HIST 204 Lecture Outline (Spring 2017 – Week 14)

Week 14: Tuesday



“Agincourt’s Dark Secrets: Battlefield Detectives” (47:39 min.; armor development: 19:35-24:30 min.; battlefield topography: 39:00-40:44; slaughter of prisoners: 44:30-47:30:)


“The Agincourt Carol” (celebrates the English victory at Agincourt in 1415; 1:49 min.):

“Henry V” (dir. and starring Kenneth Branagh, 1989): after the Battle of Agincourt, tally of the slain, and “Non nobis, domine” (5:54 min.):

Major tactics and technologies of medieval town and castle sieges included:

Besiegers’ tactics and technologies: Defenders’ corresponding tactics and technologies:
Blockade supplies to starve town (very slow and expensive) (1) Good provisioning & food rationing; (2) counter-attack or outside help to break blockade
Scaling ladders (1) Moat; (2) man walls to repel scaler
Siege towers (1) Moat; (2) fire arrows or other burning missiles
Siege engines (especially trebuchets) Destroy siege engines by sortie or by rival stone-throwing engines
Mines (1) Moat; (2) countermine
Battering rams (against gates) (1) Moat; (2) drop rocks or boiling liquids on ram and crew; (3) shoot crew with longbows or crossbows
Cannon (beginning later 14 C.) Destroy cannon and kill gunners by sortie or by rival cannon
Negotiation and threats (e.g., “Surrender now or face dreadful sack”) Counter-negotiation(e.g., “If no relief arrives within 40 days, we will surrender peacefully”)

Click here to see photos of the 172 English longbows and more than 2300 arrows recovered from the wreck (1545) of Henry VIII’s ship, the Mary Rose. Click here for some descriptive details. Most of the bows and arrows were of poplar. The bows were mostly 6′ 6″ to 7′ long, and had a draw of about 80-130 pounds.

Click here to see a diagram of a crossbow

1337-1453 Hundred Years’ War between England and France:

1346, 1356 English victories at Crécy and Poitiers (at latter, French king is captured)
1347-1349 Black Death
1358 Jacquerie rebellion (France)
1381 Peasants’ Revolt (England)
1415 Henry V defeats French at Agincourt; marries French princess and is declared heir to French crown
1422 Charles VI of France and Henry V of England die, and war resumes

Joan of Arc, visionary peasant girl from Lorraine, turns tide of war to France and gets Charles VII crowned; is captured by Burgundians, sold to English, tried at Rouen (capital of English-held Normandy) by French churchmen, insists on authenticity of her religious visions, and is burnt for heresy.

(Click here to read a letter sent by Joan to the English generals, ordering them to leave France or be slaughtered. Click here for a contemporary sketch of Joan, made in 1429 by a court clerk in the margins of the rolls of the Parlement of Paris.)

1453 Fall of Constantinople to Ottoman Turks; end of Hundred Years’ War
1455-1485 War of the Roses in England (dynastic war between houses of Lancaster and York) ends with victory at Bosworth field by Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (becomes King Henry VII, Lancastrian) over King Richard III (Yorkist)

Parliamentary developments:

In England, Parliament is divided into two houses, Lords (peers and prelates) and Commons (shire knights and burgesses). Lords develop into royal advisory body on policy and high court of appeal; Commons gain right to approve or veto new taxes and use fiscal control to gain broader legislative powers.

In France, the Estates-General briefly secure shared power in 1357 (through the Great Ordinance) from the Dauphin Charles (shown here with Etienne Marcel), but this ends in 1358 with the suppression of the Jacquerie rebellion

Fifteenth century sees development of absolutist rulers throughout Europe:

(Click here for maps of Europe c. 1400 and c. 1500)

  • Italy remains divided into 5 main powers: Kingdom of Naples, Papal States, Duchy of Milan, and Republics of Venice and Florence, all ruled by autocrats (or, in Venice, oligarchs)
  • Holy Roman Empire remains fragmented into numerous principalities, free cities, etc., but in the 15th century the Hapsburg emperors, through judicious marriages, gain great wealth and territories, and thus power

Some aspects of developing absolutism:

  • Legal concept, derived from Justinian’s 6th-cent. Corpus Juris Civilis, that “the will of the prince has the force of law” (tacitly rejected in England since Magna Carta, 1215)
  • Suppression or erosion of representative assemblies (rejected in England by development of strong Parliament)
  • Development of standing army and professional administrative bureaucracy (especially staffed by lawyers)
  • Suppression or erosion of aristocratic power, or of any other domestic rival power



Steeleye Span, “The Boar’s Head Carol” (English Christmas carol, 15th cent.?, 3:56 min.):

“Lullay lullow” (English, from a manuscript of c. 1475, 2:14 min.):


Map of France in 1415 (including site of Joan of Arc’s birthplace in Domrémy)

Map of France in 1429

Joan of Arc’s birthplace in Domrémy

Medieval poleaxe

Online readings:

Jean Froissart, Chronicle: An English knight is felled by a Parisian butcher; the Jacquerie in France, 1358; and the origins of the English Peasants’ Revolt, 1381

Journal of a Bourgeois of Paris, 1405-1449: pp. 145-7: War, 1419; pp. 233-4, 240-2, 249, 253-4, 260-5: Joan of Arc, 1429-31

The trial of Joan of Arc, 1431

Battle injuries: skeletons from the battles of Visby, Gotland (a Baltic island), 1361 (mass grave, burial with mail coif, and skull), and Towton, England, 1461 (photo and drawing of skulls)