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European Medieval Tactics (1): The Fall and Rise of Cavalry 450-1260 (Elite) Paperback – 20 Jun 2011
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Explores the development of cavalry tactics throughout the medieval period, exploding myths and highlighting both successes and failures on the battlefield.
About the Author
Born in 1944, David Nicolle worked in the BBC's Arabic service for a number of years before gaining an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and a doctorate from Edinburgh University. He has written numerous books and articles on medieval and Islamic warfare, and has been a prolific author of Osprey titles for many years.
Adam Hook studied graphic design, and began his work as an illustrator in 1983. He specializes in detailed historical reconstructions, and has illustrated Osprey titles on the Aztecs, the Greeks, several 19th-century American subjects, and a number of books in the Fortress series. His work features in exhibitions and publications throughout the world.
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From the Author's Introduction -
"The Early Medieval period saw the foundation of a new European civilization being laid, and alongside the emergence of new states came new military systems. These were partly the product of, and partly responsible for, new strategies, new tactics and new modes of combat, and new attitudes towards warfare. The medieval period was probably more influential in the development of modern Europe than were the distant but generally more admired Classical civilizations of the ancient world."
"A somewhat blinkered view of the European past, which focuses upon those essentially Mediterranean cultures, has been largely responsible for the concept of a supposedly distinctive "Western way of warfare", which many still place in contrast to supposedly `non-Western' practices. Such distinctions are largely fictitious, but they nevertheless reflect attitudes towards warfare within Western culture... largely fictitious as this picture may be, it nevertheless had a profound impact upon the development in medieval Western Europe of a civilisation that was remarkable for its vigour, confidence and aggression, and which would, in time, project its influence and its military power into every corner of the world.'
"Despite the dramatic exceptions, most of Europe's military efforts continued to be directed inwards throughout the medieval period, and the so-called `Triumph of the West' was clearly a post-medieval phenomenon. On the other hand, when this success was achieved, its initial phases were clearly built upon socio-military systems that had developed during medieval Europe's seemingly endless internal conflict."
Lots to disagree with there, I think!
The Contents are -
P05: The Late Roman Background
.The 4th to mid 5th centuries; The Notitia Dignitatum; The aftermath of collapse in the West
P10: The Age of Migrations
.Cavalry in the later 5th to 7th centuries: Romano-Byzantine armies; The steppe peoples; Germanic armies; Post-Roman Britain; Fighting on horseback; Infantry in the later 5th to 9th centuries; Romano-Byzantine manuals; Wagons as field fortifications; Styles of combat - the shield; The crossbow enigma
P24: Early medieval Cavalry and Infantry
.The 7th to early 10th centuries: Horse-harness and armour; Motivation and tactics; Equipment - archery
P33: Cavalry and castles
.The mid-10th to 11 th centuries: Carolingian and Ottonian armies; Italy, Eastern and Central Europe; Northern Europe; The Iberian peninsula; Normans and French; The crossbow
P42: The Supposed Dominance of Cavalry
.The 12th to mid 13th centuries: The Franco-Norman heartland; The border regions; Cavalry / infantry combinations; Light and heavy infantry; Italian militias; Archery; Anglo-Norman armies; Northern and Eastern Europe; The Celtic fringes
P55: Warfare against External Enemies
.The Iberian peninsula; Crusader armies
The Colour Plates -
P11: Battle of Catraeth, c.AD 600
"This represents the failure of an early Medieval cavalry attack on a Germanic infantry shield-wall." Her we see the shield-wall deployed on a slope, backed by archers. The British have two blocks of infantry, standing well back, side by side with a gap between; with the cavalry riding out through the gap in two bodies and wheel across the front of the Germans, throwing javelins. There are two vignettes showing - 1, the ranks of the shield-wall; 2, two differently-armed horsemen.
P18: `Shield-wall/Shield Fort' tactics, c. AD 800
This shows a larger Anglo-Saxon force facing a smaller Viking one formed between two water features. The Saxons are using their superior numbers to send out flanking parties across the stream and river to enfilade the Viking line. The Vikings have massed their armoured troops in the centre to try and break the enemy line. Two vignettes show - 1, 3 typical Anglo-Saxon warriors, 2, 2 of the best equipped Vikings.
