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Trial by Fire by Jonathan Sumption

Trial by Fire (1999)

by Jonathan Sumption

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1814100,777 (4.31)2
Providing a realistic account of the Hundred Years War, Jonathan Sumption covers Edward III's domination of France and his continuous attempts to take the French throne. This volume covers the fall of Calais in 1347 to 1369. Originally published: 1999.



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This is the second volume of Sumpton's in-depth study of the English-French Conflict, round two. The writing is clear and he has worked hard to give us a picture of the large conflict. While I would rely on Froissart for colour, I'm very impressed by JS's level of analysis and grasp of the sources. This is very necessary luggage for your tour of the war, up to 1366. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jan 24, 2014 |
Part 2 of a narrative history of the 100 years war. Sumption superbly marshals his facts and thoughts to provide an exciting and readable account of this period of history. From the extensive references and bibliography supplied this has been a tremendous undertaking. it is a complicated history and Sumptions achievement here is to make some sense of it all.

It is however more than just a narrative history. Sumption is also able to some extent to leave the reader with an idea of how and why men thought and acted as they did. Portraits of the principle characters such as Edward III, The Black Prince, John II, Charles V, and the King of Navarre emerge from the narrative. There are insights into the rules of chivalry, which somehow existed at the same time as some of the most brutal hand to hand fighting and lack of respect for human life. There is also plenty of space given to the important battles and their aftermath: Poitiers, the capture of the French King, Najera, the great company's of 1360 and 1367 are all vividly brought to life. Plenty of maps with troop movements are supplied to enable one to follow the story

A major thread running through this period is the issue of financing an army and getting into a position to be effective. Logistical and supply problems more often than not were instrumental in the success or failure of a campaign and Sumption is able to provide much of these details and still keep the narrative flowing. The war of course spread to Scotland, Flanders, Spain, the Papal states and all this is coherently woven into the story.

My only slight quibble is that the proof reading could have been a bit better and Dax is not in the foothills of the Pyrenees. (My goodness I sound like a reviewer from the TLS)

On now to part 3 which I believe has recently been published. ( )
  baswood | Dec 24, 2010 |
Both of Jonathan Sumption's books are first rate. This first volume lays some context for the origins of the war, and takes us through the first decade of the conflict. The book ends with Crecy and the capture of Calais.

However, this is not strictly a military history, focusing instead on political, diplomatic, and economic forces that drove the conflict. After reading this, you'll understand why the war took 100 years to fight. ( )
  ksmyth | Oct 16, 2005 |
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To Bernard
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At most times, war has been the principal collective enterprise of mankind.
CHapter I
The Truce of Calais
Problems of Victory
The rain fell in England throughout the summer of 1348 as, amid a landscape of mud and flattened grain, men celebrated a decade of war and three years of victory.
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