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Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the…

Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle (2005)

by Juliet Barker

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7841718,173 (4.08)26
"Two armies face off across a sodden plateau in northeastern France, each waiting for the other to make the first move. On one side are the English, suffering from dysentery and starvation, their numbers devastated. Arrayed against them is a rested and well-fed French army, a sea of burnished armor and menacing weaponry primed to slaughter the foolish invaders. Nevertheless, the charismatic and brilliant English king, twenty-eight-year-old Henry V, defies conventional military wisdom and leads his "band of brothers" forward. His troops are outnumbered six to one." "What follows is one of the most remarkable battles in history, celebrated for almost six centuries as the classic triumph of the underdog in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Immortalized by Shakespeare and by contemporary historians, the battle of Agincourt has been embellished and edited by the quill of unbridled nationalism. Now, drawing on a wide range of primary sources and original research, medievalist Juliet Barker casts aside the myth and shows us the truth behind Henry's invasion of France and the showdown at Agincourt. She paints a narrative of the entire campaign, from the preparations to the reaping of the spoils. We are there in the English camps as common men struggle to secure buckles and laces with numb fingers; in the French front lines as petulant noblemen squabble over positions in the vanguard; and in the deep mud as heavily armed knights stumble and struggle under a barrage of arrows so thick and fast that it darkens the skies." "Barker also takes us beyond the battlefield to bring into focus the dynamics of medieval life in peace and war. We meet ordinary and extraordinary people such as Margaret Merssh, a female blacksmith who forges arms in the Tower of London; Lord Grey of Codnor, who pawns his own armor to pay his soldiers' wages; and Raoul de Gaucourt, the gallant French knight who surrenders himself into English custody simply because the code of chivalry compels him to do so."--BOOK JACKET. Also includes information on archers, armour, chivalry, coats of arms, gunpowder, heralds, horses, knights, men at arms, prisoners, ships, tournaments, Tower of London, wine, women, etc.… (more)



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» See also 26 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
This was another of my 'essay reads' which has sat on my shelf for years but only started when needed for an assignment. I have not yet read the book in its entirety , but I am already engrossed. What I like best about this book is the way the author devotes as much attention to the background and planning stages of the campaign, as the battle and campaign in France itself. Chapters entitled 'The Diplomatic Effort' and 'Scots and Plots' reveal the broader political situation in Britain and France during Henry's reign and role of diplomacy and sometimes simple scheming in the years before the battle. One chapter in particular 'A King's apprenticeship' explores the early career of King Henry as well as some of the events and figures which influenced, formed and shaped his character, views, attitudes and motivations.

The view of Henry presented here is a decidedly sympathetic (and sometimes apologetic) one, but considering how Henry has been vilified by some recent historians, this does not seem entirely unjustified-and Barker is not entirely uncritical King Henry. Perhaps the analysis of Henry's actions in the context of his situation, environment and time period is necessary to a more objective appreciation of his actions and reign.
As much as Medieval notions of just war, or wars of conquest may be unpalatable or unappealing to modern sensibilities, it does seem important to appreciate such things as common or normative for this time period, as well as understanding the different way in which Medieval people might have viewed them. If the author of Agincourt can go some way towards doing this, I have no issue with it.

Alongside 'Good King Harry' many other figures come to play , great and small, peasants and nobles, French and English. Whilst mentioning or exploring some aspect of their roles or important actions these figures are 'fleshed out' to gave some fascinating insights into the workings of 15th century politics and society as well as glimpses of the wider Medieval world in which those who went to Agincourt lived.
One of the most fascinating biographies was that of Henry V's surgeon, Thomas Bradmore, which provided some intriguing insights into his profession during this period, and the account of an operation performed on the young Prince Henry appears to cast doubt on notions about the ineffectiveness and inadequacy of Medieval medicine.

So readers of 'Agincourt' will learn about nobles, princes and Kings, about the intrigue, posturing and the workings of Medieval power politics, but coloring the narrative are surgeons, archers, and clergymen- the more humble and ordinary folk who played some part in the famous campaign and battle. ( )
  Medievalgirl | Oct 4, 2016 |
Detailed and well written account of the whole campaign around this most famous battle and its aftermath. The battle itself is only one 25 page chapter out of a nearly 400 page book, but the narrative sequence of the part of the book of which it forms part is exciting and examines all the key issues about battle tactics, the broader political and military background, numbers of participants killed or captured, etc. without digressing seriously from that narrative flow. The personalities on both sides and their motivations are also examined in some depth, allowing the reader to understand fully that these people operated 600 years ago with a very different set of assumptions about morality and justice than we have and that we cannot simply transfer our understanding of these issues onto them to judge their conduct. A very good book with some excellent photos and useful family trees, but strangely no map of the battlefield, an odd omission for which I must dock it half a point. ( )
  john257hopper | Oct 31, 2015 |
♥ ♥ ♥

Clear and fast-paced and well-written, with excellent endnotes and structure. Barker clearly has a massive crush on Henry V, and she justifies it. ( )
  cricketbats | Mar 30, 2013 |
After reading historical fiction novel of the same name by Bernard Cornwell, I felt it prudent to learn the true story and events of the amazing battle that took place in 1415. This answered every question I had, and all of the ones I never thought to ask. I was absolutely amazed by the detail and intricacies of medieval life, chivalry, and combat. It is filled with astounding anecdotes of the lives of the men who were prominent and immortalized and those whose names have been lost to time. I highly recommend this to anyone for a great read on medieval military and combat! ( )
1 vote motortmech | Apr 2, 2012 |
Henry V is one of my heroes (largely - okay, more like exclusively - based on Shakespeare's plays), so of course I had to read this book! It tells the history of the battle, from the preparatory material (i.e. situations in France and England at the time, the nature of the quarrel, etc.) to the long-term outcomes for both sides. Especially interesting was the way Barker engaged with some of the legendary material (including Shakespeare), corroborating certain aspects and debunking others. The history is solid, and the narrative is thorough and interesting. Highly recommended for history buffs.
1 vote christina_reads | Apr 29, 2010 |
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For Maurice Hugh Keen

Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford
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The last lines that Henry V sent to Charles VI of France before he launched the Agincourt campaign was an ultimatum.
"...as you know the fortunes of war vary: but if you desire a good outcome, you must keep your courage intact." - Henry V
"...because as you will know, we, with God's help, are about to go overseas to recover and regain the inheritances and just rights of our crown which, as everyone agrees, have long been unjustly withheld..." - Henry V
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2015 edition includes "Preface to the 2015 Edition" by Juliet Barker, and "Introduction by Bernard Cornwell"
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