Concise coverage of the Hundred Years War without much discursive engagement.
The beginning of the book (pp. 5-106) provides an honest narrative of the...moreConcise coverage of the Hundred Years War without much discursive engagement.
The beginning of the book (pp. 5-106) provides an honest narrative of the lead up, course, and conclusion of the war, without unnecessary detail or conjecture (e.g., Contamine largely avoids any discussion of battles). Only in the conclusion (107-23) does he engage with much historic debate, or themes - but this are necessarily brief. This separation of narrative and themes follows the format of Contamine's major work, La Guerre au Moyen Âge (War in the Middle Ages, trans. Jones), but here there is only a two page bibliography.
This work should be read with Allmand's and Curry's more detailed and focused investigations of the Hundred Years War, as their narratives are far briefer and omit events that are more important to the French perspective of the war (e.g., English writings often skip over as quickly as possible the French victories in the second half of the war). It would have been nice if the work could have been more fleshed out, and with more sources, as Contamine's methodology is sounder than most, and no good, extensive work on the Hundred Years War exists to date.(less)
Saul’s book on English chivalry is severely hampered by its general sloppiness and lack of discourse. It is primarily a narrative and sweeps over exte...moreSaul’s book on English chivalry is severely hampered by its general sloppiness and lack of discourse. It is primarily a narrative and sweeps over extensive and deeply important debates related to its overall narrative, with hardly a hint at them. Additionally, Saul appears to have not read some of the primary sources which he discusses. For example, he says that Vegetius instructed devastation and the targeting of non-combatants to win wars. However, Vegetius never mentions anything except for training and how to win battles against other armies in defensive wars. A few times he mentions raids, but this from a poor choice of words in the most recent English translation, when the text means not raids against villages, but against the enemy army. It seems likely that Saul got the notion that Vegetius advocated this by reading some of the more outlandish articles in the Journal of Medieval Military History by B. S. Bachrach, et al. Also, Saul suggests that Fastolf’s Report encouraged consideration of moral chivalry, when comparing it to later writers, but fails to realize that Fastolf’s antiquated style of war, that of the chevauchée, caused non-combatants to suffer extensively - Saul does not engage with this problem.
This general lack of engagement with his primary sources, as well as a dependence on confident narrative, rather than analytical discourse, makes this book terribly deceptive. Although Saul focuses only on England, it would have been more honest, and useful, to compare ‘English’ chivalry, with continental varieties, to really explore, by comparison and contrast, what set chivalry in England apart. As it stands, the book might serve as a survey for undergraduates, but it is too densely written and poorly referenced (e.g., citing Barnie’s ‘War in Medieval Society’ as ‘Wart in Medieval Society’) to be standard. I recommend Taylor’s ‘Chivalry and the Ideals of Knighthood’, Kaeuper’s ‘Chivalry and Violence’, or Keen’s ‘Chivalry’ instead.(less)