HH381: Warfare in the Middle Ages, c.400-c.1500

Fall 2010


Prof. Richard Abels

Office Hours:  MW 0800-0900, and by appointment




Citing Internet Sources
 Citations in Chicago Manual Style (REQUIRED NOTE FORMAT FOR THIS CLASS)
(Last revised Dec. 1, 2009)


This course examines the evolution of the nature of warfare and military institutions in Western Europe from the decline of the Western Roman Empire (late fourth century) to the end of the Middle Ages (ca. 1500). Although we will study individual battles and campaigns for the light they shed upon the strategic and tactical concerns during the middle ages, HH381 is intended neither to be a mere chronology of the "Decisive Battles in History" nor a course in "military science". Rather, it seeks to place the history of warfare (and, more broadly, of the military) into a political and societal context. Throughout the semester we will focus on the relationship between the military and the development of Western social, political and cultural institutions. Among the questions that we will investigate are: What did each society mean by the term 'war'? What forces (political, economic, religious) drove men to war? How did each society organize its resources for war? Who had the right and obligation to bear arms? What effects did technological innovations have upon the theory and practice of war? What limitations did material conditions, social expectations, and ethical mores place upon tactics, strategy, and logistics in each period? In short, our study of medieval military history will be tied part and parcel to the development of the major Western political, social, cultural, religious, and economic institutions that helped define the meaning of medieval warfare and helped shape the manner in which its was waged.

The readings include primary and secondary sources. The student will thus be exposed both to modern historians' and contemporary views of warfare in each era studied. Primary sources are especially valuable for illuminating military theory and practice, for revealing typical attitudes about war in the period, and for testing propositions advanced by the secondary authorities.


1. To provide an increased understanding of the nature of medieval war and the interrelationship between military and civil societies.
2. To foster analytic skills through the close study of primary and secondary sources.
3. To sharpen communication skills through class discussion and written assignments.

ASSIGNMENTS (read fully and carefully):

1. CLASS PARTICIPATION (5%). Students are expected to complete all reading assignments before the class for which they are assigned. Class participation and instructor's discretion will comprise 5% of the final grade but will be given additional consideration when awarding grades in borderline situations.

2. EXAMINATIONS (45%). This course has an in-class midterm examination (10 Nov) and comprehensive final. Questions will be based on material covered in class and upon the readings. The examinations will consist of essay questions, which may supplemented by short identifications or objective questions.  The midterm examination will comprise 15% of the final grade; the final will account for 30%.

3. HOMEWORK/SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENTS (25% of final grade). You will have eight short writing assignments (2-3 pages) on the assigned secondary source reading. (NOTE: These are assigned for the first half of the semester. All homework assignments in November and December are extra-credit opportunities. “Replacement homework” does exactly what the name implies: replaces a homework assignment that received a lower grade.)  All homework assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day they appear in the syllabus. Be prepared to read your homework assignment to the class if I call upon you.

            Although it is not required, it would be wise to provide parenthetical citations in your homework essays to locate quotations and cited passages in the assigned reading. This is a courtesy to your reader. What I do want to see in each homework essay are: 1) the full names of the authors and titles of the works that you are discussing, and 2) a brief statement of historical context for any primary source that you are analyzing. In order to use a primary source as historical evidence one needs to know its historical context, and this requires one to explain 1) who or what the author was; 2) what sort of text it is (is it a literary work, a charter, an official government document, etc.); 3) when the text was written; 4) where it was written; and 5) the intended purpose of the text (which is related to question 2).  You can—and should—do this in a sentence or two.

4.  RESEARCH PAPER OPTION (25% of final grade).   Option recommended for history majors.
If you choose this option, you will write a research paper on any aspect of ancient or medieval warfare. It is to be 11-15 typewritten pages in length, including a one page summary statement (see below) but excluding bibliography and title page. One possible approach is to focus the paper on a specific military leader or engagement and show how that person or event illuminates some aspect of the military history of the era. But this is only a suggested approach. You may write on ANY TOPIC that deals with a well-defined and significant historical issue or problem relating to the military history of Western Europe between A.D. 350 and 1500 (e.g. the strategic significance of the battle of Agincourt in Henry V's conquest of France).

            a. PRELIMINARY BIBLIOGRAPHY AND DESCRIPTION OF PROJECT will be due on Tuesday, 13 Oct. The bibliography is to list the primary and secondary sources on the topic available in Nimitz and on the web.. The description of project is an explanation of the topic you have chosen, its historical significance, and (if you are far enough along in your research) of your tentative findings. All topics must be cleared by me.  The preliminary bibliography and project description will not be graded, but if I determine from it from reading them that it is unlikely that you will produce an adequate research paper, I will instruct you to do the Analytical Essay & Article Review option instead.

