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(Denver Post)   Almost 600 years ago today, a band of brothers laid claim to the greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history. Or did they?   (denverpost.com) divider line
    More: Interesting, military history, Copyright 2009 The Denver Post, Agincourt, British, Antoine Renault, University of Southampton  
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38899 clicks; posted to Main » on 25 Oct 2009 at 2:21 PM (10 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



189 Comments     (+0 »)
 


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2009-10-25 11:49:18 AM  
Boo. I mean Bayou.
 
2009-10-25 12:23:05 PM  
Meh. This is being presented like it isn't an old argument. It is. And the documentary evidence for it is on the flimsy side.

For example, they're using tax records and other documents to determine how many men were with Henry, but they're not really paying much attention to how many of those men were too sick on the day of battle to fight, or at least fight effectively. Many of the men in Henry's army has dysentery. There is never going to be a way of accurately knowing how many men Henry actually had in fighting trim.

That being said, the battle at Agincourt was not so much an English victory as French loss. The French knights attacked through calf-deep mud, in a huge, disorganized mob. They were suffering casualties due to the old 'falling down in foot-deep mud with heavy armor on' problem before they reached the English lines.

The numbers aren't really all that important. The essential narrative-- that French knights showed up and got their asses kicked by the English lower classes, due to their own arrogance and lust for glory-- remains.

Also, this is the same study that concludes, for no particular reason, that the English didn't make steel arrowheads, because it was a waste of steel. They don't really support that conclusion very well, and if you think about it-- the equivalent of one steel cuirass makes a shiatload of arrows.

A thirty-pound cuirass could make a lot of one ounce arrowheads, and you can then use those against the guy wearing a cuirass.


Still, the study itself is pretty nifty.
 
2009-10-25 12:25:44 PM  
History is written by the winner.
 
2009-10-25 12:26:21 PM  

eddyatwork: History is written by the winner.


I was told that history is written by those who have hanged heroes....
 
2009-10-25 12:48:50 PM  
Yeah, even if it was a numerically even fight, cavalry against footsoldiers is supposed to be a no-brainer. I've also heard it said that most of the french knights weren't there to fight so much as to try to find an opposing nobleman to capture for ransom money. The british footsoldiers were deathly ill, tired from a year of fighting and just wanted to go home, and found a bunch of panty-waisted nose-in-the-air froggies blocking their way.

As an aside, another study I've read suggests that they probably didn't have steel arrows. They had the technology, and probably started the campaign months before with them, and the steel arrows were every bit the technological advantage everyone says they would have been. But on that day, the hail of arrows mostly just stopped the french in the mud. What killed them was the longbowmen sapping them with the short club they carried as a sidearm.

One of the most fascinating documetnaries i've seen had a guy using human crowd-modeling software for studying the layout of shopping malls, etc. He claims to have demonstrated that the French never had a chance -- under the local terrain conditions, any advancing/moving army is going to get jammed up and be sitting ducks. Not so much a groundbreaking idea, but what made it cool was watching the computer animations of the armies bumbling around.
 
2009-10-25 12:55:18 PM  

eddyatwork: History is written by the winner.


Maybe, but Bernard Cornwell took a damn good crack at it.
 
2009-10-25 01:12:45 PM  
The numbers aren't really all that important. The essential narrative-- that French knights showed up and got their asses kicked by the English lower classes, due to their own arrogance and lust for glory-- remains.

THIS.

"Oh, you know, they can't have been outnumbered more than two to one," the researcher says airily, forgetting that 2:1 odds are still really, really bad, and 2 calvary to 1 infantry is still pretty-much a done deal on the side of cavalry.

And in the end, who give a tinker's fart what the actual ratios were, anyway? The Battle of Agincourt isn't remembered for the tactics. It's remembered for the populist pride it evokes.
 
2009-10-25 01:38:45 PM  
This is only the first part of the actual story at the NYT. The rest of the FA is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/world/europe/25agincourt.html

The main point of the article (not that you would know from the Denver Post chopping it's legs off) is that the new revisionist histories are being used as the basis for strategy in the Iraq and Afghani wars.
 
2009-10-25 02:11:10 PM  
Meh, historians always revisit history, it's how they keep their jobs.

That said, lets not forget that a lot of french nobles surrendered, thinking they would be ransomed.

Nope, sorry boys.
 
2009-10-25 02:24:01 PM  
I'm holding my manhood cheap.
 
2009-10-25 02:25:18 PM  
Oblig (new window)
 
2009-10-25 02:26:12 PM  
Was this French guy at the battle?
vikingsgab.comView Full Size
 
2009-10-25 02:27:35 PM  
Curry has been peddling this for ages.
 
2009-10-25 02:29:53 PM  

rnatalie: I'm holding my manhood cheap.


I'm now abed in England, so I'm getting a kick out of most of these replies.
 
2009-10-25 02:31:23 PM  
THIS IS AGINCOURT!
 
2009-10-25 02:31:26 PM  
Since I am currently re-reading "The Great Warbow" by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy, this is in my interest.

Though I'm at Crecy, not yet up to Agincourt.

Here's a thought: The English Army of 1350 could have easily defeated the English Army of 1750. Discuss.
 
2009-10-25 02:31:49 PM  
I'm getting a kick out of these comments because I just fought that battle last night in Age of Empires.
 
2009-10-25 02:32:35 PM  
I presume this happened before they were disbanded by Goonswarm...
 
