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Trial by Battle: The Hundred Years War, Vol. 1: Trial by Battle v. 1 Paperback – 23 Aug 1999

4.9 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (23 Aug. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571200958
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571200955
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,933 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

What do most of us know of the Hundred Years War? The famous victories at Agincourt, Crecy and Poitiers and that it actually went on--intermittently--for a great deal longer than a hundred years. Fortunately, Jonathan Sumption is on hand to remind us that there was a great deal more to this period of medieval history that was instrumental in establishing the national consciousness of both England and France.

Trial By Battle is not for the faint-hearted. Its 650 pages only cover the period from the death of Charles IV, the last Capetian King of France to the surrender of Calais to the English in 1347. At this rate, it will take at least another six volumes to get to the end. But for those who take a deep breath and just decide to go for it, Sumption more than repays the effort. He takes a decidedly old-fashioned approach to history, being short on analysis and long on narrative, but there is nothing old-fashioned about his style. He has avoided the academic pitfalls of turgid prose and inaccessibility to produce a work of great readability that challenges many traditional assumptions.

To read many historians, the Hundred Years War was a glorious period of nobility and chivalry. Sumption gives the lie to this. He shows the war to be venal, savage and mercenary. Soldiers often gave more thought to their captives than they did for their cause, as huge ransoms could be extracted for their release. We're only talking noble hostages, mind. The ordinary foot soldier had no monetary value and was usually butchered on the spot. The same applied to civilians. This wasn't a war where human life was sanctified and the fighting was restricted to the battlefield. It had all the subtlety of the bombing of Dresden as both sides, and England in particular as the fighting was almost entirely restricted to mainland France, created a wave of terror to force the locals into submission. "Not a man or woman of substance dared to wait in the towns and castles or in the country around; wherever our army appeared, they fled away", wrote one English observer. Sumption's readers are likely to have precisely the opposite reaction. --John Crace

Book Description

Trial by Battle by Jonathan Sumption is an enthrallingly detailed account of the background and first years of the Hundred Years War.

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Format: Paperback
Sumption's first book on the Hundred Years War is great. He protrays his subjects with such vigor and imagination. Edward III, Philip VI, William of Hainualt...all of these men fly off the page onto a storyboard that is bloody, but is great. Edward III is a military leader who is a calculating politican who makes disatrous mistakes in the first phase of the war, then remerges as the aribtor of Europe after Crecy and Calais; Philip VI is the weak minded, suspicious King of France who is victorius at first but then is draw downhill by his mistakes and Edward's impending greatness. Truly this is a superb work.

This book gets five stars all the way. It is the greatest book on the first phrase of the Hundred Years war. Everything was simply fascinating. At to it readability and you can't deny that Sumption has skill. I just wish he would quit his court job and produce more of these wonderful books.
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Format: Paperback
This is a highly readable and well written account of the 100 years war. It is detailed (this volume stops just after the battle of Crecy) - not boring - yet a well informed read. The opening chapter describing medieval Paris is great (especially if you know modern day Paris).The book gives you a very good feel for the machinations of medieval politics and the difficulties of campaigning in war.
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Trial by Battle is even more capivating than Trial by FIre. Sumption's text is a dream to follow, always engaging and thoroughly human. While I have always been interested in the Hundred Years War I had never really appreciated the depths to which the French crown had sunk, a catastophe to equate with many modern day disaster areas..
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The Hundred Years War was a series of conflicts primarily between the English and the French but dragged in various kingdoms on the periphery such as Scotland (which was allied with Scotland) and the low counties (modern day Belgium and Holland) at various points in the conflict. The Hundred Years War was fought throughout all of France at various times during the course of the 14th and 15th centuries. The conflict was the culmination of events running for centuries before that, with its roots way back to the Norman invasion of England and the following vast empire of Henry II of England a century later, who at one point was lord of more of France the French Kings themselves (see the wonderful biography of Henry II by W.L Warren Henry II (Yale English Monarchs) for more detail) though his sons proceeded to lose the bulk of it until they were left with the small duchy of Aquitaine located in south west France in modern Gascony.

This book, by Jonathan Sumption is the first of four novels which covers the War in great, complete detail. Starting with the funeral of the last of the direct male line of Capetian kings of France Charles IV, we look at the situation in France, economically, socially and politically. We then have the same treatment of England and then in the Duchy of Aquitaine, which was to be the cause of many conflicts between the two Kingdoms, until the start of the War. We then follow the course of events chronologically as they occurred up to and including the events of the battle of Crecy in 1347 which was a resounding victory for Edward III of England.

This is an excellent book about the Hundred years war.
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Was pointed to this by Bernard Cornwell's thrill-a-minute novels. Was shocked to learn that the general reality was just as savage and insane. A read which should cure any reader of patriotism and make him/her appreciate life in the west even in what we think of as difficult times. (But it'll be too slow for you if you just want a thrill-a-minute read - it's thorough gives full background).
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I have all three volumes-a Christmas present! So far I have almost finished Vol 1 and I have enjoyed reading it since it goes into rather more detail than a single volume can hope to achieve. A flowing narrative style with, where necessary, detailed analysis of a financial/political/tactical situation/problem.
A fine book and I am confident that Vol 11 and 111 will prove equally interesting, enjoyable and illuminating of a fascinating period of our history.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful history book, better than any fantasy story I've read. As Sumption says in his intro, he believes that the facts can speak more clearly than reams of analysis and this is proven completely true. The narrative of events is clear and fast, and is always a joy to read. I'm not widely read in history, and completely new to this period, but I love the legal and economic details Sumption brings to and focuses on in this book, it gives a reality to the players and events that I would otherwise find completely unbelievable but instead find just damn amazing.

On the Kindle there is the extremely rare (scanning?) error, like "Edward III" becomes "Edward Ill" (ill), but nothing serious. Maps are quite readable, though the family trees might need good eyes.
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Sumption's history of the Hundred Years War is absolutely superb; it's deeply engaging, and as informative about dynastic politics, medieval law and the 14th century economy as it is about warfare. I couldn't recommend it highly enough.
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