Conquest and Defence, David Green Recounts the Hundred Years War from Every Perspective
The role of the church can be easy to overlook in the defining national conflict between England and France which became, after broken peace treaties and ransoms, kidnappings, and massive slaughter, known as the 100 Years War, but this series of battles and intrigue is convincingly portrayed in The 100 Years War: A People’s History as a critically pivotal moment for the emerging Catholic Church. David Green is elusive in his use of a thesis in his book, which is structured as a generational analysis of various themes which are intended to coalesce into a final declaration of methodology and description. In order to review the intent of the research appropriately, it will be necessary to delineate between these themes and show in a concise manner how they are interrelated and in what basic construct they cast the evolution of Christendom into the true intercontinental empires which England, France, and other onlooking nations would become. Appearance of sourced material and the basic structure of the historical context in which the writing is based should then make itself quite apparent.
This is not to summarize the entirety of the material at hand, but instead to drive at the heart of what made this war pump, and the individual liberties which it extended to others. Firstly, the war was not one framed entirely around the concept of occupation, though by “the concluding years of Henry V’s reign what had been a war of raids and sieges became a war of occupation” (Green, 154), and the leaders on both sides of the English Channel, or for much of the war, in modern-day France, came to learn of the ineffectiveness of simple blockades or chevauchée raids. “As Jean Juvénal des Ursins noted in 1435, ‘For war is only made in order to have peace; make strong war and you will have peace by subjugating your enemies’” (92), this is an ironical statement as those raids had become a war of occupation, one which resounded culturally in Shakespearean literature and in the very threads of French nationalism, immortalized in primary sources artistic, carefully chosen for this historical work, and political. Indeed the nature of the French crown would change in this war: clambering to dislodge ineffective church leadership, the centralization of power and expansion of mercenary Patis forces redefined the fundamental belief of France in nationhood as “not only was victory or defeat an indication of divine judgement, but for many it might bring one decidedly closer to divine judgement of a very personal nature” (146). That which might have demolished French belief in their military capabilities instead became a varied system of mutual struggle, allowing an early separation of military and agricultural interests, not to overlook the many who were still pressed into service.
The progression being described here is quite delicate in nature. It is important to review the sources which are utilized in the book before expounding the grandeur of the impact of this war on later conflicts, such as the War of the Roses directly afterward in England or French absolutism in monarchy which developed following religious strife as conflicts in the Netherlands and other Spanish ambitions dominated. In this case, there is little doubt as to the professionalism of the work; primary sources are frequently cited and contemporary secondary sources consulted. Intermediary, or dependent, sources are appropriately dropped or their impact marginalized.
While the similarities between the various national mindsets are drawn again and again, it can be easy to forget that of the many allies who were involved in the war, “each had their own agendas and antipathies that required resolution” (86). In trajectory at least, it cannot be forgotten that there is nothing shared between Britain and France, least of all that corner of once barbarian then British and now French farms and fishing grounds, Calais. While an entire chapter is devoted to peace, and “by the later 14th century a social climate had developed in which calls for a diplomatic solution to the Hundred Years war resounded” (85), they did so at different times which was emblematized as “a welter of propaganda proclaimed the justice of each side’s cause” (234). Fighting for this piece of land not only drew starkly these differences, but emphasized them as “conceptions of royal power differed in England and France, certainly when the war began, and these differences grew as the struggle unfolded” (114).
Without the ideation that the reformation was somehow sparked by this series of raids and occupation, or that it would have anywhere near as great an effect on absolutism and contemporary to the time, ideals of monarchy, the soundest of conclusions drawn from many premises proffered by this work is that the 100 Years War defined Britain as an island nation, and showed that France was able to continentally defend itself without crying to the Pope for a Holy Crusade, not to say that this was not attempted at some point; France became a nation and England would follow suit in coming centuries, though the latter would certainly take a slightly more wiley route, necessitating the survival of a pseudo-invasion by Spain and significant expansion of naval prowess. In other words it took a bit more than the high walled caravels and a simple speech by King Richard II to establish England as a major imperial power.