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About this book

Although the term 'Hundred Years War' was not coined until the 1860s, the Anglo-French conflicts of the later Middle Ages have long been of interest to historians. A fundamental question remains - was this a feudal war fought over ancient English rights in Gascony, or was it a dynastic war in which English kings battled for the crown of France itself?

This book, now fully revised and updated to take account of the latest scholarship, examines the origins and phases of the war and explores the trends in historical opinion from the fourteenth century to the present day. Anne Curry provides a straightforward narrative of English involvement in France, placing the well known military events in their diplomatic context. By focusing on the treaties of 1259, 1360 and 1420, Curry argues that there was not one 'hundred year war' but rather three separate yet linked conflicts, all with significant implications for the European scene as a whole, and for Anglo-French relations in the centuries to come.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
One of the first things students learn about the Hundred Years War is that it lasted 116 years: from 1337, when Philip VI confiscated the French lands of Edward III, to 1453, when English Gascony fell to the French. The starting and finishing dates present immediate problems. The English and French had been at war on many occasions before 1337, indeed as recently as 1327. They were to be in conflict again many times after 1453. Much of the subsequent history of this country concerns its struggle with France, both in Europe and in the wider world. Historians have even postulated the existence of a ‘second Hundred Years War’ lasting from 1689 to 1815.
Anne Curry

1. The Hundred Years War and Historians

Abstract
The ‘Hundred Years War’ is, strictly speaking, an invention of historians. The phrase ‘Guerre de Cent Ans’ first occurs in print in France in 1823, and was later taken up with enthusiasm in England.1 Thenceforward the term has enjoyed universal acceptance in popular and academic circles alike. By the time it was coined, much ink had already been expended on the Anglo-French conflicts of the later middle ages. Even within the period itself, the wars formed the predominant subject of many narratives, and these in turn provided the principal materials for historians of subsequent centuries. Thus there is much to read, even if some of it, both medieval and later, is blatantly derivative or prejudiced. In this study we can outline only the main themes of the subject’s historiography. As we shall see, many influences played on those who wrote about the wars in the past: the sources at their disposal; their patriotic or political sympathies; their purpose in writing; their expected audience; and the view of ‘history’ which obtained at the time of writing.
Anne Curry

2. Origins and Objectives: Anglo-French Conflict in the Fourteenth Century

Abstract
In 1337 Edward III held the county of Ponthieu, straddling the Somme. He also bore the title duke of Aquitaine, although the territory he actually held in south-west France was little more than a 50-mile-wide coastal strip between Bayonne and Bordeaux. This was a far cry from the days of Henry II, when a king of England held the whole of western France: from the duchy of Normandy in the north, through the counties of Anjou, Maine, Touraine and Poitou to the extensive duchy of Aquitaine in the south, with additional claims to the overlordship of the duchy of Brittany and county of Flanders. Much happened between the twelfth and early fourteenth centuries, but in many ways, the two basic issues of English royal lands in France remained the same: the relationship between the kings of England and France that their tenure generated, and their rightful extent. It was impossible to find a peaceful solution to Anglo-French differences in 1337 because the issues had been so long-running, and had repeatedly proved themselves incapable of lasting settlement. The reasons for this, however, need to be seen in the context of each successive conflict as well as in the problems inherent in the issues themselves. A further major stumbling block was that the dispute was between kings, and was thus much affected by wider considerations of international relations and domestic politics. As a result, the issues were always more than ‘little local difficulties’, often assuming Europe-wide dimensions, as is more fully explored in Chapter 4.
Anne Curry

3. New Wars or Old? Anglo-French Conflict in the Fifteenth Century

Abstract
Henry IV’s reign can easily be dismissed as insignificant in terms of English activities in France, particularly as it lacks the flamboyance and decisiveness of that of his son, Henry V (1413–22). As we shall see, however, the policies of the father prepared the way for the actions of the son. More importantly, perhaps, they preserved English interests in France at a time when they could well have foundered.
Anne Curry

4. The Wider Context

Abstract
The present century has seen two wars deemed worthy of the description ‘world war’. The term ‘Hundred Years War’ emphasises the long duration of Anglo-French conflict rather than its geographical extent. Admittedly the conflict had little significance outside Western Europe, but within this area it impinged on all countries and formed the main influence on international relations in the later middle ages. Even before the Hundred Years War, Anglo-French relations had loomed large in European affairs. English kings had never been isolationist. Their continental possessions and trading links had always necessitated a close interest in European affairs. Three factors now brought Anglo-French relations to centre stage. The first was the decline of the Empire as the main focus of Europe, a decline already well under way by 1300. The second was the claim of Edward III and his successors to the crown of France. Whether seriously undertaken or not, it elevated the significance of the Anglo-French quarrel within the international context. Third, success in France under Edward III and Henry V made England into a ‘superpower’, with a formidable military reputation and considerable political influence within Europe as a whole. On the reverse side of the coin, the loss of almost all her French possessions by 1453 reduced England’s significance in European affairs, yet it took a while for subsequent English rulers to abandon the notion that the route to greatness in Europe lay through France. For at least two centuries, therefore, English policies towards the rest of Europe, as revealed particularly by the search for allies, were determined by the conflict with France.
Anne Curry

Conclusion

Abstract
When my son was at primary school, he used to ask me who won the Hundred Years War. To him the question seemed both sensible and valid, for all wars surely have winners and losers. When time was short I usually told him that the French won. After all, they did overcome English armies at Formigny in 1450 and Castillon in 1453, defeats that the English were never able to redeem. As a result Normandy and Gascony were lost. Never again were the English to hold lands on such a scale in France; the tenure of Calais in 1558 and briefly-held Tudor conquests provided but a pale reflection of former glories.
Anne Curry
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