I currently have a lack of both time and money, which makes it difficult for me to attend more than my local practice for fencing. What I do have is a lot of time for reading while on the train. So, similarly to what I did when I decided to learn more about bread making I picked up some books.
The first one had very little to do with rapier: Warrior to Soldier, 449-1660. It’s a history of warfare in England from the Saxons right through to the New Model Army. It’s a great overview for anyone in the SCA with an English persona. It helped me to understand the rapiers position in England, as that of a day to day sidearm. I knew that it wasn’t a military weapon, but to see the evolution of the military sword and armour was very enlightening. Though the rapier came to prominence in England, the decrease in armour was actually because of the firearm. I always figured that firearms in general brought about the change in armour, but it wasn’t actually until the advent of the musket (which at the time was so heavy it needed a prop) that armour became useless. The first muskets allowed a half trained man to kill someone in the heaviest armour who had been trained from childhood. Although new armour was designed that could withstand a musket shot, it was so heavy that it required a man to be on horseback, and slow. It was useless on the ground, and couldn’t be used to protect the horse as it was too heavy. So if the cavalry had the bulletproof breast plates on their horses were still vulnerable, and the musketeers just aimed for the horses instead. The armour was so heavy that people refused to wear it. They would rather wear little armour and be fast.