Definitions

body armour

armour

[ahr-mer]
or body armour

Suit of 15th-century European plate armour.

Protective clothing that can shield the wearer from weapons and projectiles. By extension, armour is also protective covering for animals, vehicles, and so on. Prehistoric warriors used leather hides and helmets. Chinese warriors used rhinoceros skin in the 11th century BC, and Greek infantry wore thick, multilayered metal-and-linen cuirasses (armour covering the body from neck to waist) in the 5th century BC. Shirts of chain mail were worn throughout the Roman Empire, and mail was the chief armour of western Europe until the 14th century. Ancient Greeks and Romans used armour made of rigid metal plates, which reappeared in Europe around the 13th century. Plate armour dominated European design until the 17th century, when firearms began to make it obsolete. It began to disappear in the 18th century, but the helmet reappeared in World War I and became standard equipment. Modern body armour (the bulletproof vest) covers the chest and sometimes the groin; it is a flexible garment reinforced with steel plates, fibreglass, boron carbide, or multiple layers of synthetic fabric such as Kevlar.

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(born May 16, 1832, Stockbridge, N.Y., U.S.—died Jan. 6, 1901, Chicago, Ill.) U.S. entrepreneur and innovator. Armour's first entrepreneurial success was in California mining endeavours. He vastly expanded his family's Midwestern grain and meatpacking business in 1875, originating the use of byproducts and the sale of canned meat. When railcar refrigeration was introduced in the 1880s (see Gustavus Franklin Swift), he established distributing plants in eastern states and began exporting Armour meat products to Europe. His Armour & Co. enterprises helped make Chicago the meatpacking capital of the world.

Learn more about Armour, Philip Danforth with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born May 16, 1832, Stockbridge, N.Y., U.S.—died Jan. 6, 1901, Chicago, Ill.) U.S. entrepreneur and innovator. Armour's first entrepreneurial success was in California mining endeavours. He vastly expanded his family's Midwestern grain and meatpacking business in 1875, originating the use of byproducts and the sale of canned meat. When railcar refrigeration was introduced in the 1880s (see Gustavus Franklin Swift), he established distributing plants in eastern states and began exporting Armour meat products to Europe. His Armour & Co. enterprises helped make Chicago the meatpacking capital of the world.

Learn more about Armour, Philip Danforth with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Body armour was the manufactured use of various materials to provide rigid and dense protection layer to an individual's body surface in combat. As such it could be improvised or designed, partial or fully covering, from light-weight to one that is extremely heavy in weight.

Body armour was in use from ancient times as hardened leather which included lighter weight armour for theatre armour and official costume purposes, slightly heavier weight leather intended to be worn by light infantry or light cavalry, water or wax hardened for weapons combat, or full armour grade leather (sole bend leathers), or "curbouille" leather hardened by boiling water or beeswax. Lamellar leather armour was made from 200-300 small hardened individual leather plates linked together.

The lighter-weight metal body armour evolved into the chainmail coif or interlocked metal rings. Chainmail shirts were often worn in conjunction with padded clothing to provide formidable personal defence in combat. The medieval riveted chainmail hauberk with a full sleeve was in common use in Asia and medieval Europe after the 12th Century.

Although sometimes used as a form of ceremonial dress, body armour reached its greatest sophistication in Western Europe during the Middle Ages with the designs of the plate armour, its components acquiring their own unique terminology, and becoming symbols of status. Perhaps the most highly artistic version of body armour are the kikou sets used by the Japanese samurai utilising of iron, leather, wood, silk, brass and other materials to provide in many ways a more superior body armour to the European contemporary versions.

The body armour was also adapted to display of heraldry as means of visual recognition of troops on the battlefield, becoming the predecessor of military uniforms. The last and enduring vestige of the body armour is the combat helmet.

The use of body armour largely lapsed after the introduction of modern firearms in the middle of the 19th century, and was completely discontinued after the First World War when some types of infantry wore rudimentary versions of body armour, often manufactured at the front line.

Body armour is retained in units with a ceremonial role such as the Blues and Royals which still wear the cuirass which has undergone only a relatively minor change from its 14th century design.

One notable difference between body armour and the ballistic vests worn during and since the Second World War has been the need to offer flexibility to the wearer who is usually an infantryman, something more reminiscent of the Japanese preference for a more flexible style of body armour than the typical European one-piece breastplate design. The nature of ballistic vests is also substantially different in that they can be put on by the wearer, where as even the rudimentary cuirass requires assistance to put on, and can not be easily removed by a wounded wearer.

See also

  • Making Period Leather Armour

Citations and notes

References

  • Ffoulkes, Charles, Armourer & His Craft: From XIth to the XVIth Century, Ayer Publishing, 1967
  • Friday, Karl F., Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan, Warfare and History, Routledge, 2004

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