Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor of Medieval History
Professor Anne Curry is the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Southampton.
I am a medieval historian with special interests in the Hundred Years War and, more specifically, Agincourt. Last year was really momentous for me as it marked the 600th anniversary of the battle. I gave many talks in the UK, France and USA, and was historical adviser to the Royal Armouries exhibition at the Tower of London. As chair of the Trustees of Agincourt 600 I was heavily involved in the commemorations and the awarding of grants from the £1m which we received from HM Government for the anniversary. The greatest honour was being invited to speak in English and French on the day itself (25 October) at the inauguration of a new monument at the battlefield. To read more, see www.agincourt600.com.
Agincourt has a special place in the British psyche, as you can read in my book Great Battles, Agincourt (OUP), which traces the cultural legacy of the battle from 1415 to the present day. Last year I also published Henry V in the Penguin monarchs series as well as, with Malcolm Mercer, The battle of Agincourt (Yale), a fully illustrated and comprehensive study linked to the RA exhibition. Now I am turning my attention to the treaty of Troyes of 1420 which aimed to create a double monarchy of England and France. Had that treaty proved successful, the history of Europe would have been very different!
I was President of the Historical Association 2006-9, and am now a Trustee of the Royal Armouries. Please contact me if would like me to give a talk, or if you are interested in postgraduate research in my field, or have any Agincourt-related queries and news.
My research focuses on war, politics and society in the later middle ages. In recent years my main work has been on the battle of Agincourt and on the soldiers of English armies. I am also very interested in civil-military relations (especially on the place of women - not just Joan of Arc - in warfare), in Henry V as prince of Wales, and in the armies of the Wars of the Roses. I have also directed a project on English Gascony - ‘Old Wine in New Bottles' (a reminder that this area was a major source of wine for medieval England). Read on for more details of how I became interested in this exciting period of history.
How it began
My historical journey began with my BA dissertation at the University of Manchester on the treaty of Troyes, an amazing peace settlement of May 1420 which made Henry V heir to the throne of France. Had it proved longer lasting, we would have had a double monarchy of England and France, and the history of Europe could have been much different.
My MA by research (also at Manchester, where I was inspired by Ian Kershaw before he moved on to Hitler) was on Cheshire in the reigns of Henry IV and V. This might seem to be a move away from things military, but I discovered that the war to put down Glendower's rebellion was partly funded from the revenues of the earldom of Chester, which was of course part of the lands of Henry V as prince.
In 1976 I was appointed to a post at Teesside Polytechnic where I also studied for my PhD, ‘Military Organization in Lancastrian Normandy 1422-50' (available on-line in ETHOS). I was lucky to find such a rewarding topic and such excellent supervisors in Christopher Allmand and Tony Pollard. After being appointed to a lectureship at the University of Reading in 1978, I continued to research the English occupation, from the impact of war on towns to the sexual activities of the English soldiers. I even dabbled in the history of accountancy in examining how the English moved from English to French methods of financial administration.
I then began to look in more detail at the conquest of Normandy by Henry V, which brought me to Agincourt. Everyone knows about this because of Shakespeare, but I wanted to strip away the hyperbole of later centuries. This meant working through the mass of surviving financial records in The National Archives at Kew and in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris to reconstruct the sizes of the English and French armies.
My conclusions, to be found in Agincourt: A New History (2005, new edn 2015), are dramatic. The English were undoubtedly 'happy' but by no means 'few'. They had between 8,500 and 9,000 at the battle whilst the French had only a few thousand more at most. The chronicle accounts of the battle are what we would today call 'spin'. I have analysed this in detail in my The Battle of Agincourt: Sources and Interpretations (2000, 2009, now e book), which also includes translations of all the key texts. I have also looked at why the battle has meant so much over the six centuries since it occurred (Great Battles. Agincourt, OUP, 2015).
Tracing medieval soldiers
When studying for my PhD I began to collect the names of soldiers. They were on file cards in those days, but thanks to an award from the British Academy in 1988 I started to create a computer database. This proved extremely useful in preparing my entries for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and I was also able to supply information on military careers to the History of Parliament Trust, other 15th-century historians, and genealogists. But I had not collected the names of the archers because there were so many. My research student, Adrian Bell, was able to look at both men-at-arms as well as archers for his doctorate on the armies of 1387 and 1388, and showed just how valuable a computer-based study could be.
We won three-year research grant (2006-9) from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to investigate The Soldier in the Later Middle Ages, 1369-1453. The Research Assistants on the project were Dr Andy King, a specialist on the Anglo-French border wars, and Dr David Simpkin, who has worked on the armies of Edward I and Edward II. The project student, Adam Chapman, studied for a PhD on the contribution of the Welsh to 'English' armies and his book The Welsh Soldier came out in 2015 (Boydell).
Our aim was to create a database of all known soldiers, not simply those serving in France, and to use it to examine whether we could speak of professional soldiers in this period. There has been a tendency to say that this was something which began in the early modern period but our book (The Soldier in Later Medieval England, OUP 2013. This is also available as an e-book) will reveal how well developed it was in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.
I am also continuing to publish on the English in Normandy and have extended my interest into Gascony with an on-line project on the Gascon rolls. I am also researching Henry V before his accession (21 March 1413) looking at his finances and at the origins of the stories of his youthful misbehaviour. You can read some of my conclusions in my Henry V in the Penguin Monarchs series (2015).
I have worked extensively on the armies of Richard and Henry at the battle, and the book of the project (Bosworth: A Battlefield Rediscovered, by Glenn Foard and Anne Curry, was published by Oxbow books in 2013).
I forgot to mention that I was also one of the editors of the Parliament Rolls of Medieval England, being responsible for the 1422-53 section. This is now available on British History on-line (by subscription). I have also worked on the military experience of the Speakers of the Commons.
www.medievalsoldier.org. Website of AHRC project (2006-9) on the Soldier in Later Medieval England. Over 250K names of soldiers put on line in a searchable database.
Other materials on www.medievalsoldier.org, on the sources for Agincourt, and the English occupation of Normandy, forthcoming.
Areas of postgraduate supervision
I am very keen to attract students interested in medieval military history, and on any aspect of the Hundred Years War. I can also supervise dissertations on medieval English and French political history, the role of women, and in English local history. I have supervised many students on topics as diverse as: English diplomats 1376-1422; technological change in warfare in the early 14th century; logistics under Edward I; the New Forest; Guildford Castle; markets in medieval Berkshire; Isabeau of Bavaria, queen of France; the study of arms and armour in the post-medieval period; the cost of arms and armour in the middle ages.
My recent and current postgraduates are:
Adam Chapman - The Welsh Soldier (awarded 2009)
Randall Moffett - The Defences of Southampton (awarded 2009)
Lynda Pidgeon - The Woodville family (awarded 2012)
Gemma Watson - Roger Machado and early Tudor Southampton (awarded 2013)
Aleksandr Lobanov - Anglo-Burgundian Military Co-operation 1420-1435 (awarded 2014)
Rebecca Holdorph - Marriage and the women of the house of Lancaster, late 13th-early 15th centuries (awarded 2016)
Dan Spencer – The development of gunpowder artillery in England (awarded 2016)
Drew Martinez - Military ordinances of the English crown 1385-1587
Chloe Mackenzie - The Ladies of the Garter and their Robes
James Hester – How were late medieval weapons actually used?
Michael Warner - Retinue structures and personnel in the Agincourt army
Robert Blackmore - The relationship between England and Gascony
Kate Bicknell - The Stanley family and the Stanley ballads
Professor Anne Curry Building 65 Faculty of Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom