When you think about a traditional history class you think about reading historical documents, books or watching films that capture the period being studied. Southern Miss history professor, Andrew Wiest, Ph.D., took a different approach when teaching his Honors 303 class on the armor martial fighting of the Middle Ages in Europe Oct. 25.
The Honors College had a special event for the students in Weist’s class. Four knights and a squire of Southern Academy of Swordsmanship demonstrated armored combat of the Middle Ages. Wiest discovered the men of Southern Academy of Swordsmanship in Laurel when he had the group perform for a high school class.
“I figured the best way to make the class different was to make it experiential,” Wiest said.
Southern Miss 1989 graduate and Honors College alumnus Scott Wilson is the director of the Southern Academy of Swordsmanship, Western Martial Arts and a long-standing martial artist re-enactor. Wilson’s interest in the medieval period started at a young age. By age 13, he had read all the King Arthur stories he could find and spent his days playing dungeons and dragons.
A material engineer by trade, Wilson is also the owner of Darkwood Armory, a company specializing in high-quality swords and armor for practitioners of medieval and renaissance martial arts, theater and re-enactment since 1996. His primary interest is in the practical application of these historical techniques in fighting situations.
The knight’s armor was modeled after armor of Italian, Spanish, French and English knights. The knights included Wilson, Evan Smith, Benaiah Anderson, Stan Roberts and Rock Hartfield as the squire. Most of the armor worn was hand forged by Wilson at Darkwood Armory in Laurel. Wilson uses his craftsmanship to create high- quality swords and armory.
It was fitting that this event was held on Saint Crispin’s Day. According to William’s Shakespeare’s play Henry V of England, Saint Crispin’s Day is the feast day of the twin Christian saints, Crispin and Crispinian, who were martyred in c. 286. It is the day of the famous Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The Saint Crispin’s Day Speech in Shakespeare’s play Henry V called the soldiers that would fight on that day a “band of brothers.”
Wiest’s sophomore seminar class is called “Conflict & Culture: The Interaction of Violence and Humanity in the Modern Age.” The knights demonstrated how combat was done during the middle ages and the different weaponry involved.
“Who knew that there were people doing actual period armored fighting? It was really awesome that Dr. Wiest was able to bring these folks here so that our students and other people from campus were able to experience a glimpse into history,” Dean of the Honors College Ellen Weinauer, Ph.D., said.
One of the things that the faculty of the Honors College wants the honor students to understand is that learning takes place in and outside of the classroom.
Sophomore health policy and administration major Kellie Jackson said, “Experiencing the medieval fighting in person was far more effective than reading about it in a book or watching it in a movie because you realize what is real and what is fake.”
For example, her and her classmates expected the Knights to swing their swords like baseball bats, yet the medieval combat experience showed them that knights battled with one hand at the base of the sword and the other hand closer to its pointed end to fully utilize the weapon’s sheer size and strength.
Jackson believes that this experience helped her further understand topics discussed in Wiest’s Honors 303 seminar because it allowed her to actually visualize medieval combat in action as well as the many aspects that go into creating a well-protected suit of armor.