Kelly DeVries

title.none: Hooper and Bennet, Atlas of Warfare (DeVries)

identifier.other: baj9928.9707.002 97.07.02

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Kelly DeVries, Loyola College,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1997

identifier.citation: Hooper, Nicholas and Matthew Bennett. Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages 768-1487. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. $39.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-521-44049-1.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 97.07.02

Hooper, Nicholas and Matthew Bennett. Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages 768-1487. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996. $39.95. ISBN: ISBN 0-521-44049-1.

Reviewed by:

Kelly DeVries
Loyola College

About a decade ago educators in the United States were stunned to discover that American youths were exceedingly ignorant about geography. Not only could they not find most international locations, but they had difficulty finding even their own state on a map when tested. Similar tests were not delivered to medieval studies graduate students or professors, but one cannot help but wonder how we might have fared. Without a full understanding of medieval geography, it seems that we might be lost in explaining what was happening in medieval society, and frequently egregious geographical errors can be found in even the most renowned publications in our field.

Perhaps of all medieval historians, it is military historians who should and may not have a good understanding of geography. After all, it can be reasoned that the Middle Ages were begun by military conquests, territorial acquisitions as it were, made by barbarian tribes overwhelming the borders of the late Roman Empire. From then on, warfare was frequent, and almost always this meant either the acquisition or loss of land. Medieval military historians must know these changes, as well as be able to analyze campaigns and conflicts leading up to them, confrontations which sometimes hang on the slimmest of geographical minutiae.

It is thus with enthusiasm that medieval military historians should greet the publication of an atlas detailing military history from Charlemagne to the Wars of the Roses. Compiled by Nicholas Hooper and Matthew Bennett, two young and prolific English medieval military historians, this atlas is not only a superb geographical reference work, but also an excellent general introduction to almost all periods of medieval warfare. (Indeed, it will serve as both the next time I teach medieval military history.) It is a well written work, beautifully presented, with colorful, clear, and elaborate maps covering both large campaigns and small engagements.

Hooper and Bennett divide their atlas into four periods which, although overlapping chronologically at times, separate the military history of the Middle Ages into traditional phases: from Charlemagne to the Viking Invasions, from the Norman Invasion of England to the end of the thirteenth century, the Crusades, and the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This chronological division is followed by a lengthy section summarizing the "Theory and Practice of Medieval Warfare", a glossary, short bibliography, and comparative time line.

The first chronological period, appearing under the rather bombastic title, "The Crucible of Europe", covers four chapters on warfare from the eighth through the eleventh centuries. These include: the wars of Charlemagne, the ninth-century Viking invasions (actually beginning in 790), the break-up of the Carolingian empire and the growth of England, France, and Germany, and the 980-1016 Danish invasion of England. A second period is found under the title "Western Europe in the Eleventh to the Thirteenth Centuries". Chapters here are devoted to the Norman conquest of England, the Angevin Empire, Frederick Barbarossa's German empire, the Mongol invasion of eastern Europe, the thirteenth-century English civil wars, and the English-Celtic (Scottish, Welsh, and Irish) conflicts. The Crusades section includes chapters on the Reconquista and the Norman conquests in the Mediterranean, the First Crusade, the Latin States in the Middle East, the resurgence of the Muslims and the Third Crusade, the Latin conquests of the Byzantine Empire, the Spanish Reconquista and the crusades against the Albigensians, and the African crusades of the thirteenth century. Finally, the fourth period, "Europe Divided: the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries", includes chapters devoted to the fourteenth-century phase of the Hundred Years War, the Italian conflicts, the fifteenth-century phase of the Hundred Years War, the Hussite Wars and the Nicopolis crusade, the Wars of the Roses, and the mid-fifteenth-century campaigns of Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy. Also included is a final, short chapter, definitely out-of-place as it includes no maps and would be better placed at the end of the "Theory and Practice" section, entitled "A Military Revolution?".

Each of these chapters, excepting the last one, include several maps. "The Vikings in the Ninth Century", for example, includes large maps on: "The Viking World", "Early Viking Attacks, 790-849", "The Vikings in West Frankia, 840- c.870", "The Great Army in England, 865-879", and "The Great Army, 879-892". Also included in this chapter is one inset section, on "Bridges and Burhs", with a exemplary map on Wallingford, showing how the burh there grew into the later Anglo-Saxon town. For another example, "The Hundred Years' War, 1337-1396" chapter includes maps on "Campaigns, 1338- 1360", "Edward III's Chevauchée, September-October 1339", "Campaigns and Chevauchées in Spain, 1366- 1387", and "Campaigns and Chevauchées in France, 1360- 1389", with insets (and battlefield plans) on "The Battle of Crécy, 25 August 1346" and "The Battle of Poitiers, 19 September 1356".

The concluding section of the book, in reality more an appendix, "Theory and Practice of Medieval Warfare", gives very concise explanations to: cavalry, chivalry and chevauchée, infantry, mercenaries, armor, weapons, siege techniques, fortresses, the impact of gunpowder weapons on warfare and fortifications, shipping and amphibious warfare, military manuals, the laws of war, and the reality of war. None of these explanations are meant to be anything more than introductory guides to their subject matter, yet they are well written and should put to rest some persistent myths of medieval military history. Hopefully, they might also lead some students to investigate their subjects further.

As good as this work is, there are obviously some problems. As both the authors and their publisher are English, there is a definite English bias present throughout the work. This can be quite frustrating at times, if the reader is inclined toward the Continent, for there are several glaring omissions. I found, for example, that far too little was said about the campaign leading to the Battle of Bouvines (1214) and about the consequences of the battle, despite the obvious changes in the power structure of thirteenth-century Europe that victory there gave to the French king, Philip II. There is also very little about late medieval warfare fought in the Low Countries. I found it especially disturbing that nothing was said about the battle of Courtrai (1302) despite the importance of this battle for the independence of the county of Flanders, for the resurgence of infantry dominance on the battlefield, and even for the beginnings of the Hundred Years War.

The unevenness of the analysis might also be criticized. In some discussions there is little more than a capitulation of names, dates, and places, with almost no analysis of the events, while in other discussions there is a large amount of analysis. In these cases, the authors sometimes state controversial positions as if they are without dispute. For example, indicating that the Carolingians' military successes hinged on their use of fortifications, both offensively and defensively, will probably come as a surprise to many historians. As well, not mentioning William the Conqueror's newly constructed motte-and-bailey fortifications as a cause for Harold Godwinson's march to Hastings seems to miss a chief reason why the English king decided to abandon the relative safety of London's walls.

Some might also quibble with a few geographical placements. The battle of the Dyle should be placed north of Louvain and not south of it, as shown on the map on page 22. While I also think that the placement of the English archers at Crécy (map on p. 120) and Agincourt (p. 130) is entirely incorrect. Yet it should be emphatically noted that these criticisms-- the English bias, the unevenness of the analysis, and my geographical quibbles--should not be used to devalue what is an excellent and extremely useful work. From now on it will be almost impossible to excuse geographical ignorance among medieval military historians.