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War in the Middle Ages



War in the Middle Ages

Philippe Contamine

ISBN: 978-0-631-14469-4 January 1991 Wiley-Blackwell 408 Pages

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Covering the ten centuries following the fall of Rome, War in the Middle Ages engages all aspects of its subject, including the military customs and conditions of the various Western European states; armor and weaponry recruitment; and rules of combat developed to limit bloodshed.

Philippe Contamine writes with an awareness that, in both theory and fact, medieval warfare was constantly evolving. He opens with a chapter on Roman military disintegration and the practice of warfare in the barbarian kingdoms erected on the empire's ruins. He then shows how feudalization multiplied conflicts, and describes the resulting growth of the "great stone civilization" of the castle. In the area of military method, he emphasizes three innovations: gunpowder, standing armies and the increased use of infantry, supplying in each case a wealth of data and documentation.

Contamine traces the rise of a new literature of strategy and changes in the concept of courage which he puts in the context of actual risk. He points out that the chivalric ideals of the later Middle Ages operated within narrow limits, outside which aristocrats and commoners freely slaughtered each other. Contamine also analyzes the theories of just and unjust war that developed at this time, and illustrates a phenomenon more typical of the period; the religious glorification of the warrior.

Ever mindful of the chaos and devastation that war brings, War in the Middle Ages nonetheless offers a clear and consistent picture of the military ethos of a millennium.

Acknowledgements viii

List of Maps and Figures ix

Translator’s Note x

Preface to the English Edition xii

List of Abbreviations xv

Part I The State of Knowledge: General Characteristics of Medieval Military History 1

1 The Barbarians From the Fifth to the Ninth Century 3

2 The Feudal Age From the Beginning of the Tenth to the Middle of the Twelfth Century 30

3 Medieval Society in its Prime From the Mid-Twelfth to the Early Fourteenth Century 65

4 Free Companies, Gunpower and Permanent Armies from the Beginning of the Fourteenth to the End of the Fifteenth Century 119

Part II Themes and Perspectives 173

5 Arms and Armour 175

6 Artillery 193

7 The Art of War 208

8 War, Government and Society 238

9 Towards a History of Courage 250

10 Juridical, Ethical and Religious Aspects of War 260

Part III Bibliography 309

1 General 311

2 The Art of War: Conflicts, Campaigns, Sieges and Battles 311

3 Institutions, Societies and Military Attitudes 315

4 Arms, Armour and War Engines 337

5 Cannons and Gunpowder Artillery 343

6 Castles and Fortifications 345

7 War, Economy and Taxation 353

8 War and Peace: Law, Ethics and Christianity 355

Index 361

"This is, quite simply, the best book on medieval European warfare available in any language ... War in the Middle Ages is not only required reading for all medieval or military historians; it is also enjoyable, clear and crisp ... it must rank as the best buy among history books." History Today

"The best survey of the period in French or English. This is military history at its finest, relating its subject to society at large. There is much to glean on society and organization for war in a crucial thousand years of European history." International History Review

"Philippe Contamine's indispensable survey ... [is] now available in a welcome and clear English translation by Michael Jones... What should be emphasized is how useful it is to have so much information between one pair of covers, and that this information is provided by a careful historian who has here produced both a work of reference and a stimulus to further research." London Review of Books