            b. RESEARCH REQUIREMENTS: minimum of 2 primary sources plus 3 scholarly secondary sources. Because this is a research assignment, your grade will depend heavily upon the quality of that research. Your paper must be based upon a minimum of two primary sources and three scholarly secondary sources. I will expect to see evidence that you have researched the Nimitz holdings on your topic as well as surfed the web for sources. (Scholarly secondary sources are those written by specialists in the field. They are characterized by endnotes/footnotes to primary sources in the original language and by knowledge of the relevant work done on the topic by other secondary authorities. They tend to be published by university presses or by presses specializing in academic works (e.g. Longman/Pearson, Boydell and Brewer, Basil Blackwell, Ashgate, Routledge, and Brill). If you have questions about the scholarly merit of a book you might want to use, you should try to find reviews of that book in academic journals (or ask me). The scholarly sources may be articles rather than books.

            c. ANALYSIS.  Your paper should NOT consist of sequential summaries of secondary sources.  An "A" paper demonstrates the author's ability to interpret primary sources and weigh the merits of conflicting historical interpretations (if relevant to the topic).

            d. THESIS/PROBLEM. Your paper must define a historical issue or problem. Your answer to the question or solution to the problem is your "thesis." Your thesis need not be original (you may end up agreeing with the interpretation of one of the scholars whose work you have read), but your paper should nonetheless demonstrate original thought, analysis, and insight.

            d. ONE-PAGE SUMMARY STATEMENT. You are to attach a one page explanation of your paper's thesis and findings. PAPERS LACKING A SUMMARY STATEMENT WILL BE DOCKED ONE FULL GRADE.

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSION: the research paper is due at the beginning of class on Thursday, 10 December., either by electronic submission or in hard copy.  Papers handed in later that day but before 2000 will lose a half grade. Papers will lose one full grade for each day late thereafter. 

5. ANALYTICAL ESSAY & ARTICLE REVIEW OPTION (analytical essay 15% of final grade, article review 10%). Rather than writing a research paper, you may write an analytical essay (5-7 pages) on an assigned topic AND one 3-5 page article (or book) review.  The book/article review must explain and critique the author’s arguments and place them within the context of your assigned reading for this course. In other words, you must explain how this book or article confirms or challenges conclusions and arguments presented in your assigned readings.  The book or article you review must be scholarly, which means that it must be based on primary sources, written by a specialist in the field, and directed toward an audience of fellow scholars and students. You may choose any scholarly book or article on late Roman or medieval military history written after 1960 that I have NOT assigned for this course. The Journal of Medieval Military History is one good source for articles. (Please photocopy the article and leave the general in the library for other students to use.) The  De Re Militari website (arranged by geographical area and topic) also has links to many relevant articles and even books, but beware: some of them are 'popular' and not scholarly history. 

DUE DATE FOR ANALYTICAL ESSAY: by 1630 on Monday, Nov. 23 (via electronic submission or hard copy).

DEADLINE FOR ARTICLE REVIEW SUBMISSION: the article review is due at the beginning of class on Thursday, 10 Dec., either in hard copy or via electronic submission.  Papers handed in later that day but before 2000 will lose a half grade. Papers will lose one full grade for each day late thereafter. 

6. DOCUMENTATION AND PLAGIARISM:    Papers lacking full documentation--endnotes or footnotes or parenthetical references with proper bibliography--will receive at best a D. All direct quotations (more than three words in a row), paraphrases, allusions to specific passages in a text, and use of another's interpretations and research must be documented with a note that includes a specific page/section reference to the work used. I prefer the Chicago Manual of Style citation format.  The link provides examples of that format.

To 'paraphrase' means to put another's ideas into your OWN words. If you take another's words and fail to indicate that fact with quotations marks, that is PLAGIARISM. See the USNA plagiarism statement linked to this syllabus. If you commit plagiarism unintentionally--either out of carelessness or laziness (or failure to read USNA's plagiarism statement)--you will receive a ZERO on that assignment.  If I believe that you intended to deceive, the paper will get a zero AND I will turn the matter over to the midshipman honor board.

7. LATE POLICY. Homework assignments are due by the beginning of class on the day indicated in the syllabus. Homework assignments handed in later that day will be docked 5 points.  They will lose ten points for each class late. The same policy prevails for the analytical essay.  See above for the late policy for research papers and article reviews

      Because papers can be lost, mutilated, or swallowed up by angry computers, you should always make a copy before handing one in and a hard copy before turning off your computer. I will not accept as an excuse, "The computer ate my paper." It is your responsibility to make sure that it doesn't. (At the very least, I will want to see your notes for the paper or a rough draft.)

8. CELLPHONES and other electronic devices are NOT permitted to be used during the class period. You may use a netbook to take notes, but you are not permitted to go on online during class unless I give specific permission.

