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Flodden (Revealing History) [Paperback]

Niall Barr
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Sep 2003 Revealing History
This infamous battle was the scene where Scotland's "rose nobill"--James IV--lost his life to Henry VIII's army as he courageously, and perhaps recklessly, led his own into the battlefield. While Niall Barr looks at the revolutionary nature of the battle in terms of the way it was fought, he also examines the political and social forces that caused these two old enemies to clash once more.

Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press Ltd; New Ed edition (1 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752425935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752425931
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 17 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,091,187 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"a shocking tale which the author recounts with such skill that it reads as thrillingly as a novel"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The battle of Flodden is one of the more overlooked of battles in British history. It was, however, arguably the most important battle in the story of Scottish and English history. James IV of Scotland, who personally led his men into battle and died with them, along with most the Scottish political elite, was, realistically, the last proper hope for an independent Scottish kingdom. Of course, Scotland's independence did not die with him, but it never recovered its position as an important player in european politics.

It is even more of a shame, then, that this battle - and James's tactics at it - has so often been misrepresented and misunderstood. Here Barr clearly reconstructs and explains not only what happened, why it happened but also why it has provoked such confusion as well. Other subsequent authors writing about the battle have largely accepted Barr analysis. None have explained it quite so well, however.
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Scotland's greatest defeat told clearly 13 Aug 2004
By lordhoot - Published on Amazon.com
This book proves to be a highly readable book that clearly explains the political, military and personalities situation behind this battle.

It explains why in 1513 when Scotland held all the cards in their favor, they suffered one of their greatest defeat in their national history. The book clearly explained how Scotland adapted the highly touted Swiss military system without understanding why it was so highly regarded. So while on paper, the Scots held all the advantages, there were many weaknesses within that army that led to its destruction.

One of the better books written about this battle which not much have been written about. I almost expected to see Osprey comes out with a title from their campaign series but I was glad to read this book which proves to be so well written. Easy enough for casual readers and good enough for serious student.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written account of a Scottish disaster. 7 April 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
If the battle of Bannockburn represents Scotland's greatest victory against the English then Flodden represents its worst defeat. On September 9, 1513, a Scottish army under the command of their king, James IV, was utterly crushed by an English army under the command of the Earl of Surrey. In the appalling close quarter combat, King James, most of the Scottish nobility, and maybe up to 8,000 Scottish solders were slain. With James IV dead, his infant son became king which brought all the internal struggles and internecine violence that accompanies a kingdom run by regents. Scotland, which before the battle had been emerging as a real player in European politics, never recovered from this catastrophe.
The most interesting facet of author Niall Barr's book is that the Scot's seemingly had all the advantages. The army James IV led over the English border in 1513 was probably the largest (btw 30-40,000 men) and the best equipped (it had a large train of siege artillery and most of its men were armed with 18ft long pikes- the weapon which had helped make Swiss armies almost invincible on continental battlefields) that Scotland had ever fielded. The Scots had also adopted Swiss tactics- phalanx-like pike formations attacking in echelon. The English army that faced them was smaller in size (around 26,000 men), had only light field guns, and most of its men were armed with weapons that were considered obsolescent in the early 16th century, the bill and the longbow. James was also able to draw the English army into battle on ground of his own choosing- a hill upon which his pikemen could charge down and literally overrun their opponents. Thus, the Scots had advantages in numbers, artillery, position, and were using the most modern weapons and tactics of the day. Yet, it was the Scots who were slaughtered. How did this happen?
Barr believes that from a strategic and operational standpoint James IV did everything right. This is contrary to Scottish tradition which portrays James as a frivolous and unrealistic man who blundered his country into war and then botched the campaign. Barr discounts these judgements and makes a strong case that James was actually very level-headed in invading England in 1513 (at the time the English king, Henry VIII, was in France with his best troops) and that he also made good decisions on the campaign. However, Barr believes the Scottish defeat at Flodden was because of poor tactical theory. The Scots quite simply were carrying the wrong sort of weapons and fighting with the wrong sort of tactics.
Barr spends an entire chapter focusing on the Swiss military system of the early 16th century and explains why it was the envy of Europe. Thus, he lays the groundwork to show why that system failed the Scots so badly at Flodden. Swiss armies were renowned for their discipline, training, and high morale which enabled their pike formations to retain their cohesion. This cohesion was vital to their success. The Scottish army at Flodden was a feudal levy with minimal training, little discipline, and brittle morale. When, because of a lack of training, the Scottish pike formations lost their cohesion the English were able to rush in among them. In close quarters, a Scot armed with an 18ft long pike was at a huge disadvantage against Englishman carrying an 8ft bill. Even then disaster could have been averted if the Scots had copied the Swiss combined arms approach to combat. The Swiss did not entirely rely on pikemen, but instead had sizeable formations of halberdiers, crossbowmen, and handgunners to break-up enemy formations and engage in close quarter combat. But before Flodden, the Scots had decided to live (and thus die) with the pike alone.
Barr's analysis and detail is fascinating. He dedicates an entire chapter to describing the first artillery duel in British military history which the English won and caused the Scots to abandon their strong position. He also explains why the Scottish nobility suffered such horrendous losses- a rarity even for a late medieval battle. Overall, this an extremely well-written account of a battle that is virtually unknown outside the U.K which is surprising considering its size and the devastating effect on the loser.
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