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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars For those interested in history rather than jingoism., 15 Jun 2011
This review is from: Agincourt: A New History (Paperback)
This is a superb examination of the Agincourt campaign, marked out by its respect for contemporary (and near contemporary) evidence, rather than later spin. If the perpetuation of jingoistic myth is your thing, you're probably not going to like this. If, on the other hand, you enjoy a narrative based on top class research, this is a wonderful example of what can be achieved. It should be noted here too, that Anne Curry's conclusions in no way diminish Henry V's achievement on that fateful field, it's just that she puts it into historically verifiable context.

The book opens with the reasons for war and the political background in England and France, and then progressess to how the English and French armys were mustered and the evidence for both. Harfleur then takes centre stage and the number of soldiers Henry lost and gained around that time. His probable line of march to Calais is then traced, with due consideration of other possible routes, and also that taken by the French. The events immediately before the battle are then reviewed, including the problems thrown up by the extant historical sources. The battle itself is then looked at from many points of view: the types of soldiers, their numbers, their health (remember, the French were rained on too), their morale, their tactical and topigraphical positioning and so forth. Here the author praises Henry's ingenuity in arraying his forces and explores the French response, all the while using contemporary (and near contemporary) sources, the latest military historical thinking, and her own intimate knowledge of the land there abouts. An indepth discussion follows on the treatment of the wounded and of prisoners, and the aftermath of the campaign.

At all points, we are taken through the evidence and where the various sources contradict each other, which allows the reader to form their own conslusions and to have greater confidence in the conclusions of the author. For historical researchers then, this book is a treasure and a guide of how to do this well. For this very reason, though, it may be a harder read for the general reader. There are also an awful lot of unfamiliar personal and place-names (unless you happen to be French) which can get very confusing at times. But for me, the greatest problem with this book is the lack of useful maps, an omission that seems to defy explanation. It's not that there are no maps at all, its just that what's there is not particularly helpful and is rather sparse. When topography and place-names play such a large part, one would expect maps to follow.

Agincourt: A New History is a must have for anyone with a serious interest in the Hundred Years War and this campaign in particular. It is not written to salve national ego but as a serious historical work with some serious expertise behind it. This in turn helps to clarify and legitimise Henry V's achievement against a superior army. Anyone who just wants to read about French-bashing should look elsewhere.
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