9. INSTRUCTOR'S DISCRETION. A semester's grade does not represent simply the total points received on assignments during the course of the semester. It is the instructor's professional evaluation of how well the student performed and how much he or she learned in the course. In assigning the final grades, I will take into account upward and downward trends, whether the student took advantage of extra-credit opportunities, and how well the student mastered the course material for the final exam. A student going into the final with a low B- who writes an exceptional examination may well receive an A for the semester, even though his or her final 'average' might be 86. Conversely, a student who has a strong C going into the final and writes a failing exam, demonstrating an unsatisfactory understanding and mastery of the course material, might well forfeit that C.


Homework  25%

Research Paper OR Analytical Essay & Article Review  25%

Midterm examination 15%

Final examination 30%

Class participation 5%


for purchase:


CONTAMINE, Philippe. War in the Middle Ages. John Wiley/Basil Blackwell, 1991.

ISBN: 0631144692


NICOLLE, David. The Third Crusade 1191. Osprey Publishing, 2005.

ISBN: 978-1841768687


JOINVILLE, Jean de. The Memoirs of the Lord of Joinville. Trans. Ethel Wedgwood. Kessinger Publ.

ISBN: 978-1-4192-7258-5

[This book is available free online. The above paperback edition, however, costs only $1.99.]


 e-books from Nimitz:

ROGERS, Clifford.  The Middle Ages. Soldiers’ Lives Through History. Greenwood Press, 2007.


BRADBURY, Jim.  The Medieval Siege.  Boydell and Brewer, 1992.


There are internet readings linked to the syllabus. Click on the hypertext for them. Many of these are posted on the website for De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History

Course resources: Timeline for Military Events in the Early Middle Ages, 407-1016 by Richard Orsinger, rev. R. Abels; Abels, Chronology of the Central Middle Ages (c.950-c.1350) [The former is just a list of events; the latter, however, provides analyses of key political, religious, economic, social, and cultural developments of the period 950-1350. I highly recommended it for those who have a sketchy general knowledge of the "Middle Ages."]


(NOTE: All assignments, whether reading or writing, are due on the day they appear in the syllabus.)


[Timeline for Military Events in the Early Middle Ages, 312-1016]


Week of 23 Aug
T. Introduction: Overview of the Middle Ages and Introduction to Medieval Military History
Secondary Source Reading: military terms for HH381 (master these); 
Rogers, Middle Ages, Introduction, pp. xxi-xxvii; Medieval periodization and overview (Abels);

Recommended (not required): McGlynn, Myths of Medieval Warfare, History Today 44 (1994)

Thought question: (which will appear on the final): There are at least two ways of understanding the history of war. The first is a “scientific” model of war that emphasizes unchanging principles of strategic conduct and inherent military probability. According to this model, regardless of the era or society, war is a rational endeavor carried out according to tactical and strategic pragmatic necessities and directed at achieving the goals of a state. This approach also puts a priority on the material factors in war, in particular technological determinacy, and tests what the historical sources claim to have happened against what we know to be physiologically or technically possible, or, in some cases, militarily sensible.  If the details recorded in even an authentic primary source fail this test, or stretch credibility, then they are to be rejected and material reality upheld.

Others contend that war is a cultural activity: the reasons why societies engage in war and the methods by which they fight them are defined by the particular norms, values, institutions, and mentalities of a society passed on from one generation to the next that defines that group as an entity.  What we call the “unchanging principles of war” are themselves a cultural construct derived from a particular approach to war and a particular organization of the state characteristic of the West from the late eighteenth-century to the present.  We may call this the ‘culturalist’ approach.

How would you go about testing the validity of these two models for the study of military history?


Th.  Late Roman Military

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 3-11; Abels, “Armies, War, and Society in the West, AD ca. 300-ca. 600,” overview and section I: the Roman army in the late fourth and early fifth centuries

Primary Source: The Siege of Amida in 359 according to Ammianus Marcellinus; Vegetius, Epitoma Rei Militaris, excerpts [note: Ammianus was a professional soldier. His contemporary Vegetius was an armchair general]

Map: Roman Empire in 395



            The Tetrarchs, a porphyry sculpture sacked from a Byzantine palace in 1204 CE, Treasury of St. Marks,              Cardiff Castle



Week of 31 Aug

T. “Fall” of the Roman Empire in the West: the Military Context
Secondary Source Reading:  Contamine 11-13; Abels: “Armies, War, and Society in the West, AD ca. 300-ca. 600,” II. Military Aspects of the ‘Fall’ of the Western Roman Empire;  Summary notes on Peter Heather’s “The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in the West,” English Historical Review 110 (1995), pp. 1-41  

Online Resource: Late Roman Timeline 250 AD - 550 AD: fourth, fifth, and sixth centuries

