Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
Friday, 18 April 2014
Medieval Warfare - Bob Carruthers
The information presented was written by Chris Buckham; however, it was
published in Medieval Warfare Magazine. Therefore, the material is reproduced
here by the author with the permission of the magazine. If you would like to
republish this information or refer to excerpts please contact: Dirk van Gorp
for the Magazine is: www.karwansaraypublishers.com/
Title: Medieval Warfare
Author: Edited and Introduced by Bob Carruthers ISBN: 978-1-78159-224-3 Pages: 224 Softcover Photographs: 43 b/w sketches
Carruthers has undertaken, with
his book Medieval Warfare, to bring the work of 19th century
Scottish historian and author James Grant to a new audience. The author
provides an introductory chapter and then limits his involvement to editing
Grant’s work for a more modern reading culture (while still retaining the
flavor of the original work). Thus it is that a number of medieval encounters
of limited renown, such as Halidon Hill, Najera and Roverai, are once again
brought to light alongside a number of better known encounters such as
Agincourt, Bannockburn and Hastings.
Each of the seventeen battles
reviewed is outlined and discussed in such a manner that the reader is provided
an adequate explanation of the background to the conflict and how the
engagement unfolded. Each chapter represents an individual battle and each may
be read independently without having to refer to earlier parts. This makes for
a book that may easily be picked after a period on the shelf and restarted from
where one left off.
Along with a discussion of how
the battle unfolded, Grant (the original author) provides images of the weapons
from the period and explanations of how they were used in combat. He also
discusses tactics and planning methods that commanders exercised. These tactics
extended to both land and sea borne battles. Thus, for example, the reader is
introduced to the use of unslaked lime being thrown from English to French
ships during the Battle of Dover in order to blind and burn their adversaries
as the English boarded the French ships. Additionally, he also provides
fascinating insights into the methods and requirements for the levies that made
up the medieval armies. A typical English (non-noble) soldier was expected to
be an expert with the long bow and be able to fire at least twelve times a
minute with no misses at 250 yards. Grant also incorporates the politics of the
period as part of the explanation behind the instigation of hostilities. This
can be rather confusing given the convoluted alliances and titles of the
medieval period; notwithstanding the fact that strife was just as likely to be
instigated both internally within a household as externally between ‘countries’.
The language used by Grant in
describing the engagements does come across as somewhat dated; however, this is
to be expected as it is essentially his original articles from the mid 1800’s
with minor editorial adjustments. Nevertheless, they remain easily read and
followed. Additionally, given the time frame between when Grant wrote his
pieces and modern analysis of the battles, new information has come to light
that has had a significant impact on what we understand took place. Therefore,
items such as numbers of combatants involved and the character of individuals
(such as King John) while accurate given the information available in the 19th
century are somewhat skewed by 21st century evaluations.
I was somewhat less than
impressed with the style of the introduction provided by Mr Carruthers.
Specifically, I found it to be grammatically awkward in many places and that there
exists a series of typographical errors. It struck me as being hastily and
casually drafted. Conversely, the information provided by Carruthers as part of
his introduction was beneficial as he provides an educational (albeit
truncated) synopsis of siege warfare, fortifications, army organization and
recruiting from the period.
The book is not long and it
covers a significant period of time. Therefore, the degree of depth and
analysis of the combats reviewed is relatively short and superficial.
Nevertheless, it does achieve a number of successes in that it brings to light
a number of key conflicts through which may be traced the development of
weapons and tactics throughout the medieval period. Additionally, by
introducing the reader to the conflicts, it serves to act as an engaging
doorway to stimulate further study into the periods, especially into those
battles that have not had the public exposure of Agincourt or Hastings. Overall,
I would say that it is a worthwhile and interesting read but not a critical addition
to one’s library.