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War in the Middle Ages by Philippe Contamine
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War in the Middle Ages (1980)

by Philippe Contamine

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253271,816 (3.83)4
Covering the ten centuries following the fall of Rome, War in theMiddle Ages engages all aspects of its subject, including themilitary customs and conditions of the various Western Europeanstates; armor and weaponry recruitment; and rules of combatdeveloped to limit bloodshed. Philippe Contamine writes with an awareness that, in both theoryand fact, medieval warfare was constantly evolving. He opens with achapter on Roman military disintegration and the practice ofwarfare in the barbarian kingdoms erected on the empire's ruins. Hethen shows how feudalization multiplied conflicts, and describesthe resulting growth of the "great stone civilization" of thecastle. In the area of military method, he emphasizes threeinnovations: gunpowder, standing armies and the increased use ofinfantry, supplying in each case a wealth of data anddocumentation. Contamine traces the rise of a new literature of strategy andchanges in the concept of courage which he puts in the context ofactual risk. He points out that the chivalric ideals of the laterMiddle Ages operated within narrow limits, outside whicharistocrats and commoners freely slaughtered each other. Contaminealso analyzes the theories of just and unjust war that developed atthis time, and illustrates a phenomenon more typical of the period;the religious glorification of the warrior. Ever mindful of the chaos and devastation that war brings, Warin the Middle Ages nonetheless offers a clear and consistentpicture of the military ethos of a millennium.… (more)

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"War in the Middle Ages" by Philippe Contamine seemed, to me, to take a very long time to read. Many books possess this trait and more times than not this can be construed as a negative. I found myself wishing that it would go a bit quicker at some times, other times I enjoyed the pace. Being such a comprehensive work, it covers nearly all aspects of warfare during this period and will certainly illuminate the reader's interest level in the different fields of the subject.
I found the first two chapters of the book, the Barbarian period and overview of the beginning of the fuedal era respectively, a bit dry and ponderous to read.
The book picks up a bit from that point on and I found myself slowly enjoying it more and more. This is a very thorough exploration of the subject and Mr. Contamine touches on nearly every facet of the period. He is a tad slim on some of the more technical aspects, the down to earth details on arms and armour, which is something that I would have enjoyed, but in a work of this size it was probably space prohibitive to delve into that subject too intensely.
This is overall a fine book for the student or historian. I found it to be very informative and generally useful. He does skip around a lot, both geographically and in his timeline but it does not prove to be a huge obstacle. He is un-biased and approaches several controversial subjects with a critical eye and really allows the reader to make up their own mind. I recommend it, but only for those with a seasoned knowledge or interest in this fascinating period. ( )
  Poleaxe | Aug 13, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Contamine, PhilippeAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, MichaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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With the invasion of the Germanic peoples between the fourth and sixth centuries, followed by the foundation of Barbarian kingdoms, new forms of political power and institutions were created, society was organized in a new way and new values were recognized and experienced.
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