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Old 8th November 2023, 01:36 PM   #1
Yvain
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Default Last traditional European sword

Hi all,



I've discussed the Mexican machete / so called "espada ancha" a bit in the last few days, and it got me thinking : what was the last traditional (non military / regulation / issued) sword used by Europeans or Europeans descent in colonial states?



The Spanish colonial short swords mentioned above might be a good contender, but I'm curious if there is others I don't know about.



Thanks in advance for your opinion! 🙂
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Old 8th November 2023, 05:24 PM   #2
Jim McDougall
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Intriguing topic! but not sure of exactly what you are looking into.

By colonies...do you mean Spanish? therefore Spaniards? Mexico was Spain until 1821. However in the colonial context, as with most such situations, was nominally administrated by the government in Spain, which had loosely standing regulations on weapons. While 'regulation patterns' were used of course by soldiers of the military, these were hardly definitive , for example the regulation military sword on 1721, was still use when regulations revised (?) in 1769-1772.

America was of course a British colony until 1783, but had no standing army until the Revolution and Great Britain had no regulation swords until 1796.
British regulations however described certain weapons earlier, such as the infantry hangers of mid 18th c. which were actually copies of German forms and known from depictions of uniforms which set the dates of them.


If we are going for Spanish/colonial/Mexico, here is an example of a 'military' cutlass of c. 1860s of Republic of Mexico. While the hilt is of US M1840 cavalry saber form (taken from earlier French hilts) , the blade is broad and heavy recalling the espada ancha rather than the long curved saber blades typical of these cavalry sabers.
Traditional? of course, recalling the notably traditional espada ancha
Military/ probably, used likely by government forces
Regulation? I have yet to see any sort of regulated schedule of military pattern swords for Mexico.

The espada ancha, nor any of its remarkable scope of variants, was ever 'regulation', though it may be regarded as traditional, as its form remained loosely in use, and still is to degree in Mexican machetes etc. Interestingly, in the case of this Mexican 'cutlass' (a term often interchanged with machete in vernacular contexts).

The last photo is what is typically regarded as the Spanish M1721 dragoon sword, sometimes deemed the 1769 in references as these remained in use by Spanish troops for so long. It is now thought these were likely in use at least decades prior to the 1721 year, and they remained in use through the 18th century, somewhat into the 19th.
They were prevalent throughout all the Spanish colonies, and often were the blade donors for many of the varying types of edged weapons created including espada anchas.
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Old 8th November 2023, 07:09 PM   #3
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My apologies, I guess my question was not properly worded.


I was wondering what was the last sword used by Europeans / Europeans descent that was NOT a military weapon (ie : regulated / issued).


I know that swords were used in European armies up to WW1 and are still part of some dress uniforms, but I'm actually curious about the civilian side of sword ownership.


From our previous discussion, it seemed to me that the espada ancha / machete could be considered as one of the last non-military sword used by Europeans or Europeans descent, but I'm wondering if there is others, perhaps used more recently.
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Old 8th November 2023, 08:03 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Yvain View Post
My apologies, I guess my question was not properly worded.


I was wondering what was the last sword used by Europeans / Europeans descent that was NOT a military weapon (ie : regulated / issued).


I know that swords were used in European armies up to WW1 and are still part of some dress uniforms, but I'm actually curious about the civilian side of sword ownership.


From our previous discussion, it seemed to me that the espada ancha / machete could be considered as one of the last non-military sword used by Europeans or Europeans descent, but I'm wondering if there is others, perhaps used more recently.
Dear Yvain, in some distant corners of Europe civilian swords are still in use. Curiously when you do a PhD at the University of Helsinki your doctor’s title entitles you to wear the doctor hat and sword. This is still the practice today.
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Old 8th November 2023, 08:14 PM   #5
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Indeed Victrix, I heard that before, interesting tradition! Though I don't think those students are expected to actually use those swords!
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Old 8th November 2023, 10:30 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvain View Post
My apologies, I guess my question was not properly worded.

I was wondering what was the last sword used by Europeans / Europeans descent that was NOT a military weapon (ie : regulated / issued).

I know that swords were used in European armies up to WW1 and are still part of some dress uniforms, but I'm actually curious about the civilian side of sword ownership.

From our previous discussion, it seemed to me that the espada ancha / machete could be considered as one of the last non-military sword used by Europeans or Europeans descent, but I'm wondering if there is others, perhaps used more recently.
If you are referring to a sword carried for the purpose of self-defence (honour or person) where the wielder likely has some ability with the weapon, then you're probably looking at smallswords of the late 18th and early 19th Century. After that, firearms became more prevalent as they were easier to carry, effective and simpler to use.

The other consideration is sword canes, which I believe were carried into the 20th Century.

Similarly, many Eastern European cultures have their own cultural knives / short swords that were likely openly carried well into the early 20th Century, but I am less familiar with those.
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Old 8th November 2023, 10:51 PM   #7
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Thanks Radboud, that's what I'm referring to indeed. The Eastern European lead is interesting, I'll have to look into it deeper!
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Old 13th November 2023, 10:11 AM   #8
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More ethnic eastern than European: You may want to search the ethnic forum, as this one is for European 19c and earlier weapons.



The khevsurli (Who consider themselves European) from the mountains of Georgia still use these swords (and bucklers below) for friendly 1st blood duelling sport.


There is a tale of the Khevsurli finally getting word in 1915 that the Tsar was at war, so they all dressed up in their finest mail armour, swords, buckler shields, and flintlocks, and proceeded north to join the Tsar's forces. Sadly, for them, the mountain passes were snowed in and impassible, so they went home again to wait for the passes to clear, only to find for Russia, the war was over.


