SPEAR (O. Eng. spere, O. H. Ger. sper, mod. Ger. speer, etc., cf. Lat. sparus; probably related to " spar, " a beam), a weapon of offence. Developed from a sharp-headed stake, the spear may be reckoned, with the club, as among the most ancient of weapons. All the prehistoric races handled the spear; all savage folk thrust with it or hurl it; civilized man still keeps it as the lance and the boar-spear; indeed, the bayonet is a spear-head with the rifle for a shaft.
The English before the Norman conquest were a spear-bearing race. The freeman's six-foot ashen spear was always near his hand; and its head is found beside the bones of every warrior. The casting javelin was commoner than the bow. Norman horsemen made the long lance, a dozen feet long, its pennon fluttering below the point, the knightly weapon. Throwing spears became rare, the Black Prince's English knights wondering at the Spanish fashion of casting darts. In the 14th century the vamplate came into use as a guard for the lance hand above the grip. At this time also the coronel head was devised for the better safeguard of the jousters, many of whom, however, preferred the blunted or " rebated " point. The next step in development gave the shaft a swell towards the hand on both sides of the grip, a swell exaggerated in' the jousting lance of the 16th century, which, fluted and hollowed, is found weighing twenty pounds, with a girth of as much as 275 in. at its broadest part. Leather " burres " were added below the grip and, before the end of the 14th century, the weight of the jousting lance called for the use of the lance-rest, a hook or catch screwed to the right breast of the harness.
The Scots, always weaker than the English in archery, favoured the long spear as the chief weapon of the infantry, and from Falkirk onwards held their own in their " schiltron " formation against all cavalry, until riddled and disarrayed by the arrow-flights. Their English enemy, when harquebusiers began to 'oust the archers, exchanged the old bills for those 1 8 and 20 ft. pikes which bristled from the squares protecting the " shot." At the same time, the English horsemen began to leave the lance for sword, pistol and musketoon. During the civil wars in the 17th century every man on foot was either pikeman or musketeer. After 1675 the long pike gave way to the bayonet in its first shape of a dagger whose hilt could be struck into the muzzle of the musket, and, some fourteen years later, the bayonet with a ring-catch gave the infantryman the last form of his pike. Sergeants, however, carried through the 18th century a " halbert " (q.v.) which, in its degenerate form, became a short pike, and infantry officers were sometimes armed with the spontoon. In 1816 certain dragoon regiments were given the lance which had been seen at work in the hands of Poles and Cossacks; and the weapon is still part of the service equipment although controversy is still hot over its value in action, its supporters urging the demoralizing effect of the lance against broken troops. Queen Victoria's navy gave up, in favour of the cutlass bayonet, the pikes which were once served out to repel attacks of boarders. At the present day the High Sheriff's party of javelin-men are the only Englishmen who march on foot with the ancient weapon. (See further LANCE.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)