John D. Hosler

title.none: France, Medieval Warfare (John D. Hosler)

identifier.other: baj9928.0711.005 07.11.05

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: John D. Hosler, Morgan State University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2007

identifier.citation: France, John, ed. Medieval Warfare, 1000-1300. International Library on Military History. Aldershot, U/K./ Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006. Pp. xxiv, 644. $250.00 (hb) 0-7546-2515-X. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 07.11.05

France, John, ed. Medieval Warfare, 1000-1300. International Library on Military History. Aldershot, U/K./ Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006. Pp. xxiv, 644. $250.00 (hb) 0-7546-2515-X. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

John D. Hosler
Morgan State University

John France has assembled a remarkable collection of articles for this volume in Ashgate's International Library of Essays on Military History series. It helps to complete the chronology of the Middle Ages by accompanying existing and forthcoming Ashgate volumes on Byzantium, medieval warfare between 1300 and 1450, and so-called "Dark Age" warfare of the post-Roman period (a volume co-edited by France and Kelly DeVries). Included essays do not have to abide by any preconceived thematic notions, and the assortment collected here ranges from battle studies to questions of defensive architecture and even gender. Given that France selected thirty-one articles for inclusion and provided a useful review essay in the Introduction, it would be tedious to review each and every item here. Instead, I'd like to review the contents and comment on their representation of warfare in the High Middle Ages.

In the general preface, series editor Jeremy Black remarks that each volume contains, "the editor's selection of the most seminal recent essays on military history in their particular area of expertise" (ix). This suggests a widely-cast net that nonetheless allows for thematic repetition based on pure quality of research. Many subjects are thus treated in multiple essays, with a general breakdown as follows: the Crusades (12); castles, fortifications, and siege-craft (6); obligation, army composition, and knighthood/cavalry (5); finance and logistics (4); campaigns, generalship, and strategy (4); England (4); individual commanders (3); mercenaries (2); horses (2); and the Low Countries (2). Five articles center on individual battles, demonstrating the past and present fascination with field actions and what they reveal about generalship and tactics.

The bulk of the essays cover warfare in two broadly construed geographical areas. The first of these is the Anglo-Norman world. Included are some very influential essays indeed, such as Stephen Brown's noteworthy inquiry on the role of mercenaries, Charles Coulson's important corrective to castle studies that emphasizes other elements of fortification beyond the architecturally defensive, and a trio of articles by Matthew Bennett, Michael Prestwich, and John Gillingham that have remained serious revisions on traditional views of the supremacy of cavalry and the uses of medieval battle. Other essays on Normandy, Flanders, Anjou, and England round out a reasonably full consideration of military operations in the Isles and French provinces (though Scottish, Irish, and Welsh warfare is notably absent).

The second geographical focus of the book is warfare in the Latin east. Given that military study of the Crusades has become fashionable again in the past two decades a range of essays on the subject seems justifiable. Fully twelve of the thirty-one articles center on dimensions of crusading efforts. Fortifications and logistics figure heavily in France's selections: two studies of crusader castles, a third by A.J. Forey on the siege of Damascus in 1148, the maintenance of Western armies (Alan V. Murray), the transportation of horses by ship (John H. Prior), and the excellent and useful 1963 study by John W. Nesbitt on crusading armies' rates of march. France's own expertise is on display here, for the selections are remarkable for their insight and coverage.

Acknowledging the book's geographical breakdown does not imply that one or multiple areas of inquiry are needlessly neglected; indeed, the essays are notable for their overall relevance and application across the wars of the period. However, there remains a certain lack of coverage. English military history both prior to the Battle of Hastings and after 1200 is absent, as are any explicitly French operations in the west (there is only one reference to Bouvines in the index, for example). Claude Gaier's essay on Liège and Looz is an important study of troop types, numbers, and regional conflicts in Brabant and points around the northern Rhine, but that is as far east as it gets: there is little coverage of the Empire and/or Italy unless it is connected to crusading ventures (such as H.E.J. Cowdrey's article on the 1087 Mahdia campaign). One wishes for expanded treatments of central Europe and also more peripheral areas such as Spain, an increasingly fertile area for military scholars, but there is only the older (1966) but useful study by Elena Lourie on its obligations and military institutions. France's collection does not seem to be intended as comprehensive, so complaints about scope and coverage are less a criticism than a regret that more space was unavailable.

Physically, this is a formidable book at 644 pages with a semi-problematic layout. Each article is reprinted in its initial format and retains its original page numbers and font. This is very useful for reference purposes, and Ashgate has thoughtfully provided a separate pagination that runs through the entire volume (references to page numbers in this review refer to the latter). One unfortunate consequence of the reprinting, however, rears its head in the notations of the older articles. Many of the references are in abbreviated form because the original journal in which they appeared contained a list of common works and their shorthand forms. This becomes apparent in the very first article, John Prestwich's distinguished study on war and finance, which contains incomplete citations to the Dialogus de Scaccario (only one of three editors is listed and no publication date) and two separate references to Obligations of Society in the XII and XIII centuries and English Society in the Eleventh Century that lack either authors or any publication attribution (1-2). It appears that the more recent essays are essentially self-contained and do not suffer from such problems. The book's index is a rather large and useful, listing of both historical and modern names, but there are regrettably no entries for places or events. There are no maps, figures, or genealogical tables besides those provided in the original essays themselves, but these are generally sufficient for comprehension and of a high quality.

The principal drawback of this volume, as is the case with every volume in the series, is its hefty price tag of 250 U.S. dollars, a cost that has often stayed my hand and wallet at conference book sales. Ashgate has planned thirty-four volumes in the series, and each volume published so far ranges in price between $195.00 and $250.00. The cost is thus prohibitive, even for those looking to purchase just the four projected volumes on the medieval Europe and Byzantium. I suspect most copies will be purchased by research libraries, for which such edited collections are good bargains, especially given the ubiquitous decline of institutional journal subscriptions.

Is there a perfect method of collecting and publishing academic essays? One could complain about this or that subject being neglected or perhaps argue for a different thematic focus, but France's collection is undoubtedly one of prime importance that effectively highlights both older and newer trends in medieval military history. Every essay is valuable in its own right, and scholars of warfare would do well to add this book to their collections--or, perhaps, borrow a copy from their library.