Trial by Battle: The Hundred Years War, Vol. 1: Trial by Battle v. 1 Paperback – 23 Aug 1999
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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
Trial by Battle by Jonathan Sumption is an enthrallingly detailed account of the background and first years of the Hundred Years War.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I learned a huge amount about that desperate war. Amazing research, but very readable.Published 21 days ago by John H Hemming
Thought the structure was excellent. Chapters jump around a little as they try to give the reader a sense of what was happening. Read morePublished 1 month ago by GJM
Lucid and well written. If you like narrative history, you will love this.Published 2 months ago by Barca Fulmen
It is wonderful,Mr Sumption makes the 100 years war LIVE !!!!!! FANTASTIC,as if it was yesterday.Published 8 months ago by Peter Ffrench
A truly amazing work of scholarship. How on earth Sumption is able to combine his work as historian withhis career as a top judge beats me.
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