Primary Source: Ancient History Sourcebook: Ammianus Marcellinus: The Battle of Adianople, 378 CE

Images and maps:  Gothic artifacts ;   Franks Casket (northern England, c. 700) ; Maps of the Roman Empire (click on A.D. 337-538);  map of Roman world, ca. 500Europe and the Eastern Roman Empire 533-600 (for site of battle of Chalons in north central France/Gaul, south east of Paris, see map of Roman Empire in 395 for previous class);  map of Roman world, 565

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option A (write on one of the following):

1.  What do the careers of Attila and Aetius reveal about military reasons for the “Fall of Rome” in the West?

2. Reconstruct the battle of Adrianople on the basis of the account given by Ammianus Marcellinus.


Th. Historians debate military continuity between Rome and the Barbarian West, 400-750
Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 13-22, 175-9; Abels, “Armies, War, and Society in the West, AD ca. 300-ca. 600,”: III & IV  ; Bernard S. Bachrach, "The Imperial roots of Merovingian military organization"  

Primary Sources: Theodoric the Great's military organization; Gregory of Tours on Warfare

Images: A Visual Tour through Late Antiquity

HOMEWORK  (write on either option A or B)

Option B

(write on either homework topic 1 OR 2):

1. Identify and explain Bachrach’s thesis. Analyze to what extent Abels OR Contamine (your choice) agrees with Bachrach’s interpretation? [An article’s “thesis” is the author’s main point, that is, the answer to the historical question posed at the beginning of the article. Hint: consider carefully the title of Bachrach’s article.]

2. Identify and explain Bachrach’s thesis. In what ways do the two primary sources support or contradict Bachrach’s thesis?



Week of 07 Sept



Th. Successors of Rome: Byzantine and the Islamic Empires in the seventh and eighth centuries
Secondary Source ReadingSteven Muhlberger, “The Seventh Century” (background reading); Abels, “Armies, War, and Society in the West, AD ca. 300-ca. 600,”: III & IV  (review); Stephen Morillo, "Cataphracts and Caliphs: Byzantium and Islam, 400-1100"; Morillo, “Predators and Police: Naval Warfare 400-1100” (read sections on Byzantine and Arab naval warfare);

Recommended reading:  Fred Donner, "Early Arab Conquests"

Primary SourcesAl-Baladhuri: The Battle Of The Yarmuk ; Three accounts of the Battle of Tours (732) ; Ibn abd al-Hakem on the Muslim Conquest of Spain (Al-Andalus)

Images: Byzantine naval warfare PowerPoint

Map:  Muslim expansion in the west to 750; Byzantine theme system, ca. 900



Week of 14 Sept

T. Charlemagne’s Armies and Wars

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 22-27, 179-84, 260-68; Bradbury, Medieval Siege, pp. 28-38

Primary Source: Charlemagne's edicts on raising troops; Charlemagne's Saxon Campaign of 782-4 from the Frankish Annals; Life of Louis the Pious, Siege of Barcelona, 801

Images: Carolingian siege warfare (St. Gall ms.); Equestrian statue of Charlemagne; Carolingian images; Carolingian warfare PowerPoint

Map: Charlemagne's Empire and Campaigns (from N. Hooper and M. Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages); Charlemagne's  Empire (814) and the Treaty of Verdun (843; Carolingian World

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option A (write on one of the following):

1. Explain “the stirrup controversy” (Contamine 179-84).  In doing so, explain H. Brunner’s and Lynn White’s theses, Bachrach's criticisms of it, and whether Contamine accepts or rejects it.  Why is this controversy important for our understanding not only of Carolingian warfare but of medieval social and political history in general? (Hint: 'feudalism')

2. Explain the military recruitment system used by Charlemagne (Contamine 24-5 and Charlemagne's edicts on raising troops). How did it differ from EITHER the recruitment system used by Rome in late Antiquity OR the Byzantine theme system as described by Morillo?

3. Based on the primary sources and Jim Bradbury (pp. 28-38), what role did sieges and fortifications play in Carolingian warfare?  What was the role of battle?

4. Based on Contamine and the online primary sources, what was the Carolingian logistical system?

5. According to Contamine (pp. 260-8) what was the Christian conception of warfare during the Carolingian era?  Do you see any evidence for this in the primary source readings?


 Th. Viking and Magyar invasions and their military/political consequences for England and Germany
Secondary Source Reading:  Contamine 27-40, 50-5; Abels, Alfred the Great and Æthelred II ‘the Unready”: Viking Wars in England;  Battle of the Lechfeld (map and text) from Nicholas Hooper & Matthew Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas. Warfare: The Middle Ages 768-1487

Primary SourcesAnnals of St Bertin, 843-9Annals of St Vaast, 882-06 

Images:  PowerPoint: Carolingian and Anglo-Saxon Warfare, 768-955: Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, Charles the Bald. Otto the Great, and the Viking and Magyar Invasions
HOMEWORK (write on option A or B):

Option B (write on one of the following): 

1. Based on the Abels online reading, explain Alfred the Great’s strategy against the vikings, the elements of that strategy, and why it succeeded.

