Oakeshott typology of medieval swords

Oakeshott typology
All swords types of the Oakeshott typology

This article about the Oakeshott typology is a follow-up of my previous post about sword classification. In case you missed it check it out here.

Basics

Created by the historian Ewart Oakeshott (1916-2002), his classification system is very detailed and widely used. In his work, he defined several distinguishable factors of swords. They will be covered in the next chapter.

Criteria

The most important differences between swords are the profile, grip, cross-section, average blade length and the primary purpose.

Oakeshott types

Type X

Most of these swords were used in the late Viking age (9th – 12th century).

Albion-Bayeux-Medieval-Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile: broad and medium length
  • Grip: single-hand (9 cm)
  • Cross-Section: lenticular
  • Average Blade length: 76 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cutting

Type XI

These swords were in use between 1100 and 1175.

Albion-Arn-Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile: longer, narrower than Type X
  • Grip: single-hand (9 cm)
  • Cross-Section: lenticular
  • Average Blade length: 95 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cutting

Type XII

Common sword in the High Middle Ages (13th – 15th century). In this category are arming swords.

Albion_Turin_Medieval_Sword
Søren Niedziella of Albion-Europe, Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile: broad, flat and evenly tapering 
  • Grip: single-hand (9 cm)
  • Cross-Section: lenticular
  • Average Blade length: 81 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cutting

Type XIII

These swords were developed in the age of the Crusades (middle of the 13th century to 15th century). As they got a slightly longer grip they are considered hand-and-a-half or bastard swords.

  • Profile: broad, flat and parallel edges
  • Grip:  hand and a half (15 cm)
  • Cross-Section: lenticular
  • Average Blade length: 88 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cutting

Type XIV

This Oakeshott type features swords from the late 13th to mid 14th century.

Albion_Yeoman_Medieval_Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile: broad, flat and sharply tapering
  • Grip:  single-hand (9 cm)
  • Cross-Section: lenticular
  • Average Blade length: 76 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cut and thrust

Type XV

These swords were used from the 14th to 15th century and are considered bastard swords.

Albion_Poitiers_Medieval_Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile: Straight tapering
  • Grip:  hand and a half (15 cm)
  • Cross-Section: flat diamond
  • Average Blade length: 79 cm
  • Primary Purpose: thrusting

Type XVI

These swords were used in the early 14th century.

Albion_Prince_Medieval_Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile:  broad, flat and sharply tapering 
  • Grip:  single-hand (10 cm)
  • Cross-Section: flat diamond
  • Average Blade length: 76 cm
  • Primary Purpose: thrusting

Type XVII

This Oakeshott type was used between the 14th to the early 15th century.

Albion_Landgraf_Medieval_Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile:  long, slender and acutely tapering
  • Grip:  two-handed (20 cm)
  • Cross-Section: hexagonal
  • Average Blade length: 89 cm
  • Primary Purpose: thrusting

Type XVIII

This classification features swords from the mid 15th century to mid 16th century.

Albion_Kingmaker_Medieval_Sword
Søren Niedziella from Denmark [CC BY 2.0]
  • Profile:  long, fairly broad, evenly tapers to a sharp point
  • Grip:  one-handed (10 cm)
  • Cross-Section: diamond
  • Average Blade length: 81 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cut and thrust

Type XIX

This category includes single-handed as well as hand-and-a-half swords from the mid 15th century.

  • Profile:  narrow, flat
  • Grip:  one-handed and hand-and-a-half (10-15 cm)
  • Cross-Section: hexagonal
  • Average Blade length: 86 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cut and thrust

Type XX

This Oakeshott typology category features swords from the 14th to 15th century.

  • Profile:  nearly parallel or only slightly tapered
  • Grip:  hand-and-a-half (15 cm)
  • Cross-Section: lenticular or octagonal
  • Average Blade length: 82 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cut and thrust

Type XXI

This category contains swords from the late 15th century.

  • Profile: broad heavily tapering swords
  • Grip:  one-handed (9 cm)
  • Cross-Section: hexagonal
  • Average Blade length: 76 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cut and thrust

Type XXII

This is the last Oakeshott typology class, which includes swords from the mid 15th to 16th century.

  • Profile:  broad, flat blade, moderate tapering
  • Grip:  one-handed (9 cm)
  • Cross-Section: hexagonal
  • Average Blade length: 76 cm
  • Primary Purpose: cut and thrust
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