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Dr Rémy Ambühl DEA, MRes, PhD

Lecturer in Medieval History

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Doctor Rémy Ambühl is a Lecturer in medieval History within the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at the University of Southampton.

I am a historian of late Medieval Europe. My work has focused on the 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 prisoners of war and the surrender of garrisons and urban communities, but I am keen to expand the scope of my research, both thematically and chronologically. I became interested in this subject during my Masters 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-).

My initial aim was to become a secondary school teacher in Belgium. I took three years of training in human sciences for that purpose between 1996 and 1999. A growing interest in history led me to pursue historical studies in France at the University of Lille 3 where I completed the equivalent of a BA (1999-2001). I was very proud to publish my BA thesis as a book in 2002.

Encouraged by this early achievement, I decided to do a DEA (=MA) at the same University of Lille 3 in 2003. I researched a princely lineage, the counts of Eu in Normandy. One prominent figure of this family happened to have been taken prisoner to England at the battle of Agincourt and I decided to follow his track. This is why I crossed the Channel and how my interest in prisoners of war was born. I undertook an MRes at the university of Nottingham on the prisoners of Agincourt (2003-4), which was later published in the form of two articles. This study inspired the PhD project on prisoners of war on the Hundred Years War that was granted a Bullough scholarship by the University of St Andrews (2005-9). The PhD dissertation was further developed and published by Cambridge University Press in 2013, Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War: Ransom Culture in the Late Middle Ages.

In the meantime, I expanded the scope of my interests in the laws of war and the fate of the defeated in a new project on collective surrender of fortresses and urban communities which was awarded a prestigious Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship to be carried out at the university of Southampton (2012-4). I was made a full-time lecturer here, by the end of 2012. In 2015, I was awarded a nine-month Fernand Braudel IFER incoming Fellowship which took me to Paris for a year to pursue my research on surrender. More recently I have resumed the project of a scholarly edition of a fifteenth century chronicle, in collaboration with professor Anne Curry.

Career History

Agrégé de l’enseignement secondaire inférieur, Ecole Normale Supérieure du Brabant Wallon, Louvain-la-Neuve, 1999

Licence, History/ option geography, University of Lille 3, 2000

Maîtrise, History, University of Lille 3, 2001

DEA, History, University of Lille 3, 2003

MRES, History, University of Nottingham, 2004

PhD, History, University of St Andrews, 2009

 

(Main one) Lecturer at the University of Southampton, 2012-

Research interests

I have used my set of skills – including an expertise in archival research on both sides of the Channel (France and England), and advanced skills in palaeography and language (Latin, old French and middle English) to develop an original perspective on this topic which builds on the practice of war. Past scholarship on the laws of war has had a tendency to focus too narrowly on the world of intellectuals as if there was no connection between the thoughts of these intellectuals, mostly theologians and canon lawyers and the practice of war. I seek, in my work on prisoners and surrender, to conciliate these two worlds and reveal the interaction between theory on war, military practice and politics.

I have developed a strong and original approach to the study of war, which has been supported by prestigious funding institutions (University of St Andrews, Institute of Historical Research, Leverhulme Trust, and the Fondation Maison des sciences de l’Homme) and led to several publications including a research monograph and a large collection of articles. My research raises important questions and produces answers which are challenging and accessible to a wide audience, attracting a sustained attention of the media, especially from the BBC.

PhD Supervision

Co supervision

Andrew Martinez (second supervisor) PhD: Military ordinances: the development of the English army, 1385–1585 (2011-2018)

Aleksandr Lobanov (second supervisor) PhD: Anglo-Burgundian cooperation, 1420–35 (2012- 2015)

PhD research

PhD: ‘Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War’, Professor Christopher J. Given-Wilson

Key research projects are:

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

Surrender - a key concept to international law and the ‘culture of war’ – continues to be a controversial issue across history and cultures, representing a sustained threat to the safety of civilians and soldiers. In this respect, this project, although rooted in international war and civil wars in fifteenth-century France and England, has a strong modern resonance.

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 to various international conferences held in France, Switzerland and England since the inception of the project in 2012, and published several case-studies which highlight the intermingling of politics and ethics in war. A research monograph is in preparation, which is based on extensive archival research in France.

2. Prisoners of war in the Late Middle Ages

This is an ongoing research interest. I started with an MRes on the prisoners of Agincourt and since expanded the scope of this research for my PhD, covering the whole of the Hundred Years War. I have published extensively on this topic. My findings on the widespread business of ransom and the origins of the phrase ‘prisoner of war’ have attracted the attention of the BBC which published two online articles: ‘Medieval warfare had well-organised 'ransom market' (24 January 2013) and ‘England's first 'prisoner of war' discovered’ (16 January 2018) (also in the news on BBC Radio 2, 4 and BBC World); ‘The life of the medieval prisoner of war was assessed in purely economic terms. Interview’ (BBC History Magazine, March 2018, p. 12). Most recently, BBC History Extra has published a podcast on ‘What was it like to be a Prisoner of War during the Hundred Years War?’ (27 May 2020).

3. A Soldiers’ Chronicle of the Hundred Years War: College of Arms Manuscript M 9

Professor Anne Curry and myself are involved in the scholarly edition of a fifteenth century chronicle, better known as the ‘Basset chronicle’, which, to this date, has remained unpublished. It is a unique document of utmost importance which may indirectly have been a source of inspiration for Shakespeare’s historical plays. The book which will result from this project will include an edition and translation of the text, as well as an in-depth analysis of its multiple authorship, its portrayal of war, its language and legacy. I started working on this chronicle in 2010, as a visiting fellow in Southampton, and now nears completion. 

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

Affiliate research group

Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture

Membre de la Société de l’Histoire de France

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Membre du Centre européen d’études bourguignonnes

Director of the CMRC (Centre of Medieval and Renaissance Culture)

University REF Equality Impact Assessment sub-committee (2019-2020)

School of Humanities Athena SWAN Self-Assessment Team Staff team (2020-)

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Articles

Books

Book Chapters

Conferences

Journal Special Issue

Website

  • 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
HIST2069: Knights and Chivalry
HIST2225: Besieged: Towns in War c.1250-c.1650
HIST3253/4: The Hundred Years War
HIST3255: A Short History of The Ethics of War
HIST 6114: The Medieval World: sources and approaches in pre-modern history

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
Email:R.ambuhl@soton.ac.uk

Room Number: 65/3081


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