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Conquest: The English Kingdom of France, 1417-1450 Hardcover – February 27, 2012

4 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Juliet Barker's new book is a magnificently readable account of the last four decades of [the Hundred Years' War] … I thought Agincourt was a superb book, but Conquest is even better. Once upon a time there was an English kingdom in France and Juliet Barker has brought it to extraordinary life. (Bernard Cornwell, Mail on Sunday)

The story is worth telling and Barker tells it superbly well. Her judgements are shrewd. Her understanding of the complex politics of the period is impressive. She writes in a spare, elegant style … There was a need for a good history of the failed enterprises of the English. Juliet Barker's book supplies it handsomely. (Jonathan Sumption, Literary Review)

This is a tale of warlords and ruthless killers ... the ideals of chivalry were left in the mud at Agincourt and this book is inevitably darker in tone than its predecessor. Still, a baffling, tragic and wasteful episode has now been turned into military history of a high order. For England and Saint George! (Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday)

The story of how Henry V swept all before him, how his relatives under the infant Henry VI bickered over his conquests, how Joan of Arc rallied the French and how Charles VII won his country back, makes for engrossing reading. (Andrew Holgate, The Year's Best History Books, Sunday Times)

Juliet Barker takes the story to 1450 in her compelling Conquest: The English Kingdom of France … which tells how England threw away Henry's legacy in a sorry tale of lost battles, political bickering and financial mismanagement. Plus ça change, indeed. (Dominic Sandbrook, History Books of the Year, Daily Telegraph)

England's little-studied conquest of France during the Hundred Years War is absorbingly recounted by Barker...With her crisp storytelling and meticulous historical research, Barker vividly narrates a tale of political intrigue and military strategy that reveals power-hungry English kings and the fierce defense of France by one of its most famous heroines. (Publishers Weekly 2011-12-12)

Barker delves deeply into the world of the mentally disturbed Henry VI of England, the indecisive French dauphin who would become Charles VII, and the saintly Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc. She has produced a first-rate, fluid account of this little-understood period in European history. (Brian Odom Library Journal 2012-02-01)

Barker weaves strands of contemporary evidence into a fluent account of a complex but fascinating era. There is a steady succession of treaties, marriages, murders, massacres, famines, sieges, battles and skirmishes, but Barker has an eye for the kind of detail that can illuminate the mindset of the long-dead. (Stephen Brumwell Wall Street Journal 2012-03-07)

[A] lucid guide to this very complicated period...Barker's narrative combines high drama and low humor. It could be argued that both the origin and end of the English Kingdom of France was a dynastic comedy of errors...Barker is both learned and lucid in bringing alive the characters, the struggle and the ultimate futility of it all. (Aram Bakshian, Jr. Washington Times 2012-06-08)

Barker weaves together the threads of an extremely complicated story, involving infighting among English notables for positions in France, the major roles of Burgundians (creating essentially a French civil war) and Scots in the fighting, and the double-dealing of many French leaders. The continuous fighting caused enormous destruction and population loss, especially in Normandy, and very few participants gained honor in the struggle, although Charles VII comes across here as a more effective leader than how he is usually portrayed. Highly detailed with valuable information on the huge human and financial resources England invested during the war's final decades, the book is nonetheless engaging and well written. (F. J. Baumgartner Choice 2012-08-01)

About the Author

Juliet Barker is one of Britain's most distinguished literary biographers and medievalists and author of Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (February 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674065603
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674065604
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,067,628 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As I am not an historian of the Hundred Years' War, I am not qualified to comment on Barker's scholarship, and thus will be reviewing this book as something I merely picked up to read for pleasure.

Barker's 'Conquest' tells the story, primarily from the English perspective, of the establishment of the English kingdom of France by Henry V following the Battle of Agincourt to its eventual fall. The narrative is easy to read and yet fairly well-referenced. The chapters tend to be rather short (12-15 pages) so the book can be read in little snippets, which helps keep the rather huge cast of characters in order. While the narrative is typically engaging and I did learn a lot, there are a few minor problems with this book. The first is that a lot of the latter half really drags. Barker noted early on that there was no good narrative history of the latter half of the Hundred Years' War and I can see why. After Joan of Arc the excitement dies down to little more than castle trading until eventually the Truce of Tours falls apart and the kingdom falls. Unfortunately, this leaves a roughly 150-page slog in the middle on the work that is likely to bore many readers. I don't believe that this is Barker's fault, but rather the material that she had to work with and the desire to write a complete narrative history of the English kingdom instead of just the exciting bits. Barker's characters are occasionally rather unbelievable. Henry V is nearly a saint according to this book (except for that little incident at Caen) and the Duke of Bedford is similarly portrayed in a glowing light.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I purchased and read this book based on the positive review it received in the "Wall Street Journal." It is in fact well written. There are only two, birds-eye view maps at the front of the book. That's a major problem for a book that covers so much ground as this one does. Dozens and dozens of places and military movements are mentioned in the book, and the reader has no conception of where they are or what's happening. Most Americans are not familiar with the many French towns in question. As another reviewer noted, the author mentions numerous times towns that are not on the two skimpy maps that are provided.

Five stars, minus one star for the inexcusable lack of maps.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A solid historical narrative. I can't really disagree with the other reviewers. It's about as complete as a one-volume history can, or should, be. Barker covers the period in a manner that combines history's broad narrative, and yet fleshes it out with enough detail and anecdotes to give the reader a sense of the times. Clearly, Barker has spent some serious time going through archives and other available material. The effort was well worth it given the amount of information she has amassed, but...

"Conquest" can be a slog. Barker's style is very workmanlike. Facts are presented clearly, but even the specifics lack the color that usually plants them solidly in a casual reader's mind. It often has the feel of piling detail upon detail because Barker uncovered them, not because they advance a story, hold a narrative together, or capture a reader's attention. By the middle of the book--which I read for "fun"--I really couldn't wait for it be over so I could move on to something else. (Yes, I read narrative history for fun.)

The lack of maps, which another reviewer mentioned, is inexcusable. As I recall, Agincourt suffered from the same problem and reviewers drew attention to it then.

At the end of the day, I'd recommend this book to anyone studying medieval English history. It covers a very dynamic period which non-professional historians gloss over. Barker has a done a fine job of laying out events and "Conquest" will likely reward anyone fascinated with the period or eager to find out what happened in the decades after Henry V died. But, I wouldn't recommend it for casual readers.
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Format: Hardcover
Views on “Conquest: The English Kingdom of France in the Hundred Years War” have been much more mixed, although still mostly very favourable, that those expressed about the author’s other book on Azincourt. Depending upon their respective perceptions and backgrounds, reviewers has found this book “better than”, “as good as” or “not as good” as Juliet Barker’s volume on Azincourt.

As some reviewers have hinted at, the two books are only comparable to the extent that the “Conquest: English Kingdom of France” follows in the footsteps of “Azincourt”. Apart from this, there are two very different exercises, with “Conquest” being much more difficult to deliver successfully than “Azincourt”. While “Azincourt” is about a single campaign culminating in the crushing, spectacular and largely unexpected victory of one main character (King Henry V), “Conquest” covers over thirty years of conflict, with dozens of characters and events spread over two generations, complex and shifting political and military alliances between the main players, and the increasingly important roles played by morale and money as the gruelling conflict dragged on year after year.

The whole book is about much more than its title - “Conquest” – implies. It’s more accurately about the “rise and fall” of “the English Kingdom of France”. However, it is not quite about the last part of the Hundreds Years War either, because the loss of English Aquitaine and the last battles to defend it are only covered as part of the conclusion.
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