History Jar Challenge 8 – a break from castles…

Battle of Shrewsbury from of A tour in Wales by Thomas Pennant (1726-1798)

I am conscious that not everyone is wildly enthusiastic about castles – we will come back to them eventually but it’s time for a change in this week’s challenge so that we can get back to something more manageable…ish

How many key battlefield sites – so battles rather than OS references- can you identify taking place on English soil between January 1066 and 21st July 1403? So we’re covering the battles of the Norman Conquest, the key battles of the Anarchy -not every little squabble or we’ll never get to the end of the list; the Barons Wars, the Scottish Wars of Independence and we conclude with the Glyndwr Rising. The Battle in 1403 you should know if you’ve been following the store cupboard of quotes.

As much as anything it’s an opportunity to consider the medieval period and the evolution of the relationship between monarch and parliament as well as considering the way in which english monarch sought to dominate Wales and Scotland. Henry II laid claim to Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

We used to refer to the period after the Romans left Britain as the Dark Ages we now refer to them as Earl Medieval. Thus the medieval period stretches from the collapse of the Roman empire to the Fifteenth Century – which is Late Medieval. Throughout the time period I have identified in the challenge above English kings sought to control Wales and Scotland. From 1337 onwards they were also engaged in the Hundred Year’s War to gain control of France by right of inheritance through Isabella of france, the mother of Edward III.

Throughout this period, the warfare which was almost continuous in some respects, many aspects of warfare remained the same but it was also the period that saw the longbow and then the canon. Armies were composed of infantry and cavalry and they were formed from feudal due or paid mercenaries. The structure of the army reflected the social structure in the wider world – which did not really lend itself to continuous year round warfare – rather to periodic seasonal hostilities depending upon the political situation. There were other seasonal factors involved as well – such as the weather. Communications weren’t necessarily that brilliant- there are several instances of armies stumbling unexpectedly across one another. Armies might have marched but there was lots of manoeuvring, lots of negotiating and quite a few sieges as well as hostage taking. Battles were basically the last resort…and I am obviously simplifying.