Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

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Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby MEversbergII » 26 Feb 2017 20:20

Hello,

So I happen to live near one of the very first colonial sites here in the United States - St. Mary's City.

I have recently begun to be interested in doing things with the living history group - which pegs its era to around the time the colony was founded (1634). I believe their "hard stop" for time is around the Battle of Severn, which was in 1655 (and the only battle of the English Civil War fought on American soil, evidently). By joining they gave me a manual with some history and the basics of their combat drills - pike, matchlock, and a very simple version of rapier play (based on Italians). A tad bit on cloak and dagger, too.

I am intending to expand my local HEMA efforts beyond just smallsword (a high tech futuristic weapon to the colonials in my scope), and I've had two prospective people ask for two different things - polearms and "cutting swords". Perfect, I think, opportunity to merge the two for cross pollination!

Looking about for sources that are English and not entirely rapier, I came up with Silver (1599) and Swetnam. Both of these guys were long dead before the colony, and I haven't a clue how well established they were in pedagogy, but it is a start.

I've seen a PDF of Swetnam's staff system (transcribed I believe), and I have Paul Wagner's well composed "Master of Defense" packed away somewheres. Staff is going to be a foundation for any polearm so that checks that box, and I believe Master of Defense covers sword and buckler, backsword, and the two handed sword? I know it at least mentions it but I honestly don't know much about the two-handed sword in that era. That would actually be good because the same guy interested in polearms also indicated interest in "longsword".

Have there been any good follow-on to either of these authors? It has been some time since I've read the Swetnam staff transcription (which currently isn't on Wikitenhaur?), and Wagner's book is mostly transcription which is sometimes confusing. I believe Either Paul Wagner or Stephen Hand have some YouTube videos of Silver's backsword, so I should probably drop by there as well.

Any other roughly Caroline authors need mention? This is quite a gap in my knowledge.

Thanks,

M.
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby the_last_alive » 27 Feb 2017 09:14

Silver also covers polearms.

Oz may be your best bet, backsword.org may be worth a look.
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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby knirirr » 27 Feb 2017 10:29

Do you have Terry Brown's book?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Martia ... 898281629/

This contains both backsword and staff material and is worth getting.
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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby David Kite » 27 Feb 2017 15:56

Scans and transcriptions of Swetnam are generally available online.
ARMA has a transcription of his weapons chapters online (I want to say it is by Steve Hick, but it isn't cited whose transcription it is, an I forget): http://www.thearma.org/Manuals/swetnam.htm

There's also this site: http://www.swetnam.org/
I do not vouch for any of its information, as I haven't vetted it, but it does provide a transcription of the entire book, which is worth the reading. Remember, though, that Swetnam is more contemporary with Silver, so he may be too early for your group.

Swetnam is a really good source of information if you read between the lines as well. For example, though he doesn't advocate either, he mentions both a half staff guard and a guard used most commonly by soldiers in his staff section.

By way of discussion, do you think that the early colonies would have had studied or learned masters of defense? I'm sure the soldiers would have had a reasonable degree of training in group formations, etc, and while they may have been good in a fight man-to-man, would they have had any knowledge of, or concern for, a "science of defense"? Perhaps you would be just as well off reading the military books and various Arts of War for massed formations of troops, etc that were also written during this time.

Paul Wagner recently contributed to an academic title, "Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books: Transmission and Tradition of Martial Arts in Europe (14th to 17th Centuries)". Wagner's chapter, "Common Themes in the Fighting Tradition of the British Isles," I found to be quite well written and informative, and he identifies the common threads between all the indigenous British sources we have. As an academic title, this book is quite expensive, but you should have little problem getting it through your local library's interlibrary loan service.

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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby Bethan J » 27 Feb 2017 16:10

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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby MEversbergII » 27 Feb 2017 21:58

knirirr wrote:Do you have Terry Brown's book?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/English-Martia ... 898281629/

This contains both backsword and staff material and is worth getting.


I do not - first I had heard of it. What kind of material is it? Multi-source conglomerate, single source transcription, high level overview?

David Kite wrote:Remember, though, that Swetnam is more contemporary with Silver, so he may be too early for your group.


Thank you for those links. I had seen the transcriptions (noted in OP) but I had been wondering about anyone having done follow up material on it. It's quite dense - a breakdown material like we see in other HEMA books would be great, but I suspect one does not exist.

For date, that is one thing I had been concerned of (noted in OP), in that there's almost a 30 year gap between Silver's last work and the founding of the colony. Swetnam isn't too far behind, either. There's also the question of how "representative" either of them could be, though Swetnam was a royal instructor at some point never the less.

David Kite wrote:By way of discussion, do you think that the early colonies would have had studied or learned masters of defense? I'm sure the soldiers would have had a reasonable degree of training in group formations, etc, and while they may have been good in a fight man-to-man, would they have had any knowledge of, or concern for, a "science of defense"? Perhaps you would be just as well off reading the military books and various Arts of War for massed formations of troops, etc that were also written during this time.


I doubt there would have been much, especially in the beginning. There was a militia (in which I will likely be a pikeman), and swords were part of the required kit, but who knows what kind of training would have been available? That is sort of my quest - I see pike and gunnery drill, but what have we of secondary weapons such as the sword? Seems it may be a later period thing - I don't know.



