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on 5 December 2016
Approachable and well written overview of the 100 years war. Such a vast topic dealt with in an interesting and expert style. Very engaging and I read through it remarkably quickly.
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on 14 August 2011
One of the few really readable books I have bought on the subject. Its fast paced and gives a good narrative overview of the war. The good read comes at a price - things are rather simplified. The overall perspective is of an England v France conflict, as though these were then the nation states that they are now. In practice the people who were kings of England at that time were more French than English and most did not speak English. "France" consisted of a set of more or less independent areas each with its own Romance culture and language
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on 22 April 2012
Like many (maybe most?) of us I had only vague notions about the Hundred Years' War. Perhaps it's different if you're born in England or France, I can well imagine that both for the English and the French it's one of those defining moments in their national history, but if you're born - as I was - in a small provincial town in Flanders, well... it's different let's just say. Anyway, as I have a keen interest in history I felt this just wouldn't do, so I decided to try and remedy my lack of knowledge. Desmond Seward's book is excellent for this purpose: it's short (just 265 pages, not including the chronology, index and select bibliography), and in 11 short chapters plus an epilogue gives you a very broad but lively overview of this seminal conflict in Western European history. The major battles such as Crécy and Agincourt are there of course, but there's a lot more (happily): all major characters (and quite a few perhaps less important but all the more colourful too) and the reasons behind their politics and decisions are succinctly described, in a clear and fluent style. For a short introduction this book can hardly be bettered!
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on 10 April 2013
This is a superb introduction to the Hundred Years War. Seward sets the background clearly and takes the reader stage by stage through the tragic, unfolding drama. Characters are well described and the sequence of events is clear. The only screaming need for this book is maps! (Hence four, not five stars) Apart from a couple of battle diagrams, there are none, at all! Why not?
A book intended to provide an introduction to the subject is going to be read by people as yet unfamiliar with all the geography. I, for one, do not have a perfect knowledge of where all the dukedoms, castles, kingdoms and battlefields of 14th and 15th century France actually were. Many places have changed their names since then and some no longer exist in their old form. There are many excellent accounts of the ravaging expeditions of the English through huge areas of France, described by sequences of place names, but how can I find where they all are without maps! The text is excellent and the detail made memorable. Let no-one ever again wonder why the French hold no great affection for the English. Our savagery, inhumanity and greed were almost beyond belief. Hooray for Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt! Weep for the common people of France who were robbed and butchered in their thousands. These were apocalyptic days, and the book is a highly recommendable account of them. I shall read it again too. But please, publishers, put in the maps!
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on 23 September 2003
As the typical student of history at school, I found the subject tedious and irrelevant. Not so with this book. The years flew past as the author gave us enough information to identify with the main characters, enough details of the main events without becoming overwhelming and enough of the gory details to keep us interested! Holidays to South western France will never be the same again. This is history without the corderouy jackets, without the essays, warts and all. Fascinating.
PS It is no wonder the French still do not trust us as a nation.
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VINE VOICEon 11 December 2003
The book does exactly what it says on the cover... it's a brief (but suprisingly detailed) look at a very long, very bloody conflict between two great nations in a period of many changes. He handles the political events of the period with care, never overpowering the reader with to much data.
The battle descriptions are fantastic, some of the best I've read outside of historical fiction. The Hundred Years War is in my opinion one of the most interesting periods of history and Seward does it justice, describing in detail the colourful characters of the period including Edward the Black Prince, Henry V and the mad Charles VI of France (he thought he was made of glass... not to good a conviction when in battle)...
This book will leaving you desperate for more information on the period, I would recommend any of the Osprey books to do with the period (in particular that on Crecy), The Bowmen of England by Featherstone is also a good light read... and of course the Jonathon Sumption epic histories...
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on 6 May 2011
Pacey to the point and very, very informative. I like the authors style and never got bored. Would recommend to anyone wanting an introduction to the subject or just an over view out of interest. It also taught me why the French don't like us English very much.
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on 17 February 2009
The hundred year's war is something discussed and known about by the general population of Britain but that's about it. Maybe you get as far as a mention of Agincourt and longbows but it's all really pretty hazy.

And who can blame them, spanning over a century; the period of regular (although not continuous) warfare between France and England is a hopelessly complicated tale of nation building, convoluted family trees and the very worst excesses in medieval warfare.

However what Desmond Seward does is distil this complex mess into a riveting 250 page read. One of the other reviews of this book rather harshly talks about how areas are glossed over and no primary sources are quoted. This is true but the book is called "the brief history". So what you get is a compilation of all the key events placed on a neatly summarised political landscape.

I never really realised quite why the French bare us such a grudge until I read with horror about the Chevauches that were in essence barbarous destruction of anything the English (and Welsh) could get their hands on. We did this for generation, after generation- who wouldn't hold a grudge?

Saying that, the depiction of the key battles and the inherent breath taking bravery of the troops at Poitiers and Crecy (etc.) are vividly told. Seward makes the battles come to life as if he was there himself. The legendary characters of Henry V, the Black Prince or Joan of Arc are also suitably brought into perspective.

So this is an excellent light read on a heavy topic- thoroughly recommended.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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on 3 August 2016
Great summary of the major events and personalities involved. Stressing the concept of a Hundred Years War is slightly amiss, starting in 1337 with Philip VI seized the Duchy of Guyenne held by Edward III for England, and finished in 1453 with the English defeat at Castillon. Though of course there were periods without fighting particularly during the reign of Richard II .
In the foreword to the 2003 edition, the author stressed
"What I wrote nearly twenty years ago, I am more than ever conscious that England did France a great wrong. One must of course admire the magnificent English bowmen whose superior weaponry triumphed so often, and admit that if the French had invaded England they would have behaved just as badly..."
Well the picture gets complicated at Guyenne, and other regions had an affinity with England, Brittany and Burgundy were at times English allies but the overriding theme of the book is stressing beyond the chronicles of battles and deeds of powerful individuals, the suffering of the French people, and occasionally the English who were raided on the south coast, was immense.
The advent of the Black Death, and the change in climate known as the Little Ice Age emerging probably compounded the misery, though fortunes could be made in war. It may have helped Seward's case to have more emphasis how powerful France was in the previous centuries and how the 14th century seemed to be one long set-back until English power began to wane in the 1430's.
All the major battles, Sluys, Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt are all depicted in helpful detail. Seward seems disenchanted by the myths surrounding the Black Prince, Henry V, and treats Joan of Arc as being of little consequence in military terms
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on 3 November 2009
Desmond Seward's book on the Hundred Years Wars was a great read for me. It gave hinsight into a war that defined the policy of France and England for the next few centuries. Seward did amazing research for this book and he was able to cover 150 years of history in a very readable and descriptive way.

First was the great leaders of both sides: Edward III and his son, the Black Prince, as well as the incrediable, brutal Henry V. For the French there was John II and his son Charles V the wise and the great heros of du Guesclin and Joan of Arc. They great characters of this war were cleary and knowledgeably presented in a fashion that highlightened their importance for both of their countries.

Next were the great battles of the period such as Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt, Verniuel, Orleans, and Castellion. All were tactically protrayed and fought across the pages of the book and each battle had its own story to tell and Seward clearly brought all of those great stories into his book.

This book had it all. From the grand battles fought across France to how the French eventually came together in a very heroic fashion to drive the English out and even I-a pro-English man can clearly admire them. This was a great work of the Hundred Years War.
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