James Hester PhD Project University of Southampton

12 bore single barrelled 'scent-bottle' percussion shotgun by Forsyth & Co, about 1822


I have been very fortunate for the Arms & Armour Heritage Trust offering to fund my PhD research at the University of Southampton. Working under Prof. Anne Curry and Prof. Chris Woolgar from the university, and Dr. Thom Richardson formally of the Royal Armouries Museum, my project looks at the various sources commonly consulted to gain insights into medieval combat to see if the picture painted of martial arts techniques in Europe is consistent across them all. This has involved examining existing treatises on combat from the period, art sources depicting violent confrontations, skeletal remains showing signs of battle-related trauma, and finally signs of damage and wear on medieval arms and armour that were likely caused by use. With one year remaining before my work is concluded, the results I have been getting from my analyses have been very exciting.

In the last two years, I have had the rare and wonderful opportunity to travel to museums and arms collections throughout Europe and North America. Beyond visiting and examining some of the most iconic pieces of arms and armour in the world, it has given me the chance to meet with curators, collectors, and other members of the arms and armour community that I would only otherwise have encountered either by email or through chance meetings at a small handful of conferences. That freedom to travel, view collections first-hand, and meet with peers is becoming increasingly difficult and rare these days for curators and antiquaries, so I am forever grateful for having been given the chance to do so.

This work would have been impossible without the support of the AAHT. The academic study of European martial arts is still very much a fledgling discipline. Being primarily the domain of independent scholars lacking institutional backing, the time and resources to conduct such a deep- dive into the source material has to date been beyond the reach of many scholar-practitioners. The willingness of the AAHT to back my research has allowed this essential work to be undertaken, and the benefit to the wider community of fight scholars will be very great indeed.

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