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The Hundred Years' War

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The Hundred Years' War began in May, 1337. It was a series of wars in Europe. France and England had been old enemies. The war was started for many reasons.

The first reason is that King Phillip VI tried to seize the English territories in the duchy of Aquitaine. England tried to take the French throne. The second reason is that because of their historical feudal orders, France and England broke away from one another (Allmand 7). The third reason was The Battle for Flanders. Flanders was the industrial center of northern Europe. It had become very prosperous through its cloth manufacture. To satisfy its market, it needed more wool. So they imported fine fleece from England. England depended upon this trade for its foreign exchange. The upper-class English had adopted Norman fashions and switched from beer to wine during the 1200s.

Note that beer and wine were very important elements in the medieval diet. Both contain vitamin and yeast complexes that the medieval diet, especially during the winter, did not provide. Besides, the preservation of food was a difficult matter in that era, and the alcohol in beer and wine represented a large number of calories stored in an inexpensive and effective fashion. People did get drunk during the middle ages, but most could not afford to do so. Beer and wine were valued as food sources and were priced accordingly (Lynn Harry Nelson, The Hundred Years' War 1336-1565)

England had a dilemma. They could not grow grapes to manufacture the wine that many of the English now wanted. So, they had to import it. A triangular trade took place. In this trade, English fleece was exchanged for Flemish cloth. The Flemish cloth was traded with southern France and exchanged for wine. The wine was then shipped into England and Ireland (Allmand 40)

The French attempted to get back control of the region in order to manage its riches. The English could not allow this because it would suggest that the French ruler would have control over their most important source of foreign exchange. A civil war happened in Flanders. The English supported the manufacturing middle class, and the French supported the land-owning nobility.

The second possible cause of the Hundred Years' War was the struggle for control of France. The English king controlled a large amount of France, mainly in the abundant South. When Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was the heiress to the region, married Henry II of England in the mid-12th century, these lands came under control of France. The French and English were constantly fighting. An English invasion from the South was always a fear to the French kings (Lynn Harry Nelson, The Hundred Years' War 1336-1565).

The third cause of the Hundred Years' War was the "Auld Alliance." The French responded to the English by allying with the Scots. They had an arrangement that continued into the 18th century. As a result, the English confronted the French from the south, and the Scots from the north. ( Moment in Time Archives: The 100 Years War - Part I Causes)

The fourth cause of the Hundred Years' War was the Dynastic Conflict. In 1328, the last son of King Philip IV died. This ended the direct male line of the Capetians, but Philip had a daughter, Isabelle. She had married King Edward II of England. King Edward III was their son. Therefore, through Philip's daughter, he was Philip's grandson and heir. The thought of Edward becoming King of France angered the French. The French brought up the Salic Law, "which stated that property (including the throne) could not descend through a female." Then, the French gave the crown to Philip of Valois. He was a nephew of Philip IV. However, if Edward III wished to claim the throne, he would be able to (Seward 10)

The fifth cause of the Hundred Years' War was an aggressive spirit in England. France had the largest population in Western Europe. They were also the wealthiest. But, England had a sturdy central government, a prosperous economy, and a well-liked king. Edward was willing to fight France. His subjects were ready to support their king. (Brooks 9)

The Hundred Years' War broke out in 1340. The French had pulled together a large fleet to support an army. They used the army to defeat all opposition in Flanders. The English attacked and were victorious. They English gained control of the Channel and North Sea, and were protected from French invasion. They could attack France whenever they wanted to.

In 1345, Edward attacked northern France. The "Black Death" had arrived. His army was weakened by illness. The French tried to push them into a battle as the English carefully tried to make its way to equipped Channel port. The English were trapped on the coast by a greater French army at Crecy. Edward's army was a joint force. It included archers, pikemen, light infantry, and cavalry. The French held on to their traditional feudal cavalry. The English used the longbow. It was a weapon with great piercing power. It could sometimes kill unbreakable knights, and frequently the horses they rode on. For the French, the battle was a catastrophe. The English took place on the top of a hill. The French attempted to go up the hill to get at their enemies. The climb made the French horses tired. This gave the English a chance to cause chaos



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