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Cover the period from 500-1500 AD.

Readings in the Military History of The Hundred Years War (1337-1453)

Posted by William Young on October 31, 2012

International History

The Hundred Years War (1337-1453) was a series of conflicts between England and France (and their various allies) for control over the French throne during the Late Middle Ages.  The war started in 1337 as a dispute between Edward III of England (r. 1327-1377) and Philip VI of France (r. 1328-1350).  The conflict is generally divided into three phases:  the Edwardian War (1337-1360) from the start of the conflict to the Treaty of Brétigny (1360); the Caroline War (1369-1389) from Charles V of France’s (r. 1364-1380) declaration of war against England to the Truce of Leulinghem (1389) between Charles VI of France (r. 1380-1422) and Richard II of England (r. 1377-1399); and the Lancastrian War (1415-1453) from Henry V of England’s (r. 1413-1422) invasion of France (1415) to the French victory against England at the battle of Castillon (1453).  England had much success in the first phase, and at the beginning of the third phase, controlling large parts of France.  However, in the…

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Book Review of Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses

Posted by William Young on January 26, 2012

David Santiuste. Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses. Barnsley, Engl.: Pen and Sword, 2011. 978-1-84415-930-7. Illustrations. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvi, 192. $39.95.

This is a solid academic study of Edward IV’s political struggles and military campaigns against Lancastrian opponents during the first half of the Wars of the Roses (1455-1485). The Wars of the Roses is a complex, confusing subject concerning civil wars in England.  However, David Santiuste, a Tutor at Edinburgh University, provides a readable, easy way to follow the ups and downs of the conflicts, skillfully using academic and contemporary sources, by focusing on the military career of Edward Plantagenet.  The author sees Edward as “a courageous and talented soldier” (p.146), and one of the great medieval warrior kings of England.

Santiuste begins by discussing the first years of the Wars of the Roses.  He then concentrates on Edward’s experiences in warfare starting with his first taste of combat at the Battle of Northampton (1460).  Soon afterwards, Edward, the Earl of March, became the Duke of York and the Yorkist claimant to the English throne following the death of his father at the Battle of Wakefield (1460).  With the support of his cousin Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (also known as the Kingmaker), the nineteen-year-old Edward of York defeated the Lancastrian armies of Henry VI of England at the battles of Mortimer’s Cross (1461) and Towton (1461), and then took London and claimed the English throne.  Thus ended Edward IV’s first great military campaign.

In the mid-1460s, the relationship between Edward IV and Warwick slowly disintegrated after the king’s secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.  The Woodvilles quickly became rivals to Warwick and his Neville relations.  Edward IV and Warwick no longer saw things eye-to-eye, especially over foreign policy with the Duchy of Burgundy and Kingdom of France.  Warwick soon began to sympathize with Lancastrian rebels.  A rebellion by Warwick and his supporters led to the defeat of a Yorkist army commanded by the Earl of Pembroke at the Battle of Edgecote Moor (1469), and the eventual capture of Edward IV.  Before long, however, Warwick and Edward IV established a fragile, short-lived peace.  The author notes the many rebel uprisings of the era, especially in northern England, and the king’s actions to put them down, including his victory at the Battle of Empingham (1470).  Even so, Warwick and the king’s brother, the Duke of Clarence, forced Edward IV to flee overseas to the Duchy of Burgundy in 1470.  This resulted in the restoration of Henry VI, under Warwick’s control, for a brief period.  Edward IV returned to England and began his second great military campaign.  He quickly gained control of London, and then defeated Warwick and the Earl of Oxford in thick fog at the Battle of Barnet (1471), and next the Duke of Somerset and the Lancastrians at the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471).  Edward IV’s victory was complete.  He would rule England for the next twelve years until his sudden death at the age of thirty-nine in 1483, leaving behind a twelve-year-old son, Edward V, to rule England.  The Wars of the Roses would continue until Henry Tudor and the Lancastrians defeated and killed Richard III (Edward IV’s brother) at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Santiuste provides more than a depiction of the military campaigns of the civil wars in England.  He describes the recruitment of soldiers, types and employment of military equipment, motivation of the nobility and soldiers, as well as the military organization of Lancastrian and Yorkist forces.  The importance of the elite English garrison at Calais across the English Channel for both Yorkists and Lancastrians is evident.  He relates foreign influence in the conflicts with discussions of Yorkist and Lancastrian intrigues and alliances with Duke Charles I “the Bold” of Burgundy, Duke Francis II of Brittany, King Louis XI “the Universal Spider” of France, and King James III of Scotland.  Some foreign rulers sought to keep England weak and divided, while others sought English alliances to aid their own personal ambitions on the continent.  Overall, this is a fine study of the Wars of the Roses that focuses on Edward IV and military operations.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota

