When people ask me about the impact of reenacting on my books, they almost inevitably follow up with a question about swords and armour. They’re often great questions, and I’m always happy to answer them; I’ve taken a pretty deep dive into a couple of periods and I think I have developed some interesting ‘general usage’ theories of martial arts and warfare. At the end, there’s a nice picture of a fantastic original sword that helped inspire the book Cold Iron.
But the thing is that weapons and armour are actually the least important aspects of reenacting. Even the most keen and hardened warrior (if such people actually ever existed; modern psychology suggests that warriors are either keen or veterans, never both, but that’s another story) only engaged in combat a few days a year, whereas cooking and sleeping and keeping clean happened every day.
The remarkable thing about cooking and cleaning and sleeping and living is not the items you need to do them. You can, with a little online research, reach out and buy a 14th century fry pan and a fourteenth century kettle, and some other very useful kitchen tools. A little more research, and you can come up with recipes and even whole cook books of Medieval food, whether Norse or English, French or Italian.
Even with swords and knives, you can buy an excellent blade; cook’s knives, eating knives, daggers, broadswords.
Ultimately, recreating the past, or understanding a fantasy world, is more about containers than it is about weapons.
Try and find a decent, correct scabbard.
Or a net bag to carry all the vegetables you plan to eat.
Net bags? Did they have those?
What did meat come from, at the butcher’s? What was it wrapped in in 1380? How did split peas come, or dried fish? Flour? How the heck do you keep flour dry when you travel?
Let’s cut to the chase. In the past, most people had to supply their own packaging. Women went to market with baskets and jars and linen bags and probably leaves and scraps of bark too. Men who traveled (often the wealthy) had elaborate sets of equipment not entirely unlike picnic sets to carry food and drink and pots and pans. But even those sets usually came inside a container, and the container was a basket.