not usually decorated.

Scottish Claymore

Scottish Claymore

Scimitars are one of the more unusual types of weapon used in combat. Although these swords are supposed to have come from the middle east, they didn't, this weapon came from the European countries.

Even though Scimitars have an unusual blade, they are quite easy to use in combat and because of their uniform shape they are easy to remove from their scabbards.

Because of their use in combat, scimitars were plain and did not have much in the way of decoration.



Broad swords are a straight, wide, single-edged blade with a basket hilt. These swords are quite often confused with two-handed swords and another type of sword known as a 'back sword' which is similar to a later sword model known as the 'sabre'.

Broad Sword

Broad Sword

The short sword is a smaller version of the long sword mainly used for close quarter combat and for thrusting. Whereas a long sword needs a fair amount of space for swinging, a short sword needs very little, making it an ideal weapon against small generally unarmoured opponents with either the small or mediums sized weapons.

The Great sword is another type of two-handed sword. Generally these are almost identical but are just different in name. The term 'great sword' came from the large size of the weapon compared to the smaller long swords.

Great Sword

Great Sword

This type of sword is a generally misunderstood and misrepresented weapon for hundreds of years. With the sword having a long straight blade, long handle and a rounded pommel, it is not seen as an exotic weapon.

Bastard Sword

Bastard Sword

The dagger was the earliest type of weapon made. Examples have existed from before 3500BC when the first swords were made of copper. Daggers were commonly in use up until 500BC when they fell out of favour and the sword became the common weapon.

It wasn't until the period of Charlemagne that daggers began to become widespread again.

Throughout the years the dagger has undergone many changes in shape and design, but it generally always been shorter than the swords. Other names for daggers depend on the shape and design of the dagger and the region and time period that they came from.

Some of the best known daggers have been the 'Dirk' from Scotland around the 14th century, the Bowie Knife from Kentucky (USA) in 1830, the commando knife used in WW1 and WW2, the Quillon from the Celtic civilization around 1500BC which resembled a small sword and was mainly worn by knights during the middle ages, and the Stilletto from Italy around the 16th century.




For further information on these and other weapons and armour described here in these web pages, see my bibliography page.

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