1360s Doublet Project

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  • #2298
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Look at the rate the Hungarian Black Army was being paid, after a year in that army a regular paviseman could afford a whole textile mill of they wanted one…

    #2299
    Philologus
    Participant

    Ruth Matilda Anderson, Hispanic Costume, page 65: Before Pavia the imperial commander asked his men to wear shirts over their other clothing for recognition and lend spare shirts to the Germans.  Those without a spare shirt would wear sheets and tent awnings (tiendas) or two sheets of paper made into short cloaks or sambenitillos.

    I have read stories about soldiers whose clothes are falling apart over and over in western Europe from the 14th century into the 17th century … kings were keener to hire and deploy soldiers than keep them supplied with food and clothing. That is one reason why so many soldiers turned to robbery and extortion, and why the Swiss were so firm that if the money stopped they were walking.

    Converting sums into florins or English pounds would make it easier for other English-speakers to understand the sums you are talking about.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Philologus.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Philologus.
    #2302
    Philologus
    Participant

    Also, the only thing about English silver or florins is that the precious metal content stayed pretty stable and English-speaking economic historians have a feeling of the kind of life different incomes in English pounds or florins brought and what portion of the population had that income. So its just a convenient money of account which lets someone whose specialty is say 13th century Florence or 15th century England have a feel for what the money means (and the florin was a pretty common money of account).

    And the way big conscript armies tended to melt away or turn robber is one reason why so many princes wanted to cut deals with towns and cities to get the use of their militia, but that’s another story and you could talk about it all day.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Philologus.
    #2304
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Currency is always kind of tough, because the values changed so rapidly and often, and the same names were used for different coins in different times and places.

    But it helps to convert it into rough equivalent of silver by weight. Pretty much all countries had a currency roughly similar to an English pound – the French Livre, the German mark, the Italian Lira, the Ukranian Grivna, all roughly correlate to the equivalent value (at least in theory) of 12 ounces of roughly 80% pure silver. As we know the sterling standard is 92.5% but that came a bit later.

    That is usually a fiat currency and used as a unit of bookeeping (the word for it usually literally means ‘book’) except in Ukraine or Russia where it literally means a 12 oz silver bar or the equivalent value in furs. Gulden (or Rhenish guilder or Polish złoty) were actual coins typically worth roughly 1.3-1.5 marks or 16-18 ounces (depending on how big or thick the coin and how pure the gold). The word just means ‘golden’ or ‘gold’.

    My understanding is that the Florin was a gold coin which was supposed to be worth one pound or lira, i.e. 12 ounces of silver. Of course that depended on many factors.

    Everyday currency starts at the equivalent of the English shilling (either 1/20 or 1/40 of a £ / mark / Livre / Lira) and then various coins which are shares of that. The German Kreuzer is usually worth half a shilling, and there are supposed to be 60 Kreuzer to a gulden, or 40 to a mark (or pound or lira or florin etc.) It’s also worth a little ore than 4 pennies.

    The groschen (Czech groš) came in different regional variants, but the Prague groschen was worth roughly 3 grams of 93% pure silver, basically depending on how well the big silver mine at Kutna Hora was doing and who had control over it at any given moment (it went through a wild series of boom and bust times as the mine got played out but improvements in technology both for mining and refining metals reopened it again). But probably typically around 3 grams. This is basically a more valuable / better dinari.

    Dinari were about half of a groschen, and seemed to be ubiquitous. Roughly 2 grams of silver.

    Then you have pfennigs / pennies by the later middle ages, and there were also Heller, usually worth a half pfenning. Anyway a penny is usually somewhere around 1.2 grams of silver, very roughly speaking.

    There were of course many other regional currencies. Also these are the base values of each unit type, whereas typical actual coins were often multitudes of the above, so like a 5 Kreuzer coin or a 3 Groschen coin etc.

    We are planning to do a currency converter app for this website by the way but I don’t know if we’ll ever get around to it. I have it already on an app I wrote that runs on my desktop, but it’s not written in web compatible software.

    When you are talking about larger amounts like monthly pay you can usually convert that to either marks / pounds / livres or to gulden, so that is how you can compare like with like. For smaller denominations it’s harder.

