The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.1052 Monday, 6 June 2005
Date: Friday, 03 Jun 2005 13:10:21 -0400
Subject: 16.1043 Not so few
Comment: Re: SHK 16.1043 Not so few
John Keegan's book "The Face of Battle" covers the question of the
relative size of the armies at Agincourt, though at what level of detail
I don't remember. Here is a link to the title on Amazon, though I would
imagine you could find it at most university libraries:
If you're unfamiliar with it, "Face of Battle" is a modern classic, as
it focuses not on abstract strategies and state interests, but on the
combatants' personal experiences, and how they affected the conduct of
the battle. (For instance, the English knights must have had to relieve
themselves inside their armor, because they were suited up for three or
four hours before the battle. Many of them probably had diarrhea. The
excitement of battle would have been a welcome distraction from their
discomfort.) The other sections cover Waterloo and the Somme.
Keegan himself is probably the most erudite and readable popular
military historian writing in English. His "History of Warfare" has had
a significant impact on how people think about war, as it shows that
wars are fought, not as an extension of politics as Clausewitz had it,
but as an extension of culture.
One other note: expeditionary forces, like Henry V's, are typically
smaller and more lightly armed than regular, garrisoned forces. That is
true today of the U.S. Marines, for example. That is why they must have
high-quality troops that, man-for-man, can hit harder and faster than
their opponents. Hence the Marines' emphasis on individual marksmanship,
operational speed, and combined-arms support from artillery and airplanes.
The English had knights who were trained, professional fighters (the
rabble of footsoldiers probably received little training.) However,
since they used the longbow, the army's killing power greatly outmatched
the French. By the time the arrows had decimated (and, one would think,
demoralized) the French army, the English could well have been at
numerical parity with their opponents. But without accurate records,
that's impossible to say.
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