Battle of Barnet (1471)

  Battle of Tewkesbury (1471)

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Book Review of Cross and Crescent in the Balkans: The Ottoman Conquest of South-Eastern Europe (14th-15th Centuries)

Posted by William Young on August 18, 2011

David Nicolle. Cross and Crescent in the Balkans: The Ottoman Conquest of South-Eastern Europe (14th-15th Centuries). Barnsley, England: Pen and Sword Military, 2010. ISBN 978-1-84415-954-3. Maps. Chronology. Illustrations. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xvi, 256. $39.95.

Dr David Nicolle is the author of numerous books dealing with medieval European and Islamic warfare, including Constantinople 1453: The End of Byzantium (2000), Nicopolis 1396: The Last Crusade (2001), Crusader Warfare (2007), and Knights of Jerusalem: The Crusading Order of the Hospitallers 1100-1565 (2008).  He has been a prolific writer for the Osprey military history series.  In the present study, the author provides a narrative that examines the complex history of Southeast Europe and the rise of the Ottoman Empire.  Nicolle addresses the culture of the numerous groups of people in the region, including government and politics, economics, religion, law, literature, as well as military tactics and equipment.  His study focuses on the turbulent history of the Middle East and the gradual unifying effect of Ottoman military might over a fragmented Anatolia and Southeast Europe.

The main thrust of this study that will interest military historians is on the Ottoman conquest of Southeast Europe.  By the fourteenth century the Byzantine Empire was weak militarily.  The Byzantines needed the alliance of the Ottoman Turks in the struggle against Christian Balkan states.  In 1353-55, the Ottomans gained their first foothold on the European continent as an ally of the Byzantine Emperor.  The Turks manned the fort of Çinbi and neighboring towns on the Gallipoli peninsula.  As Nicolle writes: “This would thereafter be the launch-pad for the Ottoman state’s eventual conquest of the entire Balkan peninsula” (p.64).  In fact, the Byzantines soon turned to the Serbs and Bulgarians for assistance against the Ottoman Turks.  But, the Ottomans, under Emir Murat (Murad) I (1362-89), pushed deep into Thrace, Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Serbia.  He became “one of the most remarkable conquerors in medieval European history” (p.66).  Having captured Adrianople in eastern Thrace, Murat I renamed it Edirne and established the capital of the Ottoman Empire there in 1365.  He conquered western Thrace and Macedonia in 1371-76, and then obtained the vassal states of Bulgaria in 1376 and Dobruja in 1388.  Murat I took the title of sultan in 1383.  He led the Ottoman forces that defeated the Serbs at the First Battle of Kosovo in 1389.

Bayezit (Bayezid) I (1389-1402) picked up where his father left off.  He forced Serbia and Bosnia to become vassals of the Ottoman Empire in 1389, followed by Wallachia in 1391.  The Ottomans had control of the southern Balkans, having reduced the Byzantine Empire to the area immediately surrounding Constantinople.  In 1393, the Turks captured Nikopol (Nicopolis) in Bulgaria.  At this point, in 1394, Pope Boniface IX, with encouragement from the threatened states of Hungary, Venice, and Genoa, declared a crusade against the Ottoman Turks.  The crusade would include ground and naval forces from France, Burgundy, Hungary, Knights of St. John, the German Empire, Italian city-states, Byzantine Empire, and various other Christian states.  The crusade ended at the Battle of Nikopol, where the Ottomans soundly defeated the Crusaders, in September 1396.  The author stresses that, “the best Crusading army that western Christendom could muster had been utterly defeated in its first real battle” (p.123).  As a result, the Kingdom of Hungary was gravely weakened in its defense against the Turkish threat.  Fortunately, Bayezit I turned his attention away from Europe to the danger of Timur-i Lenk (Tamerlane) on the Asian front.  Timur had already overrun large parts of Russia, Iran, India, and Central Asia.  In 1400, Timur moved his army into Anatolia and northern Syria, capturing Damascus in 1401, and then outmaneuvering and defeating Bayezit I at the Battle of Ankara in 1402.  The Sultan was captured (and died in captivity) while the shattered Ottoman army fled to the west.  Timur ravaged Turkish lands to the Aegean Sea, capturing Izmir in 1402.  Nicolle points out that “the defeat . . . could have spelled the end of the Ottoman state, but the fact that it did not do so says a great deal for the inherent strength of early Ottoman government and military systems” (p.136).  Fortunately, Timur turned towards the goal of conquering Chinese territory.