2. Based on the Abels online reading, explain King Æthelred II the Unready’s attempts to counter the viking invasions of England.  What accounts for his failure?

3. Compare and contrast how Charles the Bald, King of West Francia (i.e. the territory that would become France) responded to viking raids in the mid ninth century with the military responses of the East Frankish (i.e. German) kings Henry the Fowler and his son Otto the Great response to Magyar raids in the first half of the tenth century. (For this essay, use Abels on Charles the Bald and Contamine, pp. 27-37).



II. THE 'HIGH MIDDLE AGES' (c. 1050-c.1300)

(Recommended: Abels,  Chronology of the Central Middle Ages, c.950-c.1350)



Week of 21 Sept
T.  The political and military landscape of France in the eleventh and early twelfth centuries
Secondary Source Reading: Contamine  41-50, 184-8; Bradbury, The Medieval Siege, pp. 52-3, 57-66, 76-77

Primary Source: Abbot Suger, Life of King Louis the Fat (military activities); Agreement between Count William V of Aquitaine and Hugh IV of Lusignan, ca.1030 (excerpt)

Images: PowerPoint: war in eleventh century FranceEvolution of armor, 1050-1500

Map: Fulk Nerra’s castle-building in Anjou (from N. Hooper and M. Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages)

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option A (write on either 1 or 2):

1. Based on the assigned reading in Contamine, Bradbury, and Abbot Suger’s Life of King Louis the Fat, what was the political and military significance of castles in tenth- and eleventh-century France?

2. Based on Abbot Suger’s Life of King Louis the Fat and Contamine, analyze the military actions undertaken by King Louis the Fat. Whom did he fight? Why did he fight them? How did he fight them?

3. What does Abbot Suger’s Life of Louis the Fat reveal about the nature of warfare in early twelfth-century France? What doesn’t it tell us?

4. Based on the Agreement between Count William V of Aquitaine and Hugh IV of Lusignan, ca.1030 (excerpt), analyze why, how, and by whom wars were fought in southwest France in the first half of the eleventh century.


Th. Military obligation and recruitment in the High Middle Ages

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 65-73, 77-100, 115-18, 242-7; Abels: notes on military forces, obligation, and recruitment in the High Middle Agesrecommended reading:  Rogers, The Middle Ages, pp. 39-46
Images: Soldiers of the High Middle Ages

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option B (write on either 1 or 2):

1. According to Contamine, who fought in the armies of the High Middle Ages and how were they recruited?

2. According to Contamine (90-100, 242-7), what role did money wages play in the recruitment and maintenance of armies in the High Middle Ages? Was there a distinction between mercenary soldiers and other types of paid troops?


Week of 28 Sept

T. Historians debate medieval strategy

Secondary Source Reading: review Abels: notes on military forces, obligation, and recruitment in the High Middle Ages;

New Reading: C.W.C. Oman, The Art of War in the Middle Ages (1885) (handout); John Gillingham, "Richard I and the Science of War in the Middle Ages" (1984); Stephen Morillo, “Battle Seeking: The Contexts and Limits of Vegetian Strategy,” J. of Medieval Military History 1 (2002): 23-41 (handout)

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option A (write on either 1 or 2)

1. Explain the medieval “Vegetian strategy” proposed by John Gillingham. How does Stephen Morillo modify Gillingham’s thesis?

2. Compare and contrast John Gillingham’s and Charles Oman’s interpretations of medieval strategy.  Are their interpretations based upon the same or different historical evidence?

3. Based on John Gillingham’s article, explain what the Vegetian strategy for defense and the Vegetian strategy for attack entailed. According to Gillingham, what accounts for the popularity of Vegetian strategy in the Middle Ages?


Th. Case studies for strategy in the High Middle Ages: The Norman Conquest of England (1066) and Richard the Lionheart’s Gisors campaign of 1198

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 50-55; Rogers, Middle Ages: pp. 157-66; John Gillingham, "William the Bastard at War" (1989)

Resources for historical context:  Abels, “Timeline for Medieval Kings and Kingdoms of England and France,” entries for years 1042-1108, 1154-1199 (for historical context); Timeline for the Norman Conquest

Recommended readings: William I of England - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; Richard I of England - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Primary Source: Roger of Howden: King Richard I the Lionheart's Gisors campaign of 1198

Images:   PowerPoint: The Norman Conquest and war in the eleventh centuryBayeux Tapestry , click on parts 16-35 for the Hastings campaign

Maps: Maps of the Norman Conquest of Italy; Stephen Morillo’s maps and hourly chronology of the battle of Hastings  (half way down the page); Warfare in the Norman Vexin, 1193-1198 (from Hooper and Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages)

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option B (write on either 1 or 2)

1. According to John Gillingham, how did Duke William of Normandy typically conduct warfare, and what was unusual about the approach he took to the Norman Conquest?

