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The Hundred Years War: Trial by Battle (The Middle Ages Series, Volume 1)

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0812216554
ISBN-10: 0812216555
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Frequently Bought Together

  • The Hundred Years War: Trial by Battle (The Middle Ages Series, Volume 1)
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  • The Hundred Years War, Volume 2: Trial by Fire (The Middle Ages Series)
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  • The Hundred Years War, Volume 3: Divided Houses (The Middle Ages Series)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In a balanced and seamless presentation, the origins and first decade of the Hundred Years' War unfold before the reader."—American Historical Review



"Without any doubt, this book immediately takes its place as the best available account of this phase of the war. . . . It is compulsively readable, in part the consequence of a lucid style and apt choice of detail, but mainly the result of a masterly overall grasp, acute judgment, fresh insight, and a compelling sense of immediacy that fully justifies the author's preference for a predominantly narrative approach. Throughout, there is a sense of a luminous intelligence working on the material."—History



"A rich book, filled with detail and incident, yet never losing a sense of the overall sweep of events."—Times Literary Supplement



"This will become a standard account of the War."—Choice



"A superb narrative history."—Military History

About the Author

A former history fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford, Jonathan Sumption is the author of The Hundred Years War, Volume 2: Trial by Fire, The Hundred Years War, Volume 3: Divided Houses, and The Hundred Years War, Volume 4: Cursed Kings, all available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Middle Ages Series (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (September 29, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812216555
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812216554
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #331,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Sumption's history of this sordid and bloody conflict will be the defining opus of this era. In this first volume of 600 pages he covers intimately all aspects of the war's first 10 years. He is mostly skilled at both the economic and diplomatic machinations of the conflict, emphasising how armies were fielded and then supported.
His scope is grand and he covers events as far away as Scotland, Flanders, Britany, and the Popes involvement from the Avignon palaces.
His strategic interpretation is superb, without equal. He has an ability to get into the head of participants and show their ultimate motivation in fighting. Why particular courses were decided upon are also fittingly reviewed; why a campaign in Flanders? Why get involved in Britany? How did England ultimately expand and prevail in Aquitaine when their foothold was so tenuous? Why were the French completely unable to exploint a fundamental postion of strength by working with their internal lines of communication? All of these questions are answered in good detail.
There are no real weaknesses in this work but there are a few things that readers should be prepared for:
1) Sumption is not writing a biography of any of the characters and although we understand a lot of their emotions in the heat of dimplomacy and battle, we hear little about the individual idiosyncracies of both Edward III and Philip VI. We learn almost nothing about their respective sons in this volume, which is amazing considering the future role they played.
2) Although this is a story of battle and slaughter, we are largely spared the details of the minutea of battle, who fought whom, the real intricacies of the weapons involved and the fate of those who were turned to bones.
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Format: Paperback
Trial By Battle is a magnificent achievement. Though daunting to look at, the 600+ page narrative sweeps by with the excitement and suspense of a great novel. Sumption fails to give any real background details (the marriage of a king will be mentioned in passing without so much as a clue as to his wife's name!). We learn nothing of castle construction, arms and armour, architecture, geography, or anything else of the spectacle of life in 14th century Europe. But the step-by-step analysis of the intricacies of medieval politics more than compensates, throwing the reader headlong into the meeting rooms of the royal courts. The narrative, for all its complexity, never ceases to be anything but fascinating. The reader is able to see all the seemingly small and random details, the mistakes and misunderstandings and mistimings, and how they build to create a situation in which all out war is the only option.

Trial by Battle isn't simply the best book I've read about The 100 Years War, but the best I've read about the challenges faced by the medieval politician, and the strategic maneuvering required to achieve an acceptable outcome. Brilliant.
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Format: Paperback
Reading about the Middle Ages is like treading upstream sometimes. Its so easy to get bogged down and lose your path and eventually your interest. A lot of times reading history is exactly like that.
This book is very good at keeping the story of this period on its path and is extremely, even remarkably, readable. I actually managed to get wrapped up in the story (which I've read many times already) the way one does with good novels. The author is obviously very familiar with the primary sources but he quotes from them with care and only when his point is well-made. Otherwise he tells the story in clear, simple language - amazing for any of us who study or write history! And he has a fine sense of when the chroniclers were playing to their audience's prejudices and when they probably were right on point. Its difficult to read about the early period of the wars between England and France without getting mired in the problems the various powers faced -- and continued to toil over every year -- like constant bankruptcy, local rebellion, personality disorders and prejudices, and so forth. The author gives you these things -- the Middle Ages would not be the Middle Ages without them -- but in the right doses to make the fuller picture clear, not lose it in the haze.
I have not yet read the sequel but I'm confident it is as well written. I would recommend these volumes to anyone interested in the Middle Ages period in Europe.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes, there was a Kindle edition which has somehow vanished from the Amazon catalogue. I cannot add to the excellent reviews of others on this book, except to note that the author buries the myth that medieval warfare had no concept of strategy. The campaigns in Gascony, Flanders and Britanny certainly prove this false. Each side was cognizent of the need to protect lines of supply. The French monarchy, perhaps more than the English realized the need to keep riverine lines of supply open. The great failure of both monarchies was in the economics of warfare; the English even more so. Neither state was able to finance the wars out of regular or even extraordinary revenues, and the English in particular wasted vast sums on useless subsidies to allies.

The maps of the Kindle edition were so clear that I was able to use them!
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