For those who might be just surfing on through. I knifed my son! Got your attention? Read on...
What’s the progress on the Violent Crime Reduction Bill? You know the one, which amongst other things, proposes to ban the sale of knives to young people. Well, I’ve had a shufti round and it seems it had its first and second readings in the Commons in June and has its 5th (and last?) Standing Committee sitting today.
There’s nothing yet about it in the news, but it’s something I take a particular interest in. There have been some shocking tragedies - Anthony Walker, Richard Whelan, Abigail Whitchell, Damilola Taylor to name a few – and everyone is agreed that knife crime is on the rise. And it's evil.
But do the headlines tell the whole story? You wouldn’t know it from the press but knife crime is not widespread throughout the UK and some of the research is deeply flawed. Headlines scream, “a third of teenage boys carry weapons”. The University of Glasgow research actually found that a third have once - at some time in their lives - carried a weapon. My sons would have ticked that “yes” box, but I don’t consider them a menace to society. Far from it.
Last Christmas, when he was 17, I bought my elder son a baselard. What's one of those, I hear you ask? No? Oh well, I'll tell you anyway.
This is a baselard made by the same armourer who made my son's. With a fourteen inch blade it's more than a knife, nearly a short sword, definitely a dagger. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the baselard was perhaps the most widely carried weapon of all.
People from all walks of life carried them from the late 13th century. In the 14th century it was a knightly weapon, frequently worn when fully armed for the field. Civilians of many stations also carried the baselard to such an extent that the anonymous English writer of a satirical song of the period of Henry V declared that:
There is no man worth a leke,
Be he sturdy, be he meke,
But he bear a basilard.
In the fifteenth century, mounted knights generally ceased to carry the baselard and it became primarily the dagger of civilians and foot soldiers - often archers. It is primarily a stabbing weapon which came to such ubiquity with the development of plate armour (itself a defense against the longbow). Its long narrow blade was designed to seek the weaker points, under the arms, of dismounted knights while being highly effective at close quarters where a long sword would be an encumbrance.
I could go on, but I won't. For further reading I recommend Daggers & Fighting Knives of the Western World
by Harold L. Peterson. It has been reprinted recently in the US, although my boy got a first edition in his stocking with the blade!
The baselard starred alongside the boy in a mafiosi styled adaptation of The Revenger's Tragedy
at the school to no little critical acclaim. I believe it went to the cast party. It certainly was worn home. And I am absolutely confident it has never drawn blood.
That's why I await the outcome of the deliberations of the Commons. Keenly.
Anything available should come here
Category: History_ Violent Crime Reduction Bill_