Naval warfare

  • Helen Nicholson


The sea played various roles in warfare during the medieval period. It could simply be the geographical area over which warriors must travel before engaging in military action. Ships could be used as a base for attacking coastal fortifications. Some warfare was actually fought at sea, between warriors standing on the decks of ships: this warfare was naval in its situation, but otherwise was similar to land warfare. Once the ships had grappled each other and been drawn together, the battle was fought with bows, javelins and swords as it was on land; the ship acted simply as the method of transportation. However, by the thirteenth century it is possible from the surviving sources to identify tactics or methods of fighting which were specific to naval warfare, and which set warfare at sea apart from warfare on land.


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Further reading

  1. Birthe L. Clausen, ed., Viking Voyages to North America (Roskilde: The Viking Ship Museum, 1993)Google Scholar
  2. Ole Crumlin-Pedersen, with Christian Hirte, Kenn Jensen and Susan Möller-Wiering, Viking-Age Ships and Shipbuilding in Hedeby/ Haithabu and Schleswig (Schleswig: Archäologisches Landesmuseum der Christian-Albrechts-Universität Roskilde: Viking Ship Museum, 1997)Google Scholar
  3. Robert Gardiner and John Morrison, eds, The Age of the Galley: Mediterranean Oared Vessels since Pre-Classical Times (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995)Google Scholar
  4. John Haywood, Dark Age Naval Power: A Re-Assessment of Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Seafaring Activity (London and New York: Routledge, 1991)Google Scholar
  5. Gillian Hutchinson, Medieval Ships and Shipping (London: Leicester University Press, 1994)Google Scholar
  6. John Pryor, Commerce, Shipping and Naval Warfare in the Medieval Mediterranean (London: Variorum, 1987)Google Scholar
  7. John Pryor, Geography, Technology and War: Studies in the Maritime History of the Mediterranean, 649–1571 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Susan Rose, Medieval Naval Warfare, 1000–1500 (London and New York: Routledge, 2002)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Helen J. Nicholson 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Helen Nicholson

There are no affiliations available

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