Mike Loades – Writer / Author

Mike is an experienced writer, both for print and the screen. He has five books published, Swords and Swordsmen, War Bows, The Longbow, The Crossbow and The Composite Bow. He has scripted documentaries for television broadcast, as well as writing for dvd releases, for short-form internet films and for the video games industry. He has written a number of articles for journals and magazines. Currently he has a book about dogs in the works.

His writing style adapts to the task from tight tv sound-bites to flowing narrative prose, from the serious and academic to the light and comedic, though it is always engaged and energised by his passion for the subject and his desire to communicate ideas.


War BowsThis superbly produced and lavishly illustrated hardback volume incorporates material on the Longbow, the Crossbow, the Composite bow and the Japanese bow.

The longbow rose to military prominence in Europe towards the end of the 13th century, though it was in existence much earlier. Longbows were made from a single stave of wood, principally, though not exclusively, yew. The length of the longbow allowed for a long draw, increasing the force with which arrows could be shot. It was a mainstay of English armies during the 100-Years-War.

The crossbow’s chief advantage lay in the ability to ready a shot and then hold it until the optimal moment. This made it ideal for siege situations. It was also a significant battlefield weapon in Ancient China. On the European battlefield, it was the principal missile weapon from the 11th to 14th centuries. It was first superseded, in English armies, by the longbow, and subsequently, in all armies, by gunpowder weapons.

The composite bow was the elite weapon for Steppe Nomads and for high status warriors of numerous other Eastern and Near Eastern cultures. It appeared in a variety of forms and sizes. All composite bows were constructed from an assembly of wood, horn, sinew and glue, with techniques that enabled them to be preformed into recurved shapes. Composite bows were the weapon of the horse-archer and they were shot with a thumb draw.

The Japanese bow – the yumi – was the defining symbol of the samurai class in Japan until the late 16th century. The yumi was a distinctively asymmetric longbow. From the 9th century it was constructed in laminate form, using bamboo and haze wood. Various configurations of lamination evolved in the ensuing centuries but the external profile remained the same. Its history is steeped in custom and ritual as well as triumph on the battlefield.

3D_bookshotSwords and Swordsmen has been received with wide critical acclaim in the press and has over 50 favourable reviews on the UK and US Amazon combined.

Lavishly illustrated, Swords and Swordsmen chronicles the history of the sword, its methods of manufacture and its systems of use, interwoven with tales of the men who lived and died by it. It spans many cultures and periods from Ancient Egypt to the American Civil War and is an in-depth study that is a must for anyone with an interest in swords or military history.

Swords and Swordsmen  has been written with a style and approach seldom found in non-fiction work. It is at heart a factual book but it has been written in a narrative style and peopled with characters that combine to make it read as a compelling story. One that reaches out to be read and understood by the general history buff as well as the sword expert.

Chapters:  The Sword of Tutankhamun .  Swords of the Iron Age . The Sword of King Raedwald . The Swords of the Northmen . The Sword of King Henry V . Medieval Diversity .  The Sword of Maximilian I . The Sword of Uesugi Kenshin . The Sword of Honour and the Rise of the Civilian Duel . The Sword of Henri IV, King of France . The Sword of Oliver Cromwell . The Gentleman’s Companion: Age of the Smallsword .  The Many Swords of George Washington:  The Sword of Lieutenant Henry Lane, Hussar at Waterloo . The Swords of J.E.B. Stuart and G.A. Custer.


This slim volume, in the well-known Osprey series, has been widely acclaimed as an important new work on this iconic weapon. The book contains previously unpublished primary source material and re-evaluates traditional thinking. It debunks lingering myths and casts new light on several aspects of the longbow’s military use.

Beautifully illustrated with colour plates from Peter Dennis, drawings from Matthew Ryan, archive images and a great deal of original photography, the text covers the development, manufacture, use and effectiveness of the military longbow, or warbow, as it is also known.

Much emphasis is placed on the longbow’s versatility. As well as examining its role as a battlefield weapon, this study focuses on its function as a naval weapon, as a siege weapon and as a skirmish weapon for marauding, mobile troops on raids and chevauchée. It is this versatility, together with its portability, that made it an ideal choice for the massed armies employed by successive English monarchs in their foreign adventures.

The CrossbowThe study of bow designs, trigger mechanisms and spanning devices reveals a tale of considerable mechanical ingenuity; advances that produced a battlefield weapon requiring comparatively little training to use. It was an extremely useful weapon, and especially effective in siege warfare for both attack and defence.

Known to the Ancient Greeks and the Chinese as early as the 5th century BC, the crossbow developed both in Western Europe and in the Far East. Advances in trigger mechanisms, spanning and bow design allowed the development of ever more powerful bows. In this study Mike Loades traces the origins, development and combat record of the crossbow up to the end of its life as a mainstream battlefield weapon in the early 16th century. It was a formidable projectile weapon that played a key role in a host of battles and sieges across Europe and Asia.


the-composite-bowThis book on the composite bow includes a typology of the principal forms this shapely bow has taken. It details the manufacturing process, considers thumb-ring shooting styles and draws on accounts for the composite bow’s use in a variety of cultures. There is also an assessment of the bow’s effectiveness.

Both infantry- and horse-archer techniques and practices are discussed, though there is an emphasis on the horse-archer for it was in his hands that the composite bow achieved the greatest renown.

History of Warfare

Mike wrote the introduction and several chapters for The Worldwide History of Warfare, as well as advising on much of the content.

He wrote the individual segments on: Swords; Weapons of Reach; Clubs, Maces and Axes; Thrown Weapons; Bows; Crossbows; Siege Engines; Artillery; Handheld Firearms and Armour, as well as contributing shorter sections on weapons to each of the many periods covered.

The style of illustration was to use images from 19th century books. These images have tremendous character and are themselves part of the history of the topic.


Mike wrote the script for Going Medieval – a two-hour special for H2 channel, which he also presented.

He writes his own material, including devising action sequences, for all his television appearances. He also wrote the scripts for the dvds Blow By Blow To Swordfighting (96 mins) and Archery – Its History and Forms (72 mins) and frequently collaborates on scripts whether as director, presenter or historical advisor.

Mike is also widely experienced as a pitch writer, working up ideas and outlines for tv series and specials and he works extensively in tv and other media development.


Other factual prose writing includes articles on Arms and Armour published in magazines and journals.

Available online is an article about experiments with a medieval kite bomb published in the Hilary 2009 issue of the Christ Church, Oxford Library Newsletter. 

Also available online is an account of Mike’s experiences leading an experimental archaeology team to build an Iron Age British Chariot. An abridged version was commissioned in 2001 by the BBC for their website and full version is available online here.