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arms and armour

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Personal weapons and protective clothing used in combat or for ceremonial purposes, regarded as objects of beauty as well as of practical use. In Europe armourers have invariably been workers in metal, but in other parts of the world materials such as wickerwork, bone, and coconut fibre have been used. Outside Europe, the richest traditions of arms and armour have been in the Japanese and Indo‐Persian cultures, in which metal (in the form of both mail and plate) is combined with leather and padded and studded textiles. European armour reached its highest peak of development in the 15th and 16th centuries, when plate armour, which had gradually replaced mail, encased the whole body in an ingeniously articulated suit. The finest armours were made in Germany and Milan; the main English centre of production was Greenwich, where Henry VIII established workshops. Henry's own armours were intended more for the tournament than the battlefield, because by the 16th century firearms were becoming so effective that armour could not be made proof against bullets without being excessively heavy. Cavalry continued to wear breast and back plates until the early 18th century, however. Among weapons, the sword occupies pride of place as the symbol of knighthood, justice, and power. Certain towns – notably Toledo in Spain in the 16th and 17th centuries – have been famous for their production and in Japan the blades of the great swordsmiths are regarded with an almost religious veneration.

Subjects: History

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