Beginning in the Early Middle Ages, mail armour was used in both the Middle East and Europe. However, from the 12th century, European armour evolved distinctly, while Middle Eastern armour saw only minor changes. I will contrast these trajectories of armour development, examining how differing tactics and weaponry drove armour adaptation, and analyse the impact of technology, infrastructure, and resource availability on this evolution. In particular, I will explore how the crossbow seems to have provoked armour advances in Europe, while a lack of similar catalytic forces helps explain the relatively stable form of Middle Eastern armour.
Infamous for slaying Richard the Lionheart and its failure at Crecy, the crossbow has received relatively little attention in English language scholarship. When it does occur, it is often spoken of in broad, generalist terms, as if all crossbows were largely the same. However, the crossbow is more of a classification of weapon, like sword or spear, than a weapon unto itself. Crossbows came in many styles and types, particularly in the later Middle Ages, and a greater understanding of these variations would provide historians with a more in-depth understanding of the weapon and its users.