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The Hundred Years' War? Essay

4191 words - 17 pages

The Hundred Years' War

The start of hostilities in 1337 sees the balance of power stacked distinctly in the favor of France. Its population is large, its lands fertile, and its cities prosperous. A population of over 10 million make it one of, if not the strongest population base in Western Europe, with Paris laying claim to title as perhaps the sole great city in Latin Christendom . In contrast, the population of England totals only a third or a fourth of its adversary, with lands less developed and people less prosperous. Additionally, England still faces challenges from Scotland to the north, and though slightly less perilous in nature, revolts of the Welsh and Irish to the west. The marked difference in resource base allows French kings to continually field larger armies for the entire duration of the conflict.

The defensive nature of the war for France also conveys considerable inherent advantages. Siege weapons have yet to catch up to the fortifications of the day, and larger walled cities and strongholds are often considered impregnable , requiring attacking armies to resort to the lengthy process of starving out a garrison before the city could be relieved. "The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities. " Such a process, as in the case of Calais, could take months on end, with a high cost in men and resources which imposed a severe limitation on how much territory could be assaulted, broken, and held in any given amount of time. An army invading a territory as vast as the lands of France, whose landscape is dotted with fortified towns and castles, would be hard pressed to make any permanent inroads without the most tenacious and lengthy of operations.

Defending a consolidated position of home territories also brings with it an ease of supply and reinforcement, as newly raised troops and provisions are able to be brought into areas of conflict far more rapidly than the English troops that require transport across the Channel . The unified front that France is required to defend is also a boon to military operations, allowing movement of a consolidated force to where its greatest impact can be achieved, while the English are forced to attempt offensive and defensive operations across a disparate and often scattered front, including areas of Aquitaine, Normandy, Brittany, the Low Countries, Scotland, and even its home provinces at various points in the conflict.

The English Channel, so often the salvation of the island nation, would in this case prove to be a bane to the would-be conquerors. Far from the naval supremacy it would enjoy in future conflicts, the English fleets are constantly challenged by the ships of France and her allies during the conflict, and the all important mastery of the seas frequently proves to be elusive. English operations in France are wholly dependent on the water for communications, reinforcements, and the security of the home islands whilst its armies are deployed for continental campaigns....

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