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The Hundred Years War - England and France - 1337-1453

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Kayla Roddy

HS 111

Professor Calise

22 November 2013

Essay Option 1: The Hundred Years War

        The Hundred Years War is the longest war in history, lasting on and off from 1337-1453. This extremely pivotal war was a major dispute between England and France. Factors that led to and promoted the war were, the English colony of Gascony, economic disputes over Flanders, and succession to the French throne. Control over the French thrown complicated the rivalry with the death of Charles IV, who died without a male heir. Edward III, the kind of England, should have been the next king of France with his mother’s ties to Charles IV. Instead, Phillip VI gained control over the thrown and thus additional tension was created. The many battles of this war brought about numerous new inventions and discoveries.  Many leaders and historical people were involved and aided with many of the defining moments that occurred. If the outcome of the war were different, today’s world would very different as well. The Hundred years war played a fundamental part in the foundation of England and France as nation states.1

        The first battle, where the French and English actually met, England turned out to be victorious. In the Battle of Crecy in 1346, England instilled a new weapon, the longbow, which allowed them to take out large numbers of their opponents. The development of infantry and weaponry deemed this war as a military revolution.1 Starting off, the odds were against the French. England had a much larger army, with large numbers of professional soldiers. This allowed England to take control early on, but the control would not last for the entire length of the war. Because of Richard II’s inadequate leadership skills, the French had the opportunity to take back their territories and the war was then put on hold. Richard II was not a strong leader and had to deal with peasant revolts, and soon became unpopular.

        After the events with Richard II, Henry V continues the war and goes on to win the battle of Agincourt in 1415. The French had a terrible time with this battle because of the weather and the complications with their armor. Their metal armor stuck to the mud, and soon the French were trampling their own men. After several defeats, the infamous leader Joan of Arc makes her way to help the French ultimately win the war. This unique and very religious figure was given an army after persuading the French King. She led her troops to many victories, but is soon captured with no one to help her.

        It can be argued that Joan of Arc was the most important figure, not only during the Hundred Years War, but also throughout the 2,000 year time period that was studied.  If it were not for the voices she heard in her head, which led her to lead an army by herself, France would not have won all of those battles, and ultimately England might have turned out victorious. Had the outcome been the other way around, France would not exist in its present form. This war allowed the French to create a strong national identity. During these battles, it was the first time that the use of gunpowder was effectively used. The French used cannons against the English, and in 1453 the French defeated the English. Since England suffered a series of losses, they ended up losing their land in France.

Before and during the Hundred Years War, there was a lack of internal cohesion in France. There was no sense of nationalism or loyalty to the country. Most of the colonies in France had at one point belonged to England, and not France. Also, there was a very rapid growth of disunion during the war.3 Joan of Arc created a sense of nationalism in France, which helped strengthen the monarchy. There are a handful of historians that state soldiers were not fighting for themselves anymore, they were fighting for their country. If this it true, society and its beliefs were transformed from the war.

        The new technologies that were invented because of the war include the longbow and cannons. A couple of major battles that England won, Crecy and Agincourt, both involved the longbow. This extremely effective and deadly weapon was first invented by the Celts in Wales, but was not used by the English military until hundreds of years later. The bow could set off twenty shots in less than a minute, which defeats the cross bow by a long shot. The longbow was stronger than a regular bow, because of its length and cured yew.  The strength of the longbow also allowed the weapon to pierce right through the French’s metal armor, creating countless casualties. The cannons were not able to stop the longbow, but when a castle was under attack, they became very useful. Not only were the cannons sometimes useful, the use of gunpowder was brought into society. Gunpowder was effective in the fifteenth century, and still remains necessary today.

        There was a shift in warfare techniques during the war. Soldiers were not so heavily dependent on horses for fighting, as they were more concerned with longbows. The heavy armor was not being used as often for the English, and this saved immense amounts of money. The transference in armor did not only help the countries for monetary reasons, having less armor improved the soldiers’ mobility. There was also a shift from feudal monarchy to a centralized state. 4 During this time of the war, many peasants started to lead revolts. These revolts were brutally put down, and on top of those losses, the Black Plague was occurring also. These factors relentlessly reduced the population, and a need for workers came about because of this decrease.

The reason this war is considered imperative is because the formation of England and France as separate states occurred. Taxation was necessary in order to fund the war, which brought in revenue for both states. The French taxed salt, bread, wine, and the right to use a wine press, grindstones and mills.  Administrative roles were created because of the strong military force that was necessary.2 The Hundred Years War also created a sense of national identity and national unity.1 France experienced and increase in monarchial authority, while the English strengthened their system of Parliament. The consolidation of the kingdom made France one of the greatest countries during that time period. 2 The newfound nationalism, power, and military propelled France to dominance in European wars and politics for the next four centuries. 7

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