In the Steps of the Black Prince - The Road to Poitiers, 1355-1356, Peter Hoskins

In the Steps of the Black Prince - The Road to Poitiers, 1355-1356, Peter Hoskins

The Battle of Poitiers was one of the most devastating English victories of the Hundred Year's War. An English army led by Edward, the Black Prince, heir to the throne, defeated a French army led by King Jean II. The French suffered heavy losses, but most significantly the king was captured, giving the English an invaluable bargaining chip in the peace negotiations that began soon afterwards.

The Black Prince carried out two raids (chevauchée) from his base in Bordeaux, the first in 1355, the second in 1356. Contemporary chronicles give details of his route in both cases, but many of the names used in the documents are rather difficult to trace on the ground. Hoskins begins by explaining why this is the case - the local language was different from the Norman-French of the English authors or the northern French of French authors, so names could be distorted in translation at the time. In addition places have changed name, or in some cases disappeared (or moved).

The main aim of Hoskin's work was to trace the Black Prince's route by combining the written sources with a detailed exploration (largely on foot) of the areas in question. There are plenty of areas where the route isn't in doubt, restricting the areas that needed more detailed exploration. This approach allows Hoskins to produce a list of possibilities for each of the uncertain names, and use the local terrain, old routes and an examination of known medieval names for modern places to produce the most likely route. Where the route is most difficult he provides alternative routes, gives the evidence for both and then produces his own view.

This detailed examination of the Prince's route allows Hoskins to come to some convincing conclusions about the Prince's motives at key moments in both raids, and in particular if he was trying to fight or avoid battle (in both cases his conclusion is that the Prince was looking to fight, and his reasons are convincing).

The same approach is taken to the battle itself, looking at the possible sites for the fighting and how they might have changed since the fourteenth century and what impact the terrain had on the fighting.

This is a really nice idea, well implements and very readable. The result is a interesting contribution to our understanding of this crucial battle.

Part I - Prologue
1 - Origins

Part II - The Chevauchée in the Languedoc, October to December 1355
2 - Advance to Contact - Bordeaux to Arouille, 5 to 11 October 1355
3 - Armagnac - Arouille to Mirande, 12 to 22 October 1355
4 - Toulouse - Mirande to Montgiscard, 23 to 29 October 1355
5 - Carcassonne - Montgiscard to Canet, 29 October to 7 November 1355
6 - Turning for Home - Canet to Pennautier, 8 to 14 November 1355
7 - Recrossing the Garonne - Pennautier to Carbonne, 15 to 18 November 1355
8 - Home for Christmas - Carbonne to La Réole, 19 November to 2 December 1355

Part III - Interlude
9 - Consolidation and Preparation - 2 December 1355 to 6 July 1356

Part IV - The Poitiers Chevauchée, August to October 1356
10 - Advance to the Vienne - La Réole to Manot, 6 July to 14 August 1356
11 - Romorantin - Manot to Romorantin, 14 August to 5 September 1356
12 - Manoeuvre - Romorantin to Poitiers, 5 to 17 September 1356
13 - Battle Joined - Nouaillé-Maupertuis, 18 and 19 September 1356
14 - The Return to Bordeaux - Nouaillé-Maupertuis to Bordeaux, 20 September to 2 October 1356
15 - Aftermath

Appendix 1 Summary Itinerary for Prince's Division, 1355
Appendix 2 Summary Itinerary for Prince's Division, 1356

Author: Peter Hoskins
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 274
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Year: 2013 edition of 2011 original

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