The English longbow, also called the Welsh longbow, is a powerful type of medieval longbow (a tall bow for archery) about 6 ft (1.83 m) long used by the English and Welsh for hunting and as a weapon in medieval warfare. English use of longbows was effective against the French during the Hundred Years' War, particularly at the start of the war in the battles of Crécy (1346) and Poitiers (1356), and most famously at the Battle of Agincourt (1415). They became less successful after this, with longbowmen taking casualties at the Battle of Verneuil (1424), and being completely routed at the Battle of Patay (1429) when they were charged before they had set up their defensive position. The term "English" or "Welsh" longbow is a modern usage to distinguish these bows from other longbows, though in fact identical bows were used across northern and western Europe; indeed a very large proportion of yew bowstaves were imported from Spain from the fourteenth century onward, if not earlier.
The earliest longbow known from England, found at Ashcott Heath, Somerset, is dated to 2665 BC, but no longbows survive from the period when the longbow was dominant (c. 1250–1450 AD), probably because bows became weaker, broke and were replaced, rather than being handed down through generations. More than 130 bows survive from the Renaissance period, however. More than 3,500 arrows and 137 whole longbows were recovered from the Mary Rose, a ship of Henry VIII's navy that sank at Portsmouth in 1545.
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