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Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages: The English Experience [Hardcover]

Michael Prestwich
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

25 Mar 1996
While medieval military life is sometimes pictured in terms of knights in armour with splendid coats of arms, the reality more often consisted of men struggling against cold and damp and against elusive foes who refused to do battle. In this book, Michael Prestwich re-creates the experience of medieval warfare, examining how English medieval armies fought, how men of all ranks of society were recruited, how the troops were fed, supplied and deployed, what new weapons were developed, and what structure was set in place for military command. Michael Prestwich challenges many common assumptions about medieval warfare. He argues that medieval commanders were capable of much more sophisticated strategies than is usually assumed: spies were an important part of the machinery of war, and the destruction of crops and the burning of villages were part of a deliberate plan to force a foe to negotiate, rather than an indication of lack of discipline. Sieges, often lengthy and expensive, were more prevalent in war than were battles. In battle, the mounted knight was never as dominant as is often thought: even in the 12th century, many battles were won by unmounted men. Medieval warfare was not, on the whole, any more chivalric than warfare of other periods, although there were many notable individual deeds, particularly during the Hundred Years War, that brought great chivalric renown to those who performed them.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 406 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (25 Mar 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300064527
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300064520
  • Product Dimensions: 25.6 x 18.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 347,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Michael Prestwich was born in Oxford, in 1943. The son of Oxford historians, it was perhaps inevitable that he studied at Oxford University for his first degree and his doctorate. His first job was at the University of St Andrews, where there was a highly successful department of medieval history. He moved to the University of Durham in 1979, and taught there until he retired, by which time it had rebranded itself as Durham University. In the 1990s he served as pro-vice-chancellor, with a range of responsibilities from research to health and safety. He began his own research with work on Edward I, and his publications have concentrated on thirteenth and fourteenth century England in most of its aspects, with a particular emphasis on war and its impact on government and society. He is married, with three children and five grandchildren, and still enjoys skiing. He was awarded an OBE in 2010.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE book on medieval engish armies 20 Mar 2009
Michael Prestwch known for his detailed research into Edward I and his conquests in Wales and Scotland has delivered a fantastic detailed account of the English armies of the 13th and 14th centuries. Much of the book covers the many variety of troops found in medieval armies that ranged from heavy cavalry and men at arms to mercenaries. Through out the book prestwich attempts to dispel preconcieved notions about medieval troops such as the all conquering knight to the ill trained infantryman. As well as discussing equipment and tactics, Prestwich explores strategy and logistics and that commanders were more intuned with these complex themes than was first thought.
All in all Armies and Warfare is a comprehensive guide to English warfare and demonstrates how advanced and effective the armies of England really were.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Survey of English Medieval Warfare 21 Feb 2001
By Clifford Rogers - Published on
As a specialist in late-medieval English military history (& author of a book on Edward III's military strategy), I can say with confidence that Michael Prestwich's survey of English medieval military history is one of high quality. It is well written, and contains a nice blend of "war and society" and "sharp end" styles of military history. The level of scholarship is high enough that even specialists will learn from reading it, yet general readers will not find the book beyond their reach.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent with a caution 30 Jan 2013
By David Schwartz - Published on
I love this book and it had been one of my primary references for this period over the last 15 years since it delivers the information and gives context for why things happened the way they did and how things changed over the middle ages. This period shows various transitions from the period around the Norman invasion to just after Agincourt and shows how troops were called up, composition of forces, costs, and other fascinating data points. This data and the context given gives a good picture of how military campaigns were undertaken and what was required to operate in the Middle Ages.

Now my caution. This work can be rather dry at times but if you're willing to work through that I believe you will find this very useful and engaging.
3 of 23 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ubermonkey gives thumbs down... 26 July 2006
By Ubermonkey - Published on
THE GOOD: This book gets two stars ONLY because (as the previous reviewer said) there is a lot of information. Had there not been so many facts, the book would have gotten 1 star. The book is laid out well and there are some very interesting illustrations and pictures which are well supported by informative captions. That's about where the "good" ends...

THE BAD: The problem with this book is that it is not written in a way that allows the reader to really sink their teeth into this wonderful period in history. I tried...I mean, i REALLY tried to get into this book but reading it was an excercise in frustraion. Reading this book was like reading the most boring high school text book that could be found. What frustrated me the most was that some of the chapters had real promise. I started such chapters - like "Seige Warfare", "Chivalry" and the like with great anticipation thinking that finally the writer had broken his trend (explained in THE UGLY) only to find out it was more of the same style of writing...which brings me to...

THE UGLY: Here is a snapshot of how each chapter is written: Title: 1053 King X gave so and so this much 1104 King X gave so and so this much 1223 King X gave so and so this much money...etc...Next Chapter - Infantry: In 1104 King X had 5000 infantry...records show in 1223 King X had 2000 see the pattern? And this dominates throughout the entire book! I wished the author would have broken it down by periods so it could read more like a story. The way it was written really prevented me from staying interested, which was frustrating because I really wanted to be.

Ubermonkey says you can probably find a better book which covers this topic in a way which does it justice.
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