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Dr Rémy Ambühl 

Lecturer in Medieval History, CMRC MA Convenor, Admissions Team

Dr Rémy Ambühl's photo

I am a historian of late Medieval Europe. My work has focused on politics and ethics of war in fourteenth and fifteenth century France, England and Burgundy. I have developed a strong interest in the laws of war, their nature, how they formed, evolved and interacted with politics and diplomacy. I have done this, so far, through the study of the issues of prisoners of war and surrender, but I am keen to expand the scope of my research. I became interested in this subject during my Master at the University of Nottingham (2003-4) and further developed it during my doctoral studies at the University of St Andrews (2005-9), before I came to Southampton as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, back in 2012.  I am a fellow of the Royal Historical Society (2015-) and a member of the Société de l’Histoire de France (2017-).

H-Commons profile

Key research projects are:

1. Surrender of castles and urban communities in late medieval France (1400-1450)

Surrender - a key concept to the ‘culture of war' - has a controversial issue across history and cultures, representing a sustained threat to the safety of civilians and soldiers. Surrender is central to international and civil wars in fifteenth-century France and England, which were arguably not lost or won on the battlefield (e.g. Agincourt) but before or within the walls of cities, towns and castles through negotiation. This hypothesis lies at the heart of the project which will fill a gap in our understanding of the conduct of war and make significant contribution to the psychology of surrender.

The work on this project has been initially funded by The Leverhulme Trust through the Early Career Fellowship scheme from 1 January 2012 to 1 January 2014. I have since been awarded a nine-month Fernand Braudel IFER incoming Fellowship in collaboration with the Fondation de la Maison des Sciences de l’Homme and the Université de Cergy-Pontoise in 2015-6 for the continuation of this project. I have given papers on different aspects of this topic since 2012: St Andrews (2012, 2017), Leeds (2012), Nancy (2012), Cambridge (2013), Bern (2015), Cerisy-la-Salle (2015), Lille (2016), Winchester (2014, 2017), Paris (2018) and published several case-studies (on the surrenders of Ardres and Audruicq, in 1377, Meaux, in 1422, and Rouen, in 1449) which highlight the intermingling of politics and ethics of war. A research monograph is in preparation.

Leverhulme Trust Logo
Leverhulme Trust Logo
Fondation maison des sciences de l'homme
Fondation maison des sciences de l'homme








2. Prisoners of war in the Late Middle Ages

This is an ongoing research interest. It started with my MRes which led to the publication of two articles on the prisoners of Agincourt, shedding unprecedented light on the practice of ransoming at a lower end of the military hierarchy, unveiling the ‘backstage’ of a business in which prizes were shared out according to the status of the masters.

I since expanded the scope of this research for my PhD, covering the whole Hundred Years War. In part, this study furthers the reflection on Agincourt, as I found more evidence of the widespread ransoming practice outside the knightly circle in the fifteenth century. Quantitative analysis of various financial records demonstrated a form of ‘democratisation’ of the ransom business. This, I argue, is a result of a combination of two main factors: the larger social spectrum of the composition of the armies, and the fear and respect of the principle of retaliation. But the breadth and depth of this study reached greater heights. My overall approach is inspired by the concept of a ‘culture of war’. Drawing on a wide variety of records (for the most part, archival), I carefully identify and analyse the legal, political, social and economic components of the ‘ransom culture’. This culture, I demonstrate, is mainly shaped by pressure from below. This was pressure from the individual masters and prisoners who faced multiple obstacles caused by the lack of official channels. My insights offer a new perspective on military practice during the Hundred Years War, which has been commonly interpreted as controlled solely by the needs of state. From a wider perspective, my interpretation also adds to the weight of arguments developed in recent studies against the predominant theory of the growth of state power in the late Middle Ages. This research has attracted the attention of the BBC which highlights some aspects of these conclusions in an online article: Medieval warfare had well-organised 'ransom market' (24 January 2013); but if you wish to read more on this, I invite you to consult my book on Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War: Ransom Culture in the Late Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press, 2013), the publication of which was supported by a Scouloudi award from the Institute of Historical Research.

More recently, I have traced back the origin of the French phrase ‘prisonnier de guerre’ and reflected on the meaning of its birth at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. I discuss the birth and rise of a new phrase and a new status of prisoner of war in relation to the case of Joan of Arc. Why, if this status involved any form of protection, was it used by the English to describe Joan of Arc once she had fallen into their hands in 1430? The answer is in my ‘Joan of Arc as prisonnière de guerre’, The English Historical Review, Volume 132, Issue 558, 14 December 2017, Pages 1045–1076. BBC got interested in these findings too, publishing an article:  England's first 'prisoner of war' discovered (16 January 2018) which also made the today programme on Radio BBC4.


POV in the 100 Year War
POV in the 100 Year War

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Book Chapters


Journal Special Issue


  • Curry, A. (Author), Ambuhl, R. (Author), & Lobanov, A. (Author). (2016). The French army in 1415. Web publication/site

I currently teach the following undergraduate and MA modules:

HIST1146: Joan of Arc: History behind the Myth
HIST2036: The Hundred Years War
HIST2069: Knights and Chivalry
HIST2225: Besieged: Towns in War c.1250-c.1650
HIST3230: The Ethics of War
CMRC6016: From Medieval To Renaissance: Reading the Evidence

Areas where I can offer postgraduate supervision:

I would welcome enquiries from graduate students interested in pursuing postgraduate research on the conduct of war in late medieval Europe (especially relating to France, England and Burgundy), and late medieval French society and politics. I can offer strong support to students who wish to carry out archival research (France and England). This is not, however, a necessity or a requirement.

Dr Rémy Ambühl
Building 65, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton SO17 1BF, United Kingdom

Room Number: 65/3081

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