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EWART OAKESHOTT - The Sword in the Age of Chivalry

EWART OAKESHOTT - The Sword in the Age of Chivalry

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Published by: balannflorin on Jun 16, 2012
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The sword in theage of chivalry
Ewart Oakeshott
(with drawings by the author)
Preface to the 1994 Edition
his book, having been prepared and published in the early 1960s,contains many errors in the matter of the dating of swords. Since then,thirty more years of thought based upon many significant archaeologicalfinds have exposed these errors. My publishers and I have decided not toamend the actual text, but rather to add an appendix wherein theseerrors are corrected. Further finds and more study will inevitably bringabout the need for yet further amendments. Any publication of archaeological research must always be subject to the possibility of newevidence calling for a change of mind, and for any true scholar this mustdemand an admission of error. To avoid confusion, I ask my readers torefer constantly to this appendix because all of these reassessments, andall of this fresh thought have appeared in my
Records of the Medieval Sword 
(Boydell Press, 1991). Those of my readers who are already familiar with my work will knowthat I write in a conversational style. I believe that a person-to-personapproach is more likely to be appreciated by those for whom I write, thana strictly academic one. I am not, nor ever have been, an "expert", and Iwill not write merely for the benefit of experts. The words "amateur" and"dilettante" have become pejorative. An amateur is held to be a person of no consequence who interferes with matters which he does notunderstand, while a dilettante is considered to be a human butterfly whoflits with frivolous insouciance from one enthusiasm to another. But tobe referred to as "a renaissance man" is considered (and rightly so) to bea great compliment, and yet all three of these expressions mean (or usedto mean) the same thing. The amateur, the lover of his subject, is onewho does not follow only the particular and narrow discipline in which heworks - that is the function of the expert – but encourages his attentionto stretch away into the study of any or every thing even remotelyconnected with it. That, too, is what the true dilettante must do. In thecase of the study of armour and arms, and of their corollary, the ethics of elegant combat, a constant study of history is basic. It is also necessaryto be able to practise what is preached.
Long ago - more than fifty years ago - I found that in order to do justiceto a real study of the sword, not just to have a love-affair with it, I had towander off into fascinating by-ways; it was essential of course to studynot only the history of the period, but its art, and not only its art, but itsliterature - all of it, from saga, chronicle, will and inventory to love poemsand pub songs and other frivolities. These things, and only these things,can give some understanding of the
of a period without whichthere can be no true appreciation of a sword or a war-harness, or indeedof anything else. These by-ways, which always led back to the main road, took me faraway from England, for most of the material I needed came from Europeand Asia - from Ireland to Siberia and from Finland to Andalusia. I alsohad to learn how to wear armour and ride in it, and to heft the sword. These splendid things are not simply ancient artifacts buried in theground of times past, to be dug up for the benefit of the egos of 20thcentury experts. They were objects of everyday use by real, very simplepeople - objects also of mystery and veneration.So: I am indeed an amateur, whose aim is to arouse the interest of anyperson who cares to read what I write, to be helpful to the student of history or culture or art, and to increase the pleasure of those whocollect these splendid things - and now, in these days, of all those who soeagerly and skillfully use them in combat.When this book was in preparation in 1962, I wrote a preface in which Iacknowledged my indebtedness to several eminent authorities, workingin the field of arms and armour studies, for their support andencouragement. Thirty-two years on, those personages belong to historyand there is little point in reiterating this acknowledgement but if, now, Iwere to try to thank by name all those who support me, a mere prefacewould be totally inadequate. So I make a general, wideranging expressionof deep gratitude to all who may read this, wherever they may be, all overthe world. It is to them - to you - that I owe the will and the ability to goon working in this most fascinating field of study as my eightieth yearrapidly approaches; and it is for you I write. Without the warmth andappreciation of so many people - some close and dear friends, someinteresting acquaintances to whom I hope to get closer, and some knownto me only by their letters - I would be a spent force.So thirty years on I do not make acknowledgements to great authoritiesof the past, but I say thank you, to all of you who still regard my work asuseful, and without whose encouragement I could no longer function.

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