Thanks for that; will have to read through it when I've time.

Thanks for all the input - treading new ground isn't easy.

M.
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby the_last_alive » 28 Feb 2017 10:03

MEversbergII wrote:I doubt there would have been much, especially in the beginning. There was a militia (in which I will likely be a pikeman), and swords were part of the required kit, but who knows what kind of training would have been available? That is sort of my quest - I see pike and gunnery drill, but what have we of secondary weapons such as the sword? Seems it may be a later period thing - I don't know.


The English Civil War is one of my major areas of interest, and from what I have seen there is NO information on soldiers being specifically trained in swordfighting.

However, things like Single Sticking took place at events like the Cotswold Olympics, and were likely practised by the common people to some extent. However, as I say there is little to nothing on formal training in sword use for common people or rank and file soldiers.
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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby knirirr » 28 Feb 2017 10:05

MEversbergII wrote:I do not - first I had heard of it. What kind of material is it? Multi-source conglomerate, single source transcription, high level overview?


It's one of the earlier HEMA books on the market and consists of approx. half historical background on various English fighting arts and the other half black-and-white photo sequences of Terry's interpretation of various techniques. This is not entirely based upon Silver, a lot of use being made of Wylde's high outside guard, for example.
IIRC there's sword, staff, bill and fisticuffs shown.
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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby knirirr » 28 Feb 2017 10:07

the_last_alive wrote:However, things like Single Sticking took place at events like the Cotswold Olympics, and were likely practised by the common people to some extent. However, as I say there is little to nothing on formal training in sword use for common people or rank and file soldiers.


That's been going on this century as well:

http://www.olimpickgames.co.uk

The singlestick chaps I saw wore masks, of course.
I also saw an excellent demo. of staff vs. plate armour there, with TB roughing up one of his students for the entertainment of the crowd.
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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby knirirr » 28 Feb 2017 11:05

the_last_alive wrote:The English Civil War is one of my major areas of interest, and from what I have seen there is NO information on soldiers being specifically trained in swordfighting.


Same here.
Some years ago JC asked me to look up some 16th-17th century military treatises (can't recall which ones now) in the Bodleian in case there was sword instruction in them. All I found was drill and firearms handling, both of which are of interest to me but not him.
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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby MEversbergII » 28 Feb 2017 21:32

knirirr wrote:It's one of the earlier HEMA books on the market and consists of approx. half historical background on various English fighting arts and the other half black-and-white photo sequences of Terry's interpretation of various techniques. This is not entirely based upon Silver, a lot of use being made of Wylde's high outside guard, for example.
IIRC there's sword, staff, bill and fisticuffs shown.


Hm, so a mutt basically. Still, might be an interesting read.

knirirr wrote:Same here.
Some years ago JC asked me to look up some 16th-17th century military treatises (can't recall which ones now) in the Bodleian in case there was sword instruction in them. All I found was drill and firearms handling, both of which are of interest to me but not him.


(See below.)

the_last_alive wrote:The English Civil War is one of my major areas of interest, and from what I have seen there is NO information on soldiers being specifically trained in swordfighting.


Not surprising; armies as a general, regimented thing were still finding their footing, so little wonder there's no instruction in something that might not even be standard kit. Sure, the settlers were required to bring one (and a gun, and something like 10 pounds of lead and 40 pounds of powder, plus more), but that's all the more I've got to go on.

For me, this exercise is something of an attempt to bridge one interesting with another interesting thing. If I can find success with something roughly contemporary, it may be something I can bring to the table for the living history group (which doesn't seem to engage in any kind of swordplay, regardless). Something to add energy and improve public interest.

I'll be doing pike drill besides, and eventually gunnery if I ever save up enough for a matchlock (which has been on my want list for more than a decade now anyways). It may well be a fool's errand - perhaps if I want to expand my HEMA specific group with broad/backsword I should be looking towards later, 19th century material!

There is an ECW living history guy from the UK stationed at my facility - ran into him at the muster - but I have not yet had an opportunity to contact him. He may well be a font of knowledge on this front.

For those interested, this is the battle they sort of recreate: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Severn

Within the limits of the environment, anyways. I *believe* what used to the the battlefield is a suburb now - I've driven past it a few times but haven't had a chance to check it out.

To expand it out a bit - other than rapier, do we have anything from the continent?

M.
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby the_last_alive » 01 Mar 2017 10:06

MEversbergII wrote:
There is an ECW living history guy from the UK stationed at my facility - ran into him at the muster - but I have not yet had an opportunity to contact him. He may well be a font of knowledge on this front.



Scotty?
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Re: Best Sources for Swetnam and Silver?

Postby MEversbergII » 01 Mar 2017 23:01

Maybe? I'm unfortunately often pretty terrible with names, and honestly I'm not sure I ever got it. However, it appears his family is involved in the living history group so I'm sure to come across him again.

M.
When I was a fighting-man, the kettle-drums they beat,
The people scattered gold-dust before my horses feet;
But now I am a great king, the people hound my track
With poison in my wine-cup, and daggers at my back.

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