Archery and Social Memory in Sixteenth Century England

Jim Ellis will deliver a paper entitled “Archery and Social Memory in Sixteenth Century England” on Friday, 1 March at 3:00pm in Social Sciences 1015.  Presented by MARCS (The Medieval and Renaissance Cultural Studies Research Group).

This event is free and open to the public.

ABSTRACT / This paper will explore the history of the longbow in sixteenth-century England.  A potent weapon for the English in the middle ages, the longbow was already losing ground to the gun by the time writers such as Thomas Elyot and Roger Ascham promoted it in the 1530s and 1540s as a good exercise for English humanists.  In the late 1570s and early 1580s we see the appearance of bow shooting fraternities that marched through the streets of London, holding contests at Mile End Green.  The longbow was becoming the object of nostalgia, although foreign commentators towards the end of the century are still remarking on the ubiquity of the sport and on the archery butts set up on the edges of cities and towns.   In looking at these different moments, I will look both at the particular figures associated with the longbow, as well as the social function that the longbow seems to be performing.  In the earlier moment, we see it being promoted as a technology of self-governance; in the latter, which builds upon the first, we can see it as a means of forging social memory.  In both moments, we can see that the longbow is being connected with a militant Protestant agenda that is conscripting the longbow for the purposes of English nationalist identity.