The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1303  Wednesday, 18 June 2004

From:           Nancy Charlton <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 18 Jun 2004 00:59:46 -0700
Subject:        History Channel

I started this post on May 3 and never finished it, so I'll spruce it up
now and send it along. This series is sure to be shown again, and it's
worth watching. I wrote:

I'm at the moment watching (or more accurately, have the TV tuned to)
The History Channel, a so far non-doctrinaire documentary on the Battle
of Agincourt. This is one of a series called "Battle Detectives;" there
are also episodes on Spanish Armada, Trafalgar, and Little Big Horn.
(What would WS have made of George Armstrong Custer?)

This is fascinating. A computer simulation shows that however sharp,
however non-resistant, the iron English bodkin arrowheads were, they
simply buckled when they hit French steel armour. The archaeologists who
made this study conclude that no way could the longbows been the
decisive factor in the victory. The question, then, is really not how
did the English win but how did the French lose. A burnt manuscript page
of the French battle plan was found, and it indicated a strategy
something like that in "Zulu" but not all the cavalry showed up, and
those who did lost horses to the arrows, making them "pavement to the
abject rear." The French were on the lookout for the banners of those
who would bring in the biggest ransoms. They ignored the English
longbowmen, who weren't worth much monetarily, but when the infantries
closed these longbowmen stabbed with their arrows and clobbered with
maces and hammers.

Another computer simulation replicates the weather of the day of the
battle. It seems that a heavily armoured knight would have had the
equivalent of 37 lb of sugar attached to each leg because it had rained
so hard and the mud was both slick and sticky. The cloth-clad archers
were not thus trammeled. Moreover, the English lines were at a place
where the plain narrows to a point and the French, as it were, were
decoyed into a narrow funnel--not only narrow, but sloping sharply
downward. Another computer simulation, using software for prediction of
crowd behavior, shows how quickly the French were made sitting ducks,
even though they outnumbered the English 3 to 1. Then we all know what
happened. The implication is that despite the loss of ransoms of the
prisoners, Henry ordered the slaughter of the prisoners lest they start
fighting their captors.

Now the Armada. Critical was the radical redesigning of ships. More
computer modeling shows the Spanish ships rode lower, were sleeker  and
better rigged than were the galleons of the English navy. "

Here I stopped in my original post. The film went into a lot of detail
about how superior the English guns were but the Spanish ships were able
to maneuver out of range. The other main point I recall is that it was
not so much divine providence that caused the Spanish ships to go off
course as it was that they didn't know about the gulf stream.

History Channel does tend to focus on military lore--but, alas, so does
most of Western civilisation!

Nancy Charlton

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