    #2305
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Ruth Matilda Anderson, Hispanic Costume, page 65: Before Pavia the imperial commander asked his men to wear shirts over their other clothing for recognition and lend spare shirts to the Germans. Those without a spare shirt would wear sheets and tent awnings (tiendas) or two sheets of paper made into short cloaks or sambenitillos.

    I have read stories about soldiers whose clothes are falling apart over and over in western Europe from the 14th century into the 17th century … kings were keener to hire and deploy soldiers than keep them supplied with food and clothing. That is one reason why so many soldiers turned to robbery and extortion, and why the Swiss were so firm that if the money stopped they were walking.

    Converting sums into florins or English pounds would make it easier for other English-speakers to understand the sums you are talking about.

    Well the thing is, by the time of Pavia, you had Landsknechten who were intentionally recruited from the poorest serfs in Rural Swabia and other poor areas, and the Spanish were copying this method and recruiting from Estremadura etc. also you never know what kind of conditions mercenaries are going to be in after being in the field a few months, and as we know pay was intermittant. But the paucity of fabric seems a little odd given the habit of Landsknechts to wear 4 or 5 different types of fabric on a given limb, then cut it to reveal another two or three types of (often very expensive) underclothing or lining, specifically so as to show off how ‘textile rich’ they were and that they could flaunt sumptuary laws.

    #2306
    Philologus
    Participant

    Most large western European armies between the 14th and the 17th century contain a big contingent of poor people, because they were easy to recruit (and because if you were a male servant, getting a weapon and calling yourself a soldier was a step up in status). The French told stories about English archers, the English told stories about Scots and Welsh, crusaders told stories about Turkomen. So no special pleading why one example to illustrate a trend does not count! In a forum post I can’t provide a lot of examples with footnotes.

    There is a website with the data from Peter Spufford’s “Handbook of Medieval Exchange”

    The L/s/d currencies in the Archivo Datini di Prato seem to be worth about 1/10 as much as English money (so an Italian soldo is about an English penny in the late 14th century). IIRC, a florin was about 3 shillings English in the late 14th century, and Datini usually reckoned 23 soldi of Provence or 32 soldi imperiali made a florin. The big thing was that other money was being randomly debased, but gold florins and silver English money more or less kept their value (and if you use one and only one L/s/d system, there is no confusion). But then the Tudors come in, and Cortez and Pizarro, and things become pretty hopeless to track for a couple of hundred years.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Philologus.
    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Philologus.
    #2309
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Most large western European armies between the 14th and the 17th century contain a big contingent of poor people, because they were easy to recruit (and because if you were a male servant, getting a weapon and calling yourself a soldier was a step up in status). The French told stories about English archers, the English told stories about Scots and Welsh, crusaders told stories about Turkomen. So no special pleading why one example to illustrate a trend does not count! In a forum post I can’t provide a lot of examples with footnotes.

    Well, the thing is, the economic side of that always made sense, but the fighting part didn’t add up very well at least not between the High and Late Medieval periods. Most medieval armies weren’t very large. Nor were they made up of cannon fodder. That is a much later invention.

    Medieval armies, as a rule, tended to be fairly well kitted out, well trained, and small. And expensive. Those things went together, because experienced, properly equipped warriors didn’t risk their life for cheap. Of course princes were always running out of money and routinely tried to (and sometimes succeeded at) not pay their soldiers & make them fight for nothing. But the Swiss weren’t the only ones who would do an about-face and march home as soon as the boss (or client) missed a payment.

    During the middle of the 13 Years War, after brutal sieges, the Bohemian mercenaries working for the Teutonic Order managed to capture 3 Prussian towns. But the Order had run out of money and was unable to pay them for 3 months. So the soldiers promptly turned around and sold them back to the Prussian Confederation for a huge price, and then went home rich men.

    Destitute serfs could be used to fight, and were sometimes called up in levies, but they could not win many battles so they were not used much. So this is why expensive mercenaries, militia, or feudal vassals were the typical people doing the fighting. And those were not typically poor people, because in this period in order to fight you needed kit – typically at least some body armor, primary weapons like crosbows, guns, bows, or pikes or polearms, and a sidearm. Or most expensive of all – horses.

    Of course there was some place for poor soliders. So every army had their valets and servants. Each lance of four or five riders had one mounted valet. Each handgunner in the Hungarian Black army had a valet too. So serfs could do those kinds of jobs, however traditionally these were not people from poorer estates but rather just younger members of the same estate.

