War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy under Edward III, Clifford J. Rogers

War Cruel and Sharp: English Strategy under Edward III, Clifford J. Rogers

The current orthodox view of the campaigns of Edward III is that his victories were due to the tactical abilities of his armies, and had little to do with any overall strategy. The general assumption is that he and his son Edward, the Black Prince, weren't actually seeking battle during there repeated raids across France, but were instead forced into fighting when trapped by French armies.

Professor Rogers's argument is that Edward III actually had a clear strategic plan for winning the war against France, based around seeking battle on the right terms, fighting in positions where the French were forced to attack. Edward learnt this strategy fighting the Scots, who used it against him very effectively in the Weardale Campaign of 1327, where they took up a good defensive position that the English were unwilling to attack.

This sort of book, attempting to overthrow an historical orthodoxy, is rarely this good, or this well researched. Rogers knows the primary sources, and makes good use of them to support his case. Most of the original sources directly support his case, as did Edward's own statements. The key to Roger's argument is that he ties the detailed events of the many English raids across France to the idea that Edward was seeking battle. This makes sense of many English movements that don't really fit with the idea that they were trying to avoid battle. This detailed approach also makes it clear how often battles nearly happened - many of the raids that didn’t produce a major battle did see the two armies get close to each other, and the two commanders enter into negotiations to agree on the time and location for a battle.

Personally I find Rogers's case to be very persuasive, in particular because of his detailed source based approach to the topic. This is a major contribution to our understand of this phase of the Hundred Years War, and will be of interest even to those who don't agree with his conclusions.

1 - Introduction
2 - The Weardale Campaign of 1327, Edward III's Military Apprenticeship
3 - The Dupplin Moor Campaign, 1332
4 - The Siege of Berwick and Battle of Halidon Hill, 1333
5 - From Scotland to France, 1334-1347
6 - Strategy and Edward III's Diplomacy in the Low Countries, 1337-1338
7 - The Cambrai-Thiérache Campaign, 1339
8 - Flanders and the Two Kings of France, 1340
9 - The Siege of Tournai, 1340
10- The Invasion of 1346: Strategic Options and Historigraphy
11 - The Crécy Chevauchée, 1346
12 - The Siege of Calais and the Year of Miracles in Retrospect
13 - The Twin Chevauchées of 1355
14 - Three Campaigns of Early 1356
15 - The Poitiers Campaign, 1356
16 - The Reims Campaign and Peace, 1359-1360

Author: Clifford J. Rogers
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 408
Publisher: Boydell
Year: 2014 edition of 2000 original

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