PhD, MA, BA
- Primary position:
- Dean of the Faculty of Humanities
- Other positions:
- Professor of Medieval History
2015 is a momentous year for me since it marks the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt. Watch out in August for my latest books, Great Battles. Agincourt (OUP), which traces the cultural legacy of the battle from 1415 to the present day, and my Penguin Monarchs, Henry V. A new edition of my Agincourt. A New History will also be published as well as an e-book version of The Battle of Agincourt. Sources and Interpretations.
I will be giving many talks and am organising a conference ‘War on Land and Sea: Agincourt in Context’, at the University of Southampton from 31 July to 3 August. Please see 600th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt Conference 2015 site. As Academic co-chair of the Agincourt 600 committee and chair of the trustees of the Agincourt 600 charity I am looking forward to many other exciting events (see agincourt600.com), and also to spending the actual anniversary at the battlefield itself.
I am Dean of the Faculty of Humanities. Between 2008 and 2011 I was President of the Historical Association. I have given many academic papers in the UK, Europe, USA and Australia. I have also appeared on Radio (including three times on ‘In Our Time') and TV (most recently on BBC4's The Hundred Years War and Yesterday Channel, Secrets of the Medieval Dead), and given many lectures to general audiences. I am always keen to receive invitations to speak.
Please contact me if you have any Agincourt-related queries or if you would like me to give a talk.
The University of Southampton's electronic library (e-prints)
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, paperback 2006), 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), which also includes translations of all the key texts. More recently, I have been looking at why the battle has meant so much over the six centuries since it occurred (Great Battles. Agincourt, published by OUP in August 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 is coming out in the summer of 2015, published by The Boydell Press.
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.
We have a searchable website.
I am also continuing to publish on the English in Normandy and now extending my interest into Gascony with an on-line project on the Gascon rolls involving Kings College London and the University of Keele. 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.
I have also been working on the battle of Bosworth in connection with the lottery funded project there - visit the Battle of Bosworth Heritage Centre website.
You can watch there the podcast of the conference held in February 2010 concerning the recently discovered site of the battle. 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. You can buy the CD of this on Amazon, and it is now available on British History on-line (by subscription). I have also worked on the military experience of the Speakers of the Commons.
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 PhD December 2009)
Randall Moffett - The Defences of Southampton (awarded PhD August 2009)
Lynda Pidgeon - The Woodville family (awarded PhD July 2012)
Gemma Watson - Roger Machado and early Tudor Southampton (AHRC Collaborative doctoral project with Southampton City Council) (co-supervision with English) (awarded PhD July 2013)
Aleksandr Lobanov - Anglo-Burgundian Military Co-operation 1420-1435
Rebecca Holdorph - Marriage and the women of the house of Lancaster, late 13th-early 15th centuries
Drew Martinez - Military ordinances of the English crown 1385-1587
Dan Spencer - Gunpowder weapons, 14-16th centuries
Chloe Mackenzie - The Ladies of the Garter and their Robes