    To learn how to ride or to shoot and load a handgun or shoot and span a military grade crossbow effectively took money and leisure time. The economic status of ‘yeomen’ longbow archers is England is pretty well known, let it just be pointed out that crossbowmen in Central Europe were not paid less than English longbowmen. Those guys paid to enter schützenfest and fechtschüler, and spent many hours ‘shooting the popinjay’, hunting, and other forms of target practice. Contrary to what they portrayed so often on the History Channel you couldn’t just hand somebody a military-grade 15th Century crossbow and send them out into the field to fight.

    The Landsknechts were the first experiment in raising an army made up primarily from destitute serfs up to the level of professionals. It was a fairly radical experiment, but it worked. The Spanish basically copied the Landsknecht model. This ultimately led to the pike and shot type of warfare, in which troops were far less well trained or equipped, and less effective on a man for man basis than a medieval army, but were so much cheaper the armies could be ten times the size. And as Joseph Stalin said, quantity has a quality all it’s own.

    The L/s/d currencies in the Archivo Datini di Prato seem to be worth about 1/10 as much as English money (so an Italian soldo is about an English penny in the late 14th century). IIRC, a florin was about 3 shillings English in the late 14th century, and Datini usually reckoned 23 soldi of Provence or 32 soldi imperiali made a florin. The big thing was that other money was being randomly debased, but gold florins and silver English money more or less kept their value (and if you use one and only one L/s/d system, there is no confusion). But then the Tudors come in, and Cortez and Pizarro, and things become pretty hopeless to track for a couple of hundred years.

    L/S/D currencies did fluctuate a great deal due to devaluation. English currency was a bit more stable than Italian currencies because England had those big silver mines in Cornwall, and because England was a fairly large Island Kingdom, so was often under less acute financial crises than individual Italian City States. But England wasn’t the only polity with silver mines, the big mine in Kutna Hora in Bohemia was quite significant and there were others around Central Europe, I think currencies were a bit more stable up there. Anyway, roughly 12 ounces of silver to a mark seems to be at least in the ballpark of reality for most of the 15th Century, though it did fluctuate with the wars, plague and other major events.

    #2311
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Landsknechts did start out poor, but after being paid a few times and participating in a couple of sackings, most of them did have some possessions and decent kit, like armor, Helmets and their famous katzbalger sidearms – and they were particularly notorious for flaunting their fancy, garish, bright colored clothing. Landsknechts were created in imitation of Swiss Reislauffer, and at least originally were trained by Swiss Reislauffer.

    I’m really not sure how pay worked in Spain. Those guys bumming around Hispanola and Cuba around the time of Cortez seemed to be pretty poor, but I gather they weren’t exactly regulars.

    France may be kind of a special case because they were infamous for not being able to raise any decent infantry, basically for Socio Economic reasons. Their experiments with the Franc Archers for example didn’t end well when the peasants in question started asserting themselves. That was the issue – well armed people, especially soldiers sometimes made demands. That was one of the things that was gradually worked out, how to control your armies, in the Pike and Shot era, ultimately leading to the Absolute Monarch.

    By which time, they had pretty much settled on using the Swiss for infantry IIRC.

    #2312
    Philologus
    Participant

    This is getting a bit big for a thread, so I just want to give some examples of medieval armies with a big contingent of what medieval people considered poor men. I already talked about Turkomen: most of those guys were just shepherds, so they usually had a bow and arrows, and maybe a club or a big knife, and their horses.

    Edward I famously recruited big armies for his wars in Scotland (by medieval Latin standards, like a couple tens of thousands). They tended to fade away taking his crossbows with them because he was not so good at feeding and clothing and paying them. The early English armies in France also have a lot of poor Welsh knife-men (and later they are recruited by offering pardons to felons, so probably not all the most comfortable people). Scottish armies often impressed the English as poor because they didn’t bring the kind of luxuries that English armies often did, William Patten’s description of Pinkie Cleugh in 1548 has some good ones. He also has a good example of the servants grabbing weapons, because that was a big jump in status (just like getting some kind of a warhorse and declaring yourself a horse warrior was a big jump in status for a footsoldier).

