Tag Archives: archery history

Hugh D.H. Soar (1926–2022)

I just got notified that Hugh Soar has died, which was not unexpected as he was closer to being 100 than 90, but still sad. While one could declare that Hugh was a big fish in a small pond, he was the pre-eminent archery historian of the Western Tradition in the world, in my opinion.

He wrote a slew of books on archery history, all written  in what I call a charming, somewhat archaic, style. I had the honor of editing his last book, The Young at Archery. Other titles included:

Straight and True: A Select History of the Arrow

The Crooked Stick: A History of the Longbow

The Romance of Archery: A Social History of the Longbow

Secrets of the English War Bow

How to Shoot the Longbow: A Guide from Historical and Applied Sources

Of Bowmen and Battles

Hugh was sought out for his expertise by television shows and other media, and his collection of more than 240 bows and other artifacts is among the finest in the world.

Hugh was a member of the Mary Rose Trust Committee. The Trust’s primary aims are to preserve, display and spread knowledge about the 16th century warship, Mary Rose, which sank in the Solent on 19 July 1545 and was salvaged by the Trust in October 1982. The sixteenth century in England was right in Hugh’s wheelhouse, and the ship contained many, many bow staves and bows and arrow shafts, broadheads, etc.

He received a number of honors in his life and he was a member of quite a few historical archery companies, such as the British Longbow Society, the Royal Toxophilite Society, of which he was General Secretary for eleven years, and he founded the Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers.

He is survived by his wife, Veronica-Mae, whose writings also graced the pages of Archery Focus magazine, and several children and grandchildren.

I am honored to have gotten to work with him.

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Archery in the News!

An article in The Guardian newspaper pointed to archeological discoveries which could substantially push back the date archery was used for hunting in Europe. According to that article:

“Early archers would have been able to kill their prey at a considerable distance while at the same time giving their diets a protein boost without endangering themselves, say researchers. It has also become clear that bow-and-arrow technology is ancient, with some of the oldest arrowheads traced to caves in South Africa and dated to around 64,000 years ago.

“Outside Africa, the earliest evidence of archery was some 48,000-year-old arrowheads found in a Sri Lankan cave two years ago. However, that date is now expected to be pushed back to around 54,000 years . . .”

Of course, this doesn’t mean that researchers or reporters have any idea what primitive archery was like. The article went on:

“An animal 100 metres away will think you are too distant to be dangerous and won’t move away,” Slimak told the Observer. ‘With a bow and arrow, you could pick it off easily. Equally importantly, you’ll be too far away for it to attack you if it is wounded and gets angry. So you can hunt safely and provide more protein for your group.’”

A one hundred meter (109 yard) shot? With primitive bows and primitive arrows? Pick it off easily? Egad! And not just “primitive” bows and arrows, but some of the first ever made in Europe!

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Did the Ancient Greeks Really Think Archers Were Cowards?

One of my favorite bloggers is Spenser Alexander McDaniel, who is a young man still in college studying classics. He blogs about things historical and this post caught my eye. I recommend it (Did the Ancient Greeks Really Think Archers Were Cowards?) to you if you are interested and his blog also.

He writes very, very well for one so young. He does quite a bit of debunking of the stories we tell ourselves about ancient peoples and the more I read his posts, the more “just like us” these people become. Granted they had quite different beliefs and attitudes, but otherwise the ancient Greeks, Romans, Persians, Hebrews, etc. would fit into our modern spectrum of peoples quite easily.

 

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I am currently reading a 1643 treatise on archery, written by a Chinese expert, and it sounds quite modern (not so surprisingly as the bows will teach us what we need to know).

I am fascinated by fact that they used quite heavy bows, but of course these were a military weapons, not just a target toys. Once they developed good form they would begin exercising to build up their ability to draw heavier drawing bows. Some of their practice bows went over 200# of draw! These were bows that were designed not to be shot, just to train with, but there were occasionally bows with such draw weights that were designed to be shot. Just thinking about that causes me to ache!

So, do you know any exercises designed to be able to increase the amount of draw weight you can handle? If so, I would like to know about them.

Steve

PS I will be writing a review of this book for Archery Focus magazine as soon as I get it done. Interestingly the author was shooting off of the point 200 years before Horace Ford popularized that practice in the western tradition. I think westerners could learn a few things by looking at Asian traditions.

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