5 Weapons for the Medieval Peasant

Original source

So, you’re revolting. By which I mean you, the medieval peasant, are in revolt. Perhaps you are angry over high taxes, social inequality, serfdom or religious difference (the list goes on, but this list is 5 Weapons for the Medieval Peasant, not 1000 Reasons for a Peasant Revolt). What’s important is that you want to rise up and kill those who look down at you, but what will you use?

Fear not my filthy friends! This list contains 5 weapons that may well be close at hand.

5 – Bow

WPN 30 - Archer

Illustration: Weapon 30 – The Longbow.

One weapon peasants would be able to reach for would be the bow. This handy hunting tool could certainly be used against any lords who incurred the peasant’s wrath, provided they knew how to use it!

4 – Club

MAA 384 - Club

Illustration: Men-at-Arms 384 – Armies of the German Peasants’ War 1524-26

Unsurprisingly it was fairly easy for peasants to get hold of big wooden sticks, but some went a step further. The local blacksmith could help turn the club into a much more menacing weapon by adding spikes and nails to the head. Whilst they lacked the craftsmanship of the maces used by the upper classes the club could certainly cause some damage.

The rather intimidating looking club shown in the illustration was known as the holy water sprinkler.

3 – Axe

MAA 399 - Axe

Illustration: Men-at-Arms 399 – Medieval Scandinavian Armies (2) 1300 – 1500

Wood isn’t the only thing a disgruntled peasant could chop with his trusty axe. When it was time to rise up against the upper classes this work tool could easily be used as a weapon, and was far cheaper than an actual sword. Judging by the look on the Icelandic peasant’s face I wouldn’t fancy being that Norwegian royal official!

2 – Flail

MAA 166 - Flail

 Illustration: Men-at-Arms 166 – German Medieval Armies 1300 – 1500

Many of the weapons available to peasants would also serve as a tool, and this is true of the flail. It was originally made up of one large stick, with a small stick attached to the end with a short piece of rope or chain.

In peacetime the flail would be used to strike piles of grain, separating them from their husks. However, when they were called to fight the flail could be just as effective as a weapon. Its flexibility allowed it to avoid a defender’s shield, but also meant that it lacked the precision of other, more solid, weapons.

1 – Guisarme


MAA 50 - Guisarme

Illustration: Men-at-Arms 50 – Medieval European Armies

Most pole arms found their origins from within the peasant classes, and this is certainly true of the guisarme. It was created by combining tools and long sticks, and was often typified by a hook on the back of the blade. These hooks were well suited to dismounting horsemen, allowing nearby peasants to attack the unfortunate rider with whatever tools they had at hand.

Where the guisarme fell short was in its stopping power, as it lacked a sharp point.

And of course, the pitchfork deserves an honorable mention; the perfect tool for skewering feudal lords!

Anything I’ve missed? What would you grab in a medieval peasant uprising?