    A lot of soldiers in the 14th century did not own their kit, they borrowed it, or took out loans to buy it. In one of his letters Francesco di Marco Datini takes it for granted that when a company disperses most of the soldiers will be selling their kit cheap to pay their debts and tells his local agent to go and see what he can pick up. There is an incident early in the HYW where a bunch of knights from Haunault and places like that come to Edward III, ask for a job, and when he says he can’t pay them they beg for at least a little money so they can afford to travel home (he also demurs and the local dealers in used goods get rich). William the Marshall started out like that, he did great in a tournament but his horse was killed and he was so excited that he had forgotten to take anyone else’s. That would have been the end of his career if he hadn’t talked someone into lending him one for another tournament. A lot of the horsey fighty class were right on the margin between being gentle and having to work for a living.

    Then there’s Adolph King of the Romans’ invasion of Austria with a “great multitude” or “copious multitude” in 1298 https://www.dmgh.de/mgh_ss_17/index.htm#page/264/mode/1up Our chronicler calls out two types as especially fearsome: the armed men who had an iron hat and a gambeson and a shirt of mail, and the possessers of destriers. But that means that there were a large number without that much kit!

    So yes, armies in the second half of the middle ages did tend to be based around a well-equipped, highly skilled core and didn’t tend to be as big as the armies of big ancient kingdoms. But they tended to acquire a cloud of poorer, less respectable people.

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 1 week ago by Philologus.
    #2314
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    Yeah but that is camp followers, servants, maybe skirmishers. Not like what comes later where entire armies are made up of the poor.

    And of course, armies can go broke in the field, regardless of how they started out.

    There is also the Ministerial knight, equivalent (I think) to Sergeants in England, who were armed and equipped by their Lord. But by the 14th Century most of those people had property.

    #2315
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    In other words, warfare wasn’t really a paupers game in the medieval period.

    #2317
    Philologus
    Participant

    No, it is the men-at-arms and the infantry. Those poor knights put on a great joust for Edward of England! Datini’s agent was going to buy up harnesses and longswords and good arbalests. And people who fought Turkomen and said “this is easy!” were usually dead by sunset. They were not rich in durable goods, but they were very clever and determined.

    By the late middle ages, the middling gentry were often not very military. If they had enough land for an easy life, why risk that? It was their excess sons and the nobility who filled up armies. These men-at-arms with barely enough kit and some kind of warhorse who rob and wander from paymaster to paymaster are all over the military writers and chroniclers and social commentators of the 14th century. Very little is known about John Hawkwood’s parents or who knighted him, and there is a story he started out as an archer …

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by Philologus.
    #2319
    Philologus
    Participant

    There is a famous parable from the 14th century where a friar meets a wandering horseman. “God give you peace!” says the friar. “God take away your alms!” says the horseman. After some sputtering, the horseman explains that without war he does not eat, just like without alms the friar does not eat (and it had been the same back to the 11th or 12th century). When you need men to burn cottages and hold merchants’ feet over a fire until they pay ransom and sack towns and monasteries, or to camp for months in dysentry-infested mud while people shoot at them with guns and crossbows, the men you get are usually not nice and usually not secure.

    Forces like town militias or the English musters of the clergy had a different social character, but they did not do most of the war-making. Those towns had work they needed to get back to, and they didn’t have an interest in dying for some prince, and those mass musters got too many badly-equipped, unskilled people (and they had work they needed to be doing too). So my impression is that in the 14th century, you can get those militias or musters out for a campaign or so in their neighbourhood, but as soon as things sputter down to doing horrible things to the peasantry and trying to take towns and castles, or fighting far away, you get this particular mix of nobles and all these kinds of people on the margins of society.

    The 16th and 17th centuries are not one of my periods, but I think there were trends for the poor and criminals to become more prominent in armies. But a lot of those poor saw themselves as gentle too! As gentle status was becoming a hereditary, formalized-in-law thing, it became even harder for landlords who had a bad 20 years to sink down to working for a living and sell off the warhorses and the armour.

