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Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England Hardcover – June 14, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; First Thus edition (June 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316015032
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316015035
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #451,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Barker, a British biographer (The Brontës) and accomplished medievalist, brings an excellent synergy of academic and literary skills to this study of the 1415 British campaign in France and the battle that was its climax, around which she elaborately reconstructs the conflict's antecedents. Henry V spent years preparing the ground: asserting initially shaky authority in England, exploiting domestic strife in France and isolating the disorganized kingdom from its traditional allies. During the campaign itself, a train of artillery manned by foreign gunners supplemented the men-at-arms and the longbowmen, who were the British army's real backbone. But the French were not the vainglorious incompetents of English legend and Shakespearean drama. Many in northern France made a brave effort, often putting aside personal and political differences to stand together at Agincourt, where they came closer to success than is generally realized. Barker shows that the battle hung by a thread: French numbers against English desperation, with courage a common virtue. She also illustrates how Agincourt was decisive—not only for its consequences in France. An English defeat would have meant chaos, perhaps civil war. Destiny on both sides of the Channel turned on the outcome of St. Crispin's Day. (June 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

The Battle of Agincourt of 1415 has endured in popular awareness on the strength of Shakespeare's Henry the Fifth. The historical Henry V bears scant resemblance to Falstaff's royal drinking buddy: in Barker's lushly detailed account, Henry V was a pious warrior, an able administrator, and an aggressive diplomat. Barker dwells extensively on Henry's rapid intensification, after ascending to the throne in 1413, of the Hundred Years' War, the English attempt to control the crown and territory of France. As a result, her emphasis on the organization of the campaign that culminated at Agincourt delivers a superb description of how a medieval military force was raised. Founded on feudal precepts of lord-and-vassal obligation, Henry's army and that of France were personalistic, a trait Barker turns to positive advantage in portraying the combatants. From longbow men to men-at-arms, Barker successfully individuates the Agincourt battle so that readers perceive actual people, not just a melee of thousands, engaging in the battle. With fluency and empathy, Barker delivers a superior performance that should capture avid history readers. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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The book proves to be well written, well research and very readable.
lordhoot
Those who are unfamiliar with this process, as I was, will be very impressed by the sophistication of the methods used.
Charles Miller
It's a fascinating book which Barker has thoroughly researched in order to give a comprehensive context.
Paul Carleton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on June 13, 2006
Format: Hardcover
On October 25, 1415, English King Henry V stood facing a French army that outnumbered his six thousand men by as much as five to one. The campaign that would culminate on the field in northern France in proximity to a castle known as Agincourt had started with an English invasion of France and the capture six weeks earlier of Harfleur, the highly valued strategic port in Normandy.

Henry was exercising what he deemed his god-given right to recapture the lands of northern France that were lawfully his by hereditary claim.

In Agincourt, author Juliet Baker has done yeoman's work in researching the historical record of French and English archives, and previous texts written by eyewitnesses and contemporaries of the time. The book is divided into three main parts detailing what circumstances lead the young English King to his expedition; what took place once the fleet had landed, including the siege of Harlfleur; and the confrontation at Agincourt.

Lastly Barker details the battle's aftermath and the serious impact the loss of an entire class of French nobility had on the French people and the English dominance of the region.

The account of the battle has been told many times, but with recent forensic studies and technologies available, the true impact of this disastrous loss by the French finally becomes known.

Chivalry was at its height. This dictated that the initial waves of the French attack were composed primarily of nearly every noble Prince, Duke, Baron and Knights from northern France. As is well known, the use of the deadliest of medieval weapons--the English longbow--has been given as the main deciding factor for the wholesale slaughter which the French suffered in a few hours time on the battlefield..
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Paul Carleton on August 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've been interested in Agincourt from high-school medieval history when we were told, tho' not quite accurately, how Englishmen with their longbows, eventho' greatly outnumbered, defeated the French armored knights and changed the practice of warfare. Then forty-some years later, I saw Branagh's 1989 film of Shakespeare's Henry V and was stirred by the king's Crispin's day speech the morning of the battle. So I ordered Barker's book before it was released in the US and when it arrived, first read Chapters 14 & 15 about the battle itself, then Chapters 9 thru 18 about the whole campaign and its aftermath, and finally Part I `The Road to Agincourt'. But rather than impulsively reading about the battle first, I'd now recommend reading the book from the beginning to understand the battle's background.

It's a fascinating book which Barker has thoroughly researched in order to give a comprehensive context. But she gives more details than I wanted to know about many of the players, their names and lineages, including many of those killed in the battle. I found it confusing trying to follow who was supporting, opposing or betraying whom, since I'm not intimately familiar with the geography and aristocracy of England and France (the book was first published in England). What it illustrates was the medieval mentality regarding land and nobility which wouldn't begin to change until 260 years later when in America it was proclaimed "... that all men are created equal ..." It also portrays their unquestioned belief in God's Providence which for many today still hasn't changed.

On the other hand, she also explained many interesting details about the preparations for the campaign and contemporary technology.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By ScipioColumbus on July 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
A beautiful narrative overview of Henry V and Agincourt. Highly readable and very informative. Enough detail to bring this era to life for those with little background in it, yet not overwhelming in terms of detail. The author does a wonderful job bringing many of the important personalities to life.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Charles Miller on August 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Juliet Barker has written an excellent account of Henry V's campaign against Charles VI of France to recover Henry's French dominions. This campaign, part of the Hundred Years War, had most of the elements of previous battles in that conflict: French knights arrayed in mail and armor plate along with supporting crossbowmen versus English knights, similarly equipped, but supported by archers using the English yew longbow. As in previous English victories, it was the longbow, with its rapid rate of fire that proved the margin of victory. A really surprising element is the similarity between Agincourt and Crecy, fought many years earlier. It seems the French had learned little in the intervening years.

Barker describes the arms and tactics used in detail. She explains why the longbow was so formidable, as well as why only the English, among all the countries of medieval Europe, mastered and deployed it.

Although I have read many books on medieval history and battles, I had little idea of the logistics required to field an army in a foreign campaign. Barker lays out the details of the provision of food, weapons, and the all-important arrows. She also covers the contracting process whereby groups of men-at-arms and archers were supplied by independent leaders. Those who are unfamiliar with this process, as I was, will be very impressed by the sophistication of the methods used.

If you want enlightening history that reads almost like a page-turner novel, then this is the book for you.
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