What is the difference between a longbow and a flatbow?

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A. These terms are often used interchangeably to mean a long, relatively thin, straight bow. However, technically there is a difference, at least in the UK. A longbow has a D-shaped cross-section throughout, while a flatbow has a rectangular cross section to its limbs. Longbows were favoured in England between the 13th and 16th centuries, not because of any inherent technical advantages over flatbows, but because they were economical of wood and therefore cheaper to make in large quantities. A flatbow had to be cut from a wider stave, and carved down to hand width at the handle -- not ideal when bows had to be made by the thousand for military use. Longbows were called longbows because the very high compressive forces that were generated in the narrow part of the `D' meant that they had to be long to stand a reasonable draw length. Flatbows had a better spread of compressive force across the width of the bow, and could be shorter for the same draw. A bow referred to as an `American ... more
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