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by Philologus.
    #2321
    Philologus
    Participant

    I think the biggest difference between the social character of western European armies say in 1300 and 1600 was the kind of resources you needed to start out as a soldier. When captains were equipping and training whole companies, some pretty desperate types could start out that way. When you had to provide your own bow and arrows or sword, haubergeon, and iron cap and show you could use them, you needed a certain amount of resources. But specialists in warfare in the 14th century are pretty sure that the men who did most of the fighting and burning were not very respectable: too violent, just on the edge of falling down the social ladder, unpopular in their communities, or just not married and propertied yet and looking for a way to earn some money fast. There is a big difference between a gentleman-farmer’s son from the Rhineland heading to Calais in 1370 and a cotter from Scotland selling his goods to buy an arquebus in 1620, but within their estates they were marginal.

    People in the 14th century were bitching that the soldiers of their day were a bunch of jumped-up thugs, so I’m not surprised that they were complaining in the 16th and 17th century. They might have got more desperate over time but that is the kind of big statement that I’d have to bone up on 16th and 17th century history to be sure of.

    • This reply was modified 1 month ago by Philologus.
    #2328
    Hans Hellinger
    Moderator

    I don’t know if you were following this discussion (I thought maybe you were) but the passage Dan quoted here from the famous Humanist knight Ulrich von Hutten in a letter written in 1518 gives a pretty good insight into the conditions for a median ‘Lehnsmann’ in the increasingly volatile first quarter of the 16th Century.

    http://myarmoury.com/talk/viewtopic.php?t=39150&start=20

    I quote the letter here for convenience:

    “Do you know what sort of place it is to which you ask me to return? Do not make the mistake of equating your own situation with mine. You city people, who lead comfortable, placid easy going lives, seem to think that a man in my position can find peace and quiet in his country retreat. Are you so ignorant of the turmoil and insecurity to which my sort is subject? Do not imagine that your life has anything in common with mine. Even if our estates were large enough to support us and our patrimonies ample, there are many troubles that deprive our minds of peace. Our days are spent in the fields, in the woods and in fortified strongholds. We lease our land to a few starving peasants who barely manage to scratch a living from it. From such paupers we draw our revenues, an income hardly worth the labour spent on it. To increase our revenues would require enormous effort and unremitting diligence.

    Most of us are, moreover in a position of dependence on some prince to whom our hope of safety is attached. Left to ourselves we would be at everyone’s mercy, but under princely protection we still live in constant apprehension. Indeed, whenever I leave my tower I face danger. If I fall into the hands of those who are at war with my overlord, they seize me and carry me away. If my luck is bad I lose half my patrimony in ransom… No wonder we must spend large sums on horses and arms and employ retainers at great expense to ourselves. I cannot travel a mile from my home without putting on armour. I dare not even go hunting or fishing except clad in iron. Not a day passes without some dispute or altercation breaking out amongst our retainers. Often it is nothing more than a contention among stewards, but every quarrel must be approached with caution, for if I respond aggressively to a wrong done to one of my men, I may find myself embroiled in war while submission or concessions lay me open to extortion and a thousand new injuries springing from the first. And, remember, these quarrels arise not among foreign rivals but among neighbours, relatives and even brothers.

    Such then are our rural delights; such is our leisure and our serene peace. The stone structures in which we live, whether they stand on a hill or in the plain, are built for defence, not comfort. Girded by moats and walls, they are narrow and crowded inside, pigs and cows competing with men for space, dark rooms crammed with guns, pitch, sulphur, and other materials of war. The stench of gun powder hangs in the air mixed with the smell of dogs and excrement and other such pleasant odours. Knights and retainers go to and fro, among them thieves and highway robbers, for our houses are open to all, and how can we tell one armed man from another? There is a constant din of sheep bleating, cows lowing, dogs barking, men working in the fields and the squeaks and creakings of carts and wagons. Wolves can be heard howling in the woods beyond.

    Each day is filled with anxiety over what the morrow might bring – worrisome trouble, perhaps, or tempests. We must think about digging and ploughing, pruning the vines, planting trees, irrigating the meadows, sowing, spreading manure, cutting hay, reaping the grain, threshing and picking the grapes. Let the harvest fail, and we suffer terrible privation, with poverty, confusion, sickness, misery all around us. Is it to this life, then, that you are inviting me to return? Shall I leave court for an existence which is anything but the calm have you city people imagine? Do you really think that peace and tranquillity await me in my tower? And if you do not think so, what strange twist of your mind has led you to offer me such advice?”

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