BroadSwords – A Lethal Weapon of the Medieval Origins

Unlike the present-day weapons, the soldiers in medieval times used handcrafted broadswords and used their physical might to wreak havoc on the enemy. It not only required hardened training in perfecting the art of swording but also required unparalleled strength and stamina to use the sword to cut through the defence of the enemy. While the medieval period had its own craftsmanship, creating swords of different sizes and purposes, one kind stood out and has managed to stand the test of time through the ages. It’s the Broadsword.

The Broadsword, characterized by its double-edged blade, was primarily designed for cutting rather than stabbing. It could sever limbs and even decapitate its target. However, it had some drawbacks too. It was challenging to master and required a certain level of skill to wield effectively.

History of Broadswords

The history of broadswords spans centuries and encompasses diverse cultures and civilizations, revealing their enduring evolution. Broad-bladed swords, characterized by their wider cutting-oriented blades, have ancient roots, with civilizations like the Celts, Romans, and Vikings wielding early versions of these formidable weapons. During the medieval period in Europe, these broad-bladed swords gained prominence, were celebrated for their cutting prowess and were favoured by knights and warriors.

The broadswords were a common type of medieval sword utilized in numerous battles during the early medieval period and continued to remain popular well into later medieval times. Although historians believe that the term broadsword is a rather recent invention, there was no real categorization of swords as broadswords during the medieval period. This term caught on when 19th-century writers started addressing medieval swords, which were slightly broader and heavier than the then-contemporary swords, as broadswords. Historians also argue that nowhere in medieval literature or writings on weaponry can the mention of a broadsword be found. The term and the legend have, nevertheless, become popular.

Types of Broadswords

Broadswords by Thomas Quine is under licenced CC BY 4.0 DEED

During the 17th century, three prominent families of broadswords saw widespread usage: the English mortuary sword, the Scottish basket-hilted sword, and the Venetian schiavona.

Claymore Sword:

A claymore can refer to either the Scottish version of the late medieval two-handed sword or the Scottish version of the basket-hilted sword. The former is distinguished by its cross hilt featuring forward-sloping quillons with quatrefoil terminations and saw use from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

Basket-Hilted Sword:

The basket-hilted broadsword, in its various iterations, gained widespread recognition as a weapon in Europe starting in the 1500s. This design marked a logical progression in the enhancement of hand protection, offering the significant advantage of reducing the need for wearing gauntlets while wielding the sword. In Scotland, during the mid-17th century, the basket hilt gained popularity as a viable substitute for the larger two-handed claymore.

Sabre Sword:

The sabre sword emerged during the mid-modern period of the medieval era and exhibited numerous variations, including double-edged, single-edged, curved, and straight swords. Nevertheless, they all shared a common feature—a pointed and exceptionally sharp tip.

Broadsword Design

A broadsword is characterized by its broad, straight, double-edged blade. In the case of the Scottish broadsword, it often incorporates three fullers, occasionally featuring a single wide fuller, which serves to reduce the blade’s weight without compromising its integrity. Additionally, many of these swords include a ricasso, an unsharpened segment of the blade located just above the hilt.

The Broadsword boasts a double-edged blade, typically measuring 2-3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in width at the base before tapering to a point. The length of the sword could vary from 30 to 45 inches (76 to 114 cm), offering users flexibility based on their preferences, and it typically weighed an average of 3 to 5 pounds (1 to 2 kg).

How are Broadswords Used in Battle

From the medieval era till the 17th and 18th centuries, broadswords remained popular. The basket-shaped handguard designs became especially popular in the later part as the British army started using them more and more frequently and widely. These swords remained popular in Europe even during the Napoleonic era. They were often alongside muskets. Since its inception around the 6th century, the Broadsword established itself as the preferred weapon for medieval knights. Through dedicated training and rigorous practice, knights mastered the art of battlefield dominance, skillfully employing their parrying and attacking techniques, all while benefiting from the robust protection offered by their sturdy armour.

The Broadsword, with a length ranging from 30 to 45 inches (76cm to 114cm), was predominantly employed in close combat scenarios due to its status as a lightweight medieval sword that could be easily controlled with just one hand.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Broadswords

The Broadsword was esteemed for its exceptional agility and lightweight characteristics, facilitating ease in slashing and cutting when wielded by a trained individual. Depending on its length, the Broadsword could serve various combat purposes. Notably, soldiers often favored the 45-inch (114 cm) version due to the extensive range it provided in combat. Broadswords were longer than most other designs, giving the fighter a wider reach. This proved to be a huge advantage on the battlefield.

However, training to wield a Broadsword was an arduous and time-consuming endeavor, and only the most determined of knights managed to master it. This rigorous training demanded considerable effort and patience. Nonetheless, those who were willing to invest the time and energy could attain a respected status within medieval society and reap substantial rewards for their unique skill set. A skilled Broadsword master could even take on and defeat multiple opponents simultaneously, further demonstrating the prestige and effectiveness of their abilities.


Collectors often employ the term broadsword to describe a range of swords characterized by their broad blades. Historically, broadswords specifically pertain to the swords utilized by the military during the 17th to 19th centuries. These swords typically featured wide, straight, double-edged blades and were equipped with basket-shaped guards. Broadswords remained one of the most preferred and powerful weapons during the times when automated weaponry was not discovered. Several knights, kings and soldiers used this double-edged sword to win many battles.

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