The last Crusade <-link
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Old 14th November 2023, 08:48 PM   #9
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French academics have and design their own swords.
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Old 14th November 2023, 08:59 PM   #10
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French academics have and design their own swords.
[cringe]
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Old 14th November 2023, 09:05 PM   #11
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[cringe]

In a broad sense of the word "sword".

Many years ago, probably they were functional.

The first one above is Costeau...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdeoOLEK9pQ

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Old 28th November 2023, 10:46 AM   #12
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Very interesting Kronckew ! It's seems rather unusual to me to use a buckler with a saber, the mix between eastern and european influences is rather unique.
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Old 28th November 2023, 12:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yvain View Post
Very interesting Kronckew ! It's seems rather unusual to me to use a buckler with a saber, the mix between eastern and european influences is rather unique.
Here's a video on Georgian martial arts, it shows a lot of sword/buckler work around 06:55.


Georgian Martial Arts <-Link
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Old 28th November 2023, 12:50 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Yvain View Post
Very interesting Kronckew ! It's seems rather unusual to me to use a buckler with a saber, the mix between eastern and european influences is rather unique.

The opening question that is the topic of this thread is most interesting, though incredibly broad, as clearly the definition of 'Europe' itself has had many differing opinions itself over the years. To consider the definition into the colonial spheres brings even more complication. However, in terms of the viability of the question, it is a most interesting concept.

Wayne's mention of the relatively unknown people known as the Khevsurs, who are situated in the remote regions of Georgia in the Caucasian Mountains, is well placed in that they do regard themselves as European.
They however were as noted, virtually unknown to the outside world until the 1930s, when the adventurer Richard Halliburton visited them in his travels. His mention of them in his 1935 book "Seven League Boots" revealed them as an anachronistic people still living as if in the middle ages by portraying the men still wearing mail armor, and dueling with sword and buckler.

This was sensationalizing however, as the men did indeed stage duels wearing this gear, however not as daily attire, but much in the manner of fencing wear in a protective manner. The mail, helmets etc. were of course indeed 'traditional'.

I personally first heard of them in reading "Seven League Boots", which is exactly where this anecdote of the Khevsurs dressing 'for war' in 1915 derives from, and was truly intriguing. Years later when I acquired one of these swords, its classification was virtually unknown by the seller (who thought it was Zaporozhian!), this was in mid 90s.

When I tried to reach Russian sources to discover more about them, even the embassy insisted they had no idea who these people were, while others refused to even acknowledge their existence.

To return to the original question, the actual traditional 'wear' of an actual sword form in the sense of regular or daily attire in European society waned with the fashionable wear of the smallsword into the early 19th c. After that the only open wear of such swords were the 'court' swords worn by officials and gentry in such settings. Other than that would have been 'hunting swords' (hirschfangers et al) worn in the social 'hunt' events, where these carried the status and fashion element of course.

Beyond that, again in an isolated sense, would be probably Masonic and other related fraternal orders, which are of course rather quasi military in character, though certainly highly traditional.
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Old 28th November 2023, 01:03 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew View Post
Here's a video on Georgian martial arts, it shows a lot of sword/buckler work around 06:55.
Georgian Martial Arts <-Link
Russ Mitchell also mentions using a buckler in this video about khevsur.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mm-JWk...VsbCBraGV2c3Vy
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Old 28th November 2023, 02:16 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Teisani View Post
Russ Mitchell also mentions using a buckler in this video about khevsur.
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mm-JWk...VsbCBraGV2c3Vy



Cool video. Thanks.
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Old 26th December 2023, 06:51 PM   #17
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Indeed Victrix, I heard that before, interesting tradition! Though I don't think those students are expected to actually use those swords!
Here in Germany, you still have the tradition of the "Mensur". It is mandatory in so called "pflichtschlagende Verbindungen" (Burschenschaften, Corps, Turnerschaften and others). These are academic fraternities, but they are not comparable with the fraternities in the United States.
The Mensur is a kind of fencing with sharp blades but also clear regulations to prevent very serious injuries.
Two kinds of swords can be used for the Mensur: The "Glockenschläger" (some images shown here: https://markomannia-burschenschaft.de/mensur/) or the "Korbschläger", which is more common and which has a basket-hilt showing the colours of the Verbindung (see attachment).
Of course the construction of these swords follows strict regulations made by the fraternities, but they are totally civilian and in use until today, not only for the Mensur, but also for representative purposes.
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Old 26th December 2023, 08:21 PM   #18
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The unbelivable Mensur discipline, as seen by Mark Twain
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Old 26th December 2023, 09:59 PM   #19
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The unbelivable Mensur discipline, as seen by Mark Twain
The text Mark Twain wrote is really interesting and can give people who never seen this old tradition an insight to it. Of course not every Mensur is that spectacular or bloody like in Twain's description.
But I want to add, that a typical Mensur is not a kind of "duel", because the contrahents, called "Paukanten", do (or should) not feel any hostility to each other or the other Verbindung, not before, not during and not after the fight. Because of that, the members of a Verbindung don't say that they fight a Mensur against each other, but together.
Of course there exist academic fencing with a duel-character like the Pro-Patria-Mensur, but they are not standard and not very common.
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Old 27th December 2023, 11:39 AM   #20
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Red face Together then ... but bizarre, i would say !

Many years ago (long before Internet) i watched a documentary in the TV where a bunch of young men fought for a scar; close to each other, wearing goggles, crossing swords at high speed (you can't call it fencing, nor duelling) and looking to get cut; indeed the willing to get themselves a scar was more their goal than inflicting one to their foes.


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