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Carpe Librum

Bookish conversation with author Samantha Wilcoxson.


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Historical Novel Society

Agincourt (week 2)

Today I completed the second and final installment of the FutureLearn Agincourt course. The first class covered Henry V's preparation for battle and transporting his vast entourage across the Channel. This one described the actions of the English forces once they arrived in France.


Anne Curry, who has published several books that cover different aspects of the Hundred Years War, was the lead instructor for this course. This week she described the movement of the troops near Agincourt, discussing myth, reality, and details that can never be known for sure. 


The use of gunpowder in the 15th century was discussed, as well as the forging of medieval guns and when and where they were used. We don't hear much about guns, more like cannons in this case, in wars of this era because their use was limited to sieges where it made sense to bring in the unwieldy weapons. They were not used on the battlefield.


The English effectively used these siege weapons at the Harfleur in Henry's first victory of the campaign. From there they followed an indirect route that would take them to their own territory at Calais. After a lengthy detour at the River Somme to avoid French resistance, the English faced a large French force near Agincourt.


Curry described the battle movements with interactive maps that enable one to envision the action. She points out issues that historians are not able to solve for, a major one being doubts regarding the exact location of the battlefield. 


Many factors are attributed with credit for Henry's victory at Agincourt. Of course, there is the famous English longbow & mud, but there is also the French troops lack of organization, pay, and leadership on the field. Englishmen were fighting for their monarch, the French troops may have been on home ground but their king was not present.


After the victory, many French prisoners were executed, a move that was not unprecedented in medieval warfare but seems unnecessarily harsh to modern readers. He followed this up with a triumphant entry into London, specially designed to give the veneer of glory to a campaign that had fizzled out early despite the Agincourt victory.


And that is that. Anyone who would like to learn more was unsurprisingly directed toward Curry's books and several other resources.