2. Does Roger of Howden’s description of Richard the Lionheart’s Gisors campaign of 1198 support Gillingham’s thesis about Richard’s “science of war”?



Week of 5 Oct

T. Medieval Logistics and Supply

Secondary Source Reading: Michael Prestwich, Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages, pp. 245-62 (handout); Rogers, The Middle Ages, pp. 27-38; Abels, English medieval logistics

Images: Looting, Pillaging (15th cent. ms), Loot (15th c. ms), baggage cart filled with war gear (Morgan Bible, c.1250), Bayeux Tapestry: loading supplies on board ship, Bayeux Tapestry: foraging, Saladin ravages the Holy Land (ms. c.1250),  Saul takes prisoners and cattle (Morgan Bible, c.1250)

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option A  (write on one of the following)

1. According to Prestwich, how did the logistical system used by English kings evolved between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries? During which king’s reign was it most centralized and effective?

2. According to Clifford Rogers, what preparations did a man-at-arms have to make if summoned by his lord to go to war?

3. Based upon Jean Le Bel’s eyewitness account and Prestwich (for terminology), what logistical systems did King Edward III of England and the Scots employ during the campaign of 1327? How would you assess their effectiveness?


Th.  Fortifications and Sieges: Movie Castle

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 101-15; King Edward I (1277-1397): Welsh and Scots Wars and Castle Building

ImagesMotte-and-bailey castle building/ravaging in the Bayeux Tapestry ;  Taking a castle (Bayeux Tapestry, ca. 1077) ; Welsh motte-and-bailey castles ; Chateau-Gaillard (Richard I, 1197-8) ; trebuchet (modern reconstruction from Denmark) Nova builds a trebuchet; Edward I's Welsh Castles (look at map and click on links to images of Conwy and Caernarfon  

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option B: What were the basic methods of attacking and defending castles during the High Middle Ages according to Contamine?



Week of 12 Oct

T.  Fortifications and Siege

Secondary Source Reading: Rogers, The Middle Ages, pp. 113-44

Recommended reading: Bradbury, The Medieval Siege, pp. 308-34

Primary SourcePeter of les Vaux-de-Cernay, Siege of Termes during the Albigensian Crusade (1210);

ImagesMotte-and-bailey castle building/ravaging in the Bayeux TapestryTaking a castle (Bayeux Tapestry, ca. 1077) ; Welsh motte-and-bailey castles ; Chateau-Gaillard (Richard I, 1197-8) ; trebuchet (modern reconstruction from Denmark)Nova builds a trebuchet; Edward I's Welsh Castles (look at map and click on links to images of Conwy and Caernarfon]

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or option B)

Option A (write on one):

1. Describe the experiences of either the besieged in a walled city or the besiegers of a walled city as depicted by Rogers?

2. What considerations would the defenders of a walled city or castle take into account in deciding whether or not to surrender during a siege?

3. Based on Rogers’s description of ordinary sieges, what elements of the siege of Termes were ‘normal’ and what elements were unusual?



Th. Campaigns and mobile operations

Secondary Source Reading:  Rogers, The Middle Ages, pp. 65-98; Abels, “The Hainault Campaign of 1184”; Richard the Lionheart's campaigns, 1194-1198

Primary Sources: Edward III's Letter detailing his campaign in France, 1339; review Richard the Lionheart's Gisors campaign of 1198

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option B: According to Rogers, what were the main military activities of an ordinary campaign during the High Middle Ages? Assess how well Rogers’ general model fits the facts of one of the following: 1) Hainault campaign of 1184, 2) Richard the Lionheart’s Gisors campaign of 1198, or 3) Edward III’s campaign in France in 1339



Week of 19 Oct

T. Battlefield tactics:  Hastings (1066), Bouvines (1214), and Courtrai (1302)

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 228-33; J.F. Verbruggen, The Art of War in Western Europe during in the Middle Ages (1997), pp.  239-60, 187-94 (handout)

Review: Battle Diagrams and Analysis of the Battle of Hastings (Stephen Morillo)

Primary Sources: The Battle of Bouvines according to William the Breton; The Battle of Courtai or the Battle of the Golden Spurs

Recommended reading:  De Liebaart - The Battle of Courtrai or the Battle of the Golden Spurs - July 11th 1302  (read this if you are confused by Verbruggen on Courtrai, pp. 187-94).

