Anne Curry, The Hundred Years War (Osprey, 2023)
The Hundred Years War was the name given to the series of wars fought between England and France from c1337 to 1453. The bone of contention was the French crown, with Edward III officially declaring himself king in 1340. That set off a chain of events that changed the fortunes of both countries and therefore of Europe. It was also a complex war at all levels of society. What you will need to get started with your understanding of it all is a good overview. Who better than Anne Curry to provide it?
Curry begins with an era of relative peace between England and France from 1259 to 1328, but the seeds of conflict were already being sown over the tangled land claims across the Channel and fighting briefly broke out in 1294 and 1324. The year 1328 saw two new kings on the English and French thrones, and it was how they asserted their authority, argues Curry, that ignited the Hundred Years War. She analyses both those monarchies and their military capacities.
Tensions rose in 1336 and 1337 leading to an untidy start to the War. Curry moves on to the phases of the war; from 1337 to 1360, 1369 to 1399, 1399 to 1429, and 1429 to 1453. She narrates all the major events and developments, including the battles and sieges that typified mediaeval warfare and the list of characters that make this period so fascinating. Curry pauses in her narrative to consider the effects of war; the chevauchees (military expeditions designed to cause havoc, which they did); the severe damage caused to France at all levels, including the exploits of the routiers (lawless soldiers waging war on whoever got in their way); raids against England; the effects of war on English trade; and the increases in taxation on both sides of the Channel. Curry returns to her narrative to describe how the war ended with the English losing Normandy in 1450 and Gascony in 1453. Curry then sums up what it all meant for the course of Anglo-French history, and she adds a brief but useful further reading list.
If asked to recommend an introduction to the Hundred Years War, I would happily point to this book. Curry writes well and sticks admirably to her task; to provide a clear narrative of the War while introducing readers to the main themes – my only quibble is the lack of discussion on the Church and religion. She is ably supported by the usual excellent Osprey production of illustrations, and in particular, clear, coloured maps. All in all, Curry does justice to an important but complicated series of events conducted in a very different era to our own.