13th to 15th Century

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Topic 1: 13th to 15th Century

Although gunpowder weapons were used from the end of the 13th century onward, their use in large numbers for mass effect wasn’t fully established until the end of the 15th century.

13th century illustration of an early cannon ( From De nobilitatibus, sapientiis, et prudentiis regum manuscript held at Christ Church, Oxford)

15th century illustration of handgunners. (Details from Berne Chronicle held at Burgerbibliothek of Berne)

At the same time, the nature of the armies raised by England’s kings also began to change. In the past, the nobility had raised essentially private armies from their estates and then used these to support or oppose the king.

However, by the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, troops were being drawn directly from the community, mustered by the county administration and placed under the command of nobles appointed by the Queen and parliament, usually with the title Lord Lieutenant.

This more democratic method of raising armies, whilst still open to abuse, greatly reduced the military power of the landed gentry. Over the course of the 17th and 18th centuries two parallel military forces; the county trained band and the commissioned regiment, would develop as the foundations of the British Army we know today.