Image:  Maciejowski Bible (or King's Bible), French, ca. 1250 (click on the next four images); The Chest of Courtrai

HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option A: Analyze the deployment of troops and tactics in one of the following battles: Hastings, Bouvines, or Courtrai.  Is your analysis of tactics and deployment used in that battle consistent with Contamine’s general discussion of these topics (pp. 228-33)?


Th.  Naval warfare

Secondary Source Reading: Stephen Morillo, Naval Warfare 1050-1368; Abels, Roger of Lauria, admiral of the Aragonese-Catalan fleet in the War of the Sicilian Vespers, 1283-1305

Primary Source: Admiral Roger de Luria in Ramon Muntaner's Chronicle (1325-8). In Parenthesis, Catalan Series , pp. 39-43, 143-6, 154-63 (on the battle of Malta, Roger’s first great victory), 211-18, 231-7, 287-91, 327-30, 360-3.

Recommended reading: Lawrence Mott, “The Battle of Malta, 1283: Prelude to a Disaster,” in The Circle of War in the Middle Ages: Essays on Medieval Military and Naval History, edited by Donald J. Kagay and L.J. Andrew Villalon (Boydell & Brewer, 1999)

Images: Medieval Warships and Naval War PowerPoint

HOMEWORK  (write on either option A or B)

Option B (write on either 1 or 2):

1. Based on Ramon Muntaner’s narrative, what role did land operations play in naval warfare as practiced by Admiral Roger de Luria?

2. Describe the most significant developments in naval warfare between 1050 and 1571 according to Morillo.



Week of 26 Oct

T. The knight,“chivalry,” and medieval warfare

Secondary Source Reading: Abels on chivalry; Matthew Strickland, War and Chivalry: The Conduct and Perception of War in England and Normandy, 1066-1217 (Cambridge U. Press, 1996), pp. 98-104, 112-24, 330-40 (handout)

Recommended reading:  Matthew Bennett, "Why Chivalry? Military 'Professionalism' in the Twelfth Century: The Origins and Expressions of a Socio-economic Ethos”, in The Chivalric Ethos and the Development of Military Professionalism, ed. David Trim (Leiden: Brill, 2003).

Primary Sources: Joinville's Life of St Louis: The Battle of Mansoura (pp. 102-08, 117); Battle of Bremule of 1119 (Orderic Vitalis' account); Bertran de Born (ca. 1180): poem 3: “War Cry”

Images:  Maciejowski Bible (1250 French): click on this image and the next four; how a knight put on his armor, c. 1300 (click on following pages); evolution of English armor, 1075-c.1500

Last required HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option A (write on either 1 or 2):

1. Based on the assigned reading from Strickland’s book, what influence did chivalry have upon the practice of warfare in the twelfth century?

2. Does Joinville’s account of the battle of Mansoura support or undermine Stickland’s argument about the importance of honor and shame to the medieval knight?

3. How well does Abels’ description of William Marshal’s practical chivalry tally with Matthew Strickland’s analysis of the practice of chivalry in combat?






Th. The Early Crusades as Military Campaigns

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 55-64, 74-7; Nicolle, Third Crusade 7-17

Last required HOMEWORK (write on either option A or B)

Option B: According to Contamine, what special military challenges did the crusaders and their commanders face and how did they overcome them?


Week of 2 Nov

T. Crusades and transcultural warfare within Europe

Secondary Source Reading; Contamine 270-80; Stephen Morillo, "A General Typology of Transcultural Warfare: The Early Middle Ages and Beyond"; Malcolm Barber, "The Albigensian Crusades: Wars Like Any Other?”; read Nicolle, Third Crusade 18-36

Replacement HOMEWORK (optional assignment: replaces lowest homework grade):  According to Malcolm Barber, were the Albigensian Crusades wars like any other? Where would the Albigensian Crusades fit into Stephen Morillo’s general typology of Transcultural warfare?


Th. Case study in Crusading warfare: Richard the Lionheart’s campaign of 1191

Secondary Source Reading: Nicolle, Third Crusade 37-89

Primary source:  Itinerary of Richard I to the Holy Land

Images: Military aspects of the Crusades

Replacement HOMEWORK (optional assignment: replaces lowest homework grade): What do you learn about Richard I’s campaign from Acre to Arsuf from the primary source Itinerary of Richard I to the Holy Land  that is missing from David Nicolle’s secondary account of the event? What does this reveal about the differences between primary and secondary sources?


Week of 9 Nov

T. Movie: The Third Crusade

Second Source Reading: Third Crusade - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Primary source:  Joinville,  Life of St. Louis : the Seventh Crusade (read ahead for next Tuesday)


Th.  MIDTERM EXAM.  Study Sheet


Week of 16 Nov

T. Case study of a failed crusade: the Seventh Crusade (St. Louis IX's Crusade to Egypt), 1248-54

Secondary Source Reading:  The Seventh Crusade (wikipedia)

Primary source: Joinville, Life of St. Louis (on the Seventh Crusade).