P23: Battle of the Lech, AD 955
This shows the right wing of Emperor Otto's German army facing a Magyar-Hungarian army. "The well-armoured German cavalry... were able to make a sudden assault, which caught the horse-archers on the left wing of the Magyar-Hungarian army by surprise." Two vignettes show - 1, "part of a close-packed Western-European `cuneus' cavalry formation; 2, "Magyar horse archers using their bows in the Sassanian-Byzantine manner."
P30: Battle of Hastings, 1066
"This plate represents the moment during the battle when the Breton cavalry on Duke William's left wing either broke in retreat after a failed attack, or used a deliberate `feigned flight' tactic. As a result, many undisciplined fyrd elements from the right wing of the Anglo-Saxon line... surged downhill in pursuit." Two vignettes show - 1, Norman cavalry attacking the Saxon shield-wall; 2, "Norman cavalrymen wielding their lances in three different ways that were still in use in the 11th century."
P35: Battle of Bremule, 1119
"In this small-scale but decisive battle, most of an outnumbered force of knights dismounted to fight in a defensive line, and defeated two attacks by mounted knights." Two vignettes show - 1, "The ideal of two close-packed `conrois' formations of armoured knights, with lances lowered and held couched, coming into head-to-head contact."; 2, Plan of the battlefield.
P46: Battle of Legnanao, 1176
This shows the stage in the battle when the Imperial cavalry, attacking the palisades of the Lombard League infantry, are surprised by the rallied Lombard cavalry and attacked in the flank and rear. Two vignettes show - 1, the ranks of a Milanese militia phalanx; 2, detail of a close-packed conrois formation of fully armoured cavalry charging.
P51: Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa, 1212
This shows the climax of the battle "when the heavily armoured Navarrese cavalry and infantry pressed on [after breaking through the left wing of the Muslim army] and successfully attacked the Muslim defensive position based on a field fortification. Two vignettes show - 1, part of the field fortifications, showing Christian attackers trying to force their way through a space between the earth-filled baskets; 2, a heavily armoured Navarrese cavalryman of the early to mid 13th century.
P54: Prelude to the Battle of Pilagonia, 1259
The Byzantines make a surprise attack and capture or kill the watering horses of the enemy force. Two vignettes show - 1, a Kipchaq horse archer in Byzantine service, and a Turcopole horse archer; 2, a typical Latin (probably Italian) infantry crossbowman, with his pavesari shield-bearer.
Warfare in England, 1066-1189
Warfare in Feudal Europe, 730-1200
Infantry Warfare in the Early Fourteenth Century: Discipline, Tactics, and Technology (Warfare in History)
“European Military Tactics – The Fall and Rise of Cavalry” covers the subject for the entirety of Europe, including its encounters with non-European forces. The comprehensive view, and Nicolle’s judicious use of high-quality, and not just English-language sources, draws a picture that emphasises continuity, evolutionary improvement and mutual exchange, rather than the still prevalent stories of revolutionary change and sharp contrasts – there is less “wow” factor to Nicolle’s narrative, but it has the undeniable advantage of being consistent with the sources and the current state of research.
In the areas I am familiar with, I did not find any clear errors – personally, I believe the sources show the mounted use of the cross-bow to have been more common than Nicolle allows, but that is no more than a disagreement on emphasis and is by no means certain. The battles chosen are well-described and appealingly illustrated, and the events actually support the argument presented in the text; that this is worth remarking on is a sad testament to the quality of the competition.
A glaring omission for a book on cavalry is clearly the near total absence of any discussion of horses – a book on, say, WW II armoured warfare would scarcely avoid a review of the relative strengths and weaknesses of the Sherman or the Königstiger. Yet Nicolle can hardly be faulted too much for this gap, as it faithfully reflects the state of research. There is very little (and even less reliable) academic literature on the various types and conformations of the horses used, or the interaction between the type of mount and the fighters’ equipment, tactics or military organisation. It is only now that academic research is beginning to address this complex.