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The University of Southampton

HIST1074 The Battle of Agincourt

Module Overview

At Agincourt in 1415, ‘the flower of French chivalry' was destroyed by an English army led by Henry V, invading France in pursuit of his claim to the French crown. It is one of the most celebrated battles in English history, made famous by Shakespeare. But how do we know what actually happened on that St Crispin's day? How accurately can the dramatic but confused events of the battle be reconstructed? Can we determine exactly how and why the outnumbered English managed to inflict such a catastrophic defeat on the French? The module explores the often contradictory chronicle accounts of the battle, both English and French, and contemporary and later; we shall examine the accuracy of these accounts, and how they are influenced and shaped by national and political biases, and cultural factors such as religion and chivalry.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • how and why medieval narrative and administrative sources were produced, and how historians analyse and interpret them
  • the nature of late medieval warfare
  • the place of the battle in English consciousness from the 15th century to today, with special reference to Shakespeare’s ‘King Henry V’ and modern TV documentaries
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • read and critically assess the arguments put forward in secondary literature
  • identify different types of primary source and read them with a critical eye
  • prepare and respond in debate
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • gather and critically analyse information
  • produce oral and written presentations
  • cooperate with other members of the module in group work
  • debate opposing points of view and judge their merits


The battle of Agincourt of 1415 is one of the most famous battles of the Middle Ages. ‘The flower of French chivalry’ was completely defeated and humiliated by the English under Henry V, who had invaded France under guise of a claim to its throne. Our starting point will be why the battle happened at all. This will involve an overview of Anglo-French relations in the early fifteenth century. We shall then move on to consider how and why the battle was commented on by chroniclers in the fifteenth century. Early literary responses will also be examined for what they can tell us about perceptions of war and national identity. In the sixteenth century, ‘standard’ accounts of the battle were produced in the histories of Hall and Holinshed. Both fed into Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’. We shall thus study the ways in which a medieval event was treated in the Tudor period before moving on to assess interpretations of later centuries. Increased interest in the battle in recent years has given rise to a number of TV documentaries. These will be considered for what they can tell us about the marketing of history for the mass market. What has often been forgotten is that there are large numbers of administrative records still surviving in the National Archives which enable us to appreciate how well organised warfare was in the period and which provide a corrective for the chronicle narratives and later histories. You will be introduced to the different types of records and how they can be used to produce databases of participants at the battle.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • brief outlines of Anglo-French relations and English politics in the period • comparative readings of chronicle sources for, and later interpretations of the battle of Agincourt • examination of facsimiles and transcripts of documents from The National Archives • demonstration of computer database derived from muster rolls and other sources • the showing of videos to explore the portrayal of the battle in Shakespeare and in TV documentaries Learning activities include • independent study of the sources, and student presentations on various texts and portrayals • researching the context of the battle in later medieval French and English history • evaluation of web sites Innovative or special features of this module  where practicable, a visit to the battlefield in order to evaluate the presentation of a historical site. Where this is not possible, a visit to the National Archives and/or a visiting speaker will be arranged

Preparation for scheduled sessions45
Completion of assessment task16
Follow-up work45
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Anne Curry (2005). Agincourt. A New History. 

Gerald Harriss (ed.) (1985). Henry V: the Practice of Kingship. 

Christopher Allmand (1992). Henry V. 

Anne Curry (2000). The Battle of Agincourt. Sources and Interpretations. 

Matthew Bennett (1991). Agincourt 1415. Triumph against the Odds. 

Keith Dockray (2004). Henry V. 

John Keagan (1986). The Face of Battle. 

ed. Andrew Gurr (1992). King Henry V. 

G. Bullough (1962). Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, vol. 4. 

Anne Curry (2003). The Hundred Years War. 

Edouard Perroy (1951). The Hundred Years War. 

Michael Prestwich (1996). Armies and Warfare in the Middle Ages. The English Experience. 

Anne Curry (ed.) (2000). Agincourt 1415. Henry V, Sir Thomas Erpingham and the Triumph of the English Archers. 

J. H. Wylie and W. T. Waugh (1914-29). The Reign of Henry V, 3 vols. 


Assessment Strategy

• Weekly lectures and seminars • Individual tutorials (preparation for essay and feedback) In addition to secondary sources, we will explore a variety of primary sources identifying which ones are most useful to answer a particular research question and which limitations each one has. This is a seminar in which active student participation is key. In some sessions the discussion will be groups of students. In the other sessions the discussion will be led by all seminar participants and centre around several primary or secondary sources. Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback  student presentations with verbal commentary from tutor  group work on specific topics and the circulation of reports on student email  a practice essay of 1000 words with written feedback




MethodPercentage contribution
Commentary exercise  (1000 words) 20%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Examination  (1 hours) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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