The Ottoman Sultanate remained in turmoil for a number of years.  The Ottoman Empire experienced a series of civil wars between the four sons of Bayezit I for control of the Sultanate.  As a result, Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia threw off Ottoman control.  Eventually, in 1413, Mehmet I (Mehmed) (1413-21) emerged as the leader of the Ottomans.  Ottoman power would rise under the leadership of Mehmet I, his son Murat II (1421-44, 1446-51), and his son Mehmet II (1444-46, 1451-81).  The Ottomans regained the lost Balkan provinces by 1524, and forced Dubrovnik (Ragusa) to become a vassal state in 1430, followed by conquering Epirus and southern Albania in 1431-33.  The growth of Ottoman power resulted in King Wladislaw (Wladyslaw) III of Poland-Hungary launching a crusade against the Turks in 1443.  However, Murat II defeated the Crusaders at the Battle of Varna in 1444.  “Once again,” so declares Nicolle, “a victory against the biggest and best-equipped army that Western Christendom could send against them brought huge prestige to the Ottomans” (p.153).  Now the Turks forced Morea to become a vassal state, and then imposed direct rule over Bulgaria in 1446.  Shortly thereafter, in 1448, Janos Hunyadi, the Regent-Governor of Hungary, led a Hungarian-Wallachian invasion of Ottoman territory.  This time the Turkish army under Murat II defeated the invaders at the Second Battle of Kosovo.  The Turks now dominated the Balkan Region.

The youthful Mehmet II sought to conquer the fragmented remnants of the Byzantine Empire.  The main goal was the city of Constantinople, technically a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire, ruled by Constantine XI Palaiologos (1449-53).  The author points out that in “purely military terms the Byzantine Empire was now a very minor player in the events of south-eastern Europe” (p.176).  But Constantinople was protected by massive walls, a small army and navy, and held the strategic island of Imroz off the mouth of the Dardanelles.  Even so, the Ottomans had the advantages of a larger naval fleet, massive siege guns, and a large army against the Byzantines and their allies in the siege of Constantinople in 1453.  The actual siege lasted for fifty-four days before the Turks overran the city.  “The impact of the fall of Constantinople on the Byzantine world,” Nicolle writes, “was of course catastrophic and sent shock waves across Orthodox Christendom . . .” (p.217).

Mehmet II “the Conqueror” next turned towards Wallachia, Moldavia, and Greece, taking control of most of the Balkans by 1460.  All that was left to resist Turkish power in the region were Venetian enclaves around Greece and the Balkans, Venetian and Genoese outposts in the Aegean and Adriatic Seas, as well as Genoese outposts in the Crimea.  The Aegean and Black Seas, however, would become Ottoman lakes in the late fifteenth century, and the Venetian Republic and its overseas empire would continue its struggle against the Ottoman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean Region.  The Turks would raid into northeastern Italy in the late 1490s and soon be knocking on the door of the Kingdom of Hungary.

Nicolle’s Cross and Crescent in the Balkans: The Ottoman Conquest of South-Eastern Europe (14th-15th Centuries) is a good introduction to the early Ottoman Empire and the conquest of Southeast Europe.  It conveys the complex history of the region with its numerous fragmented states over several hundred years of history.  It is highly informative, but the author goes off track at times from the theme of the Ottoman’s conquest of Southeast Europe and the study almost becomes a general history of the region.  The book has a few typographical errors and mistakes, which the editor should have caught, resulting in frustration and confusion for the reader.  It also lacks notes citing the sources used.  Overall, however, this study is useful for general readers and undergraduate students.

Dr William Young
University of North Dakota

Posted in Book Reviews, Medieval Military History, Other military history, World Military History (1500-1700) | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

An interesting online publication

Posted by Daniel Sauerwein on April 10, 2010

Thanks to the Society for Military History website for making me aware of this online military history publication. A solid group of scholars, who organized as the Michigan War Studies Group created the Michigan War Studies Review, which, according to the announcement on the SMH website, is seeking contributors. I urge everyone to subscribe to this publication,which is free, and to tell others interested in military history about this site.

Cross posted at Doctoral Bliss

Posted in 20th Century Military History, American Military History, Ancient Military History, Conflict, Early Modern European (1494-1648), Early Modern European (1648-1792), General, Greek military history, Medieval Military History, Napoleonic Wars, Other military history, Roman military history, World Military History (1500-1700), World Military History (1700-1900), World War I, World War II | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »


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