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Title: Tactics, strategy and the social composition of the army in England during the Hundred Years War, with particular reference to the periods 1337-1386 and 1413-22
Author: Bethell, J. J.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2009
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This thesis takes a thematic, rather than chronological, approach to the questions of tactics, strategy, and the social composition of the army in England, in order to examine the major questions of change and renewal in later medieval warfare. Rather than seeking to catalogue organisational or logistical minutiae, I wish to emphasise what fourteenth century English political society believed it could achieve, sought to achieve, and how it set about realising these ambitions. The thesis first considers the historiography of the period and its problems; it highlights the fact that the secondary literature, though extensive, is patchy and frequently concerned with broader or peripheral issues. The thesis turns first to tactics and in so doing must necessarily take some time to consider certain technical issues of equipment and weaponry which have dominated the limited current debate. It moves next to examine the influences on English tactics and the ancestry of those developments which came to characterise the conduct of English armies in the field; it emphasise the wider historical and geographical context in which their actions are located and reflects on how tactical expertise was passed on. In considering strategic affairs, the thesis presents perhaps the most striking example of the defining dialectic with tactics below and political society above. This chapter subdivides ‘strategy’ into operational and grand-strategic levels, reflecting the distinctive character of medieval monarchical government. In both areas, though, we may trace the influences on English campaigns and witness the emergence of a new strategic approach through trial and error. This chapter presents a new interpretation of the chevauchée and of the campaigns in Northern France. Within the chapter on the social composition of the army, the thesis traces the effect of mobilisation for war on the various strata of English society. With the heavy commitment of the elite to war, albeit an elite invigorated by Edward’s comital creations of 1337, it notes the amalgam of old and new which is so typical of Edward III’s reign – a novel method of performing the traditional role of a warrior of aristocracy. The factors which bound them to this role were likewise both cultural and financial. What also emerges is the creation of a small sub-society, which is in many ways internally classless, becoming dedicated to the profession of perennial expeditionary warfare. The thesis next surveys the reign of Henry V, in whose campaigns it traces the evolution of different aims, and, therefore, different strategies, while still employing some of the same tactical elements. His later grand-strategic ambitions are traced in the operational course of the fifteenth century campaigns with a lasting consequence for the regime which followed his death.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available