Wish to Study Swords

by Sean Sullivan
(Denton, TX)

QUESTION: Hi, before asking this I went through all the questions before asking so you don't have to repeat yourself.

I have always been interested in swords however I have come to realize, that for someone who loves swords so much, I can't really distinguish between swords (other than being able to say that it is a european or asian sword and even then there is some difficulty). So I have decided to try and learn about all the different styles and histories of swords. This has been a more daunting task than I originally concieved. For one, there aren't really college courses on the subject save for going to medieval history classes and that would only cover swords in footnotes. the Internet is only helpful when you know EXACTLY which swords you are looking for and then the answers are seldom trustworthy.

So basically, I'm wondering if you know of a book that gives a fairly good education in swords with histories, development, origins, and general uses? I am not looking for books on a specific period or country of sword (unless there is a complete series on the subject, for example if the set covered medieval in one book then japanese in another as long as they were all covered at some point, that would be fine).

Sean Sullivan

P.S. Thanks for the site, it helps to know that people are still making genuine swords. Almost worried that all I would ever have is cheap remakes.


You've pretty much hit the nail on the head there. Studying the field of 'swords' is so broad, as it covers so many different time periods, cultures and styles that it is truly impossible to become an 'expert' on the subject. Even the legendary 20th Century Scholars, Ewart Oakeshott and Hank Reinhardt only even considered themselves to be 'students'.

Anyway, for an overview of swords through the ages and across all cultures, the very best starting point is Swords and Hilt Weapons by Victor Harris, et al.

To go a little deeper into Western swords, from Sumerian to the late medieval period, you MUST check out Ewart Oakeshott's Archaeology of Weapons

These two books would give you a solid foundation to build upon, and fill out a lot of the details.

Hope this helps.

- Paul

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