Replacement HOMEWORK (optional assignment: replaces lowest homework grade). Write on 1 or 2:

1. According to David Nicolle, what was Saladin’s strategy for the Hattin campaign and why did it succeed?

2. Based on Joinville's account, why did St. Louis's crusade end in surrender?



Siege of Aubenton (1340) as depicted in illuminated manuscript of Froissart's Chronicles ca. 1470, BN FR2643)


Week of 16 Nov

Th.  Warfare in the Late Middle Ages: armies and soldiers
Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 119—37, 150-65; Rising cost of warfare: England, 1270-1400; Abels, "Fourteenth-Century Mercenaries"

Primary source:  indenture of war 1347; English Troops in Portugal in 1381; A Description of English soldiers during the Wars of the Roses

Images: PowerPoint: Late Medieval Warfare; Indenture of 1439; 14th- and 15th-century manuscript illustrations of war (French)

Replacement HOMEWORK (optional assignment: replaces lowest homework grade):  According to Contamine what were the main differences between the mechanisms used to recruit soldiers (both mounted men-at-arms and foot soldiers) in the High and the Late Middle Ages?


Week of 23  Nov

(Monday, 23 Nov by 1630: ANALYTICAL ESSAY due for essay/article review option, in hard copy or by electronic submission)


T. The Hundred Years War, 1337-1453: Overview and Strategies

Secondary Source Reading: Abels, Overview and Chronology for the Hundred Years' War; Contamine 208-28

Maps: Hundred Years’ War: campaigns 1338-1360 (from Hooper and Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages); France during the phases of the Hundred Years" War; Map of France in 1453





Week of 30 Nov

T. Conduct of the Hundred Years’ War: chivalry and chevauchées

Secondary Source Reading: Bradbury, The Medieval Siege, pp. 300-07,  317-24; review Abels, "Fourteenth-Century Mercenaries"

Primary Sources: Froissart’s Chronicle: the Bascot de Mauleon ; Froissart: The Black Prince's sack of Limoges;  Letter from Edward III on his campaign in France in 1339; The Black Prince’s dispatch describing his Great Chevauchée of 1355, from Clifford Rogers, Wars of Edward III:sources and interpretations, pp. 152-154 (no. 93)

Map: Hundred Years’ War,  campaigns 1338-1360

Replacement HOMEWORK (optional assignment: replaces lowest homework grade): Identify the military activities of the Bascot de Mauleon. What do his reminiscences reveal about the conduct of the Hundred Years’ War in the mid fourteenth century?


Th. Victory in battle--victory in war?: The campaigns and battles of Poitiers (1356), Agincourt (1415), and the End of the Hundred Years' War

Secondary Source Reading: Matthew Bennett, “The Development of Battle Tactics in the Hundred Years War” (1994); Abels, "Gunpowder and the Battle of Castillon (1453)”

Primary Source:   Monstrelet on the Battle of Agincourt

Images: The Battle of Agincourt

Map: Agincourt campaign and the conquest of Normandy, 1415-1419 (from Hooper and Bennett, Cambridge Illustrated Atlas of Warfare: The Middle Ages); Map of the Battle of Poitiers 1356: Positioning; Map of the Battle of Poitiers - September 19, 1356; Battle deployment at Agincourt

Replacement HOMEWORK (optional assignment: replaces lowest homework grade) Write on one of the following:

1. Based on Monstrelet’s account, why did Henry V fight the Battle of Agincourt and how did he win?

2. According to Matthew Bennett, how did battle tactics evolve over the course of the Hundred Years War, and what accounts for the developments he identifies?



Week of 7 December

T.  Gunpowder, infantry, standing armies, and nationalism: a military revolution?
Reading: Contamine 137-50, 165-72, 303-08; Bradbury, The Medieval Siege, pp. 282-95; Rogers, The Middle Ages, pp. 144-6 ; Abels, Gunpowder and the Battle of Castillon (1453)

Images: Early Handguns; PowerPoint: Late Medieval Warfare;  14th- and 15th-century manuscript illustrations of war (French)


Th.  Th. Laws of Arms: The Ethics and Practice of War in the Late Middle Ages/Conclusion to Course

Secondary Source Reading: Contamine 284-308

Replacement HOMEWORK (optional assignment: replaces lowest homework grade): What were the "Laws of Arms" of the late Middle Ages and how could they be reconciled with an approach to warfare that featured chevauchées?

Research Paper OR Article Review due


FINAL EXAMINATION: 1330, Dec 21, 2009.  Study Sheet