Detail of blued and gilt 18th century smallsword

Self-defence

With no organised peacekeepers to uphold the law until the Victorian period, travellers, traders and pilgrims routinely armed themselves for protection.

The weapons evolved with each advance of technology and change in fashion. Simple daggers and swords developed into weapons both more efficient and more sophisticated, eventually becoming the elegant rapiers of the late 16th century.

By the 1750s, firearms, particularly pistols, had begun to replace the sword as a means of defence, and pistols became so commonplace that they became a threat to civil order. Early flintlock pistols were a practical everyday weapon, and by 1830, this gave way to the more reliable percussion lock and by 1850 the single shot developed into the multiple-shot revolver.

In the Middle Ages not only did the citizenry arm itself for protection, but also wore various forms of armour. Mail shirts were worn, but were costly, as were brigandines, poorer people could only have afforded small shields called bucklers.



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Did you know?

Female soldiers

The Nizam of Hyderabad raised two battalions of 1000 women each for his war against the Marathas in 1795. They were taught French drill and fought at the battle of Khurda.