The basket-hilted sword emerged in Britain in the 16th century, and came in two forms; the single-edge English backsword, and the double-edged broadsword, more typically associated with the Highland Scots. The protection the basket-hilt gave to the sword hand allowed the development of a new pan-British style of swrdsmanship, practiced in a recognisable form from the Jacobite Highlands to the Prize Fighting stages of London. Within the tradition, however, was a distinct “Highland method” that was recognisably different to English Backsword technique.
As Highlanders joined the British Army in increasing numbers during the late 18th and 19th centuries, the “Highland broadsword” became a popular system among the troops. The British were justifiably proud of the feats the Highland Regiments had performed broadsword-in-hand; for example, the anonymous Highland Officer who authored Anti-Pugilism (1790), wrote;
“My countrymen, the Highlanders, have, from time immemorial, evinced the utility of the Broad Sword; and, by their skillful management of it in the day of battle, have gained immortal honour. Such has been the effect of their dexterity and knowledge of this weapon, that undisciplined crowds have made a stand against, nay, and have defeated a regular army.”
The rapid growth of the British Empire during the 18th and 19th centuries pitted British swordsmen against a vast array of soldiers from other cultures, and their fencing system proved equal to that found anywhere else in the world, using “a style differing not much from that in vogue in the days of Good Queen Beth,”
There are a large number of British sources dealing with the backsword, military broadsword and sabre, which share a great deal of common ground. This course is based primarily around the Highland Broadsword of Thomas Page (1746) but draws on the principles, techniques and tactical advice of a range of relevant sources to bring the most complete possible system, that would not be out of of place on the streets of Elizabethan London, among the Jacobite Clans of 18th century Scotland, or on the battlefields of Quebec, Waterloo or Aliwal.