2009-10-25 02:33:58 PM  

eddyatwork: History is written by the winner.


Well, far as I can figure out, history is actually written by every single general who survived on either side of every conflict, who is constantly trying to explain how things would've turned out hunky-dory if only Napoleon, Hitler, Jefferson Davis, Eisenhower, Montgomery or whoever had followed the good advice that he gave.
 
2009-10-25 02:36:18 PM  

dittybopper: Since I am currently re-reading "The Great Warbow" by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy, this is in my interest.

Though I'm at Crecy, not yet up to Agincourt.

Here's a thought: The English Army of 1350 could have easily defeated the English Army of 1750. Discuss.


It could happen. By 1750, armor had been pretty much abandoned, so the troops would be exposed to volleys from archers. Also, the reloading time for a gun would have been significantly longer than the time it takes to nock and loose an arrow. I'd suggest that the 1750 troops might be able to get off one or two good shots before they were creamed.
 
2009-10-25 02:36:25 PM  

DrRatchet: This is only the first part of the actual story at the NYT. The rest of the FA is here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/25/world/europe/25agincourt.html

The main point of the article (not that you would know from the Denver Post chopping it's legs off) is that the new revisionist histories are being used as the basis for strategy in the Iraq and Afghani wars.


I was about to snarkily ask where the rest of the article was, but apparently there actually is more in this case. Thanks.
 
2009-10-25 02:37:21 PM  

fnorgby: One of the most fascinating documetnaries i've seen had a guy using human crowd-modeling software for studying the layout of shopping malls, etc. He claims to have demonstrated that the French never had a chance -- under the local terrain conditions, any advancing/moving army is going to get jammed up and be sitting ducks. Not so much a groundbreaking idea, but what made it cool was watching the computer animations of the armies bumbling around.


I think I saw the same thing, but I thought they were talking about Crecy? It's been a while though, and I might be totally wrong.
 
2009-10-25 02:37:34 PM  
i35.tinypic.comView Full Size


/Shakespeare said it best.
 
2009-10-25 02:37:39 PM  

buckler: dittybopper: Since I am currently re-reading "The Great Warbow" by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy, this is in my interest.

Though I'm at Crecy, not yet up to Agincourt.

Here's a thought: The English Army of 1350 could have easily defeated the English Army of 1750. Discuss.

It could happen. By 1750, armor had been pretty much abandoned, so the troops would be exposed to volleys from archers. Also, the reloading time for a gun would have been significantly longer than the time it takes to nock and loose an arrow. I'd suggest that the 1750 troops might be able to get off one or two good shots before they were creamed.


And also the English Army of 1350 has Ender Wiggin.
 
2009-10-25 02:38:29 PM  

Kwisatzhaderach: Greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history?


Um, they lost the battle.

(Won the war though.)
 
2009-10-25 02:38:44 PM  
Obdicut
....The essential narrative-- that French knights showed up and got their asses kicked by....

The same line can pretty much be used any time the frogs show up near a fight.
 
2009-10-25 02:38:50 PM  
The historians have concluded that the English could not have been outnumbered by more than about two to one. And depending on how the math is carried out, Henry might have faced something closer to an even fight, said Anne Curry, a professor at the University of Southampton who is leading the study.

yum

[image from expressnightout.com too old to be available]
 
2009-10-25 02:39:10 PM  

Fano: And also the English Army of 1350 has Ender Wiggin.


Coffee, keyboard.
 
2009-10-25 02:39:30 PM  
Again, "inaccurate" isn't the same thing as "wrong." Article merely disputes whether the odds were merely 2 to 1 versus 6 to 1 - nobody's disputing the fact that the French were handed their asses by the English in a fight the French expected to win rather handily because they had more folks, better gear, and, of course, the entitlement of nobility.

FTFA (emphasis mine): "They devastated a force of heavily armored French nobles who had gotten bogged down in the region's sucking mud, riddled by thousands of arrows from opposing longbowmen and outmaneuvered by common soldiers with much lighter gear."

Both Agincourt and Cressy rankled because highly trained commoners with cheaper but more effective technology mowed down both expensive mercenaries and wealthy nobility with ease, both during and after battle.
 
2009-10-25 02:39:52 PM  
I hath no stomach to this fight. I'm out.
 
2009-10-25 02:40:38 PM  
EVERYTHING IS HOAX! EVERYTHING IS SHOPPED! NOTHING IS REAL! YOU CAN'T MAKE ME BELIEVE ANYTHING EVER! IT'S ALL A CONSPIRACY!!!!
 
2009-10-25 02:41:09 PM  

PC LOAD LETTER: The historians have concluded that the English could not have been outnumbered by more than about two to one. And depending on how the math is carried out, Henry might have faced something closer to an even fight, said Anne Curry, a professor at the University of Southampton who is leading the study.

yum


I'd curry her favour...
 
2009-10-25 02:41:28 PM  

Kwisatzhaderach: I'd curry her favour...


lemon curry?
 
2009-10-25 02:42:07 PM  
Came here to say what Obdicut said but he was more eloquent than I would have been. Thanks, Obdicut.
 
2009-10-25 02:44:47 PM  
business.virgin.netView Full Size


Thinks this new study is full of Haggus.
 
2009-10-25 02:45:35 PM  
I'd curry her favour...

Those caps don't freak you out?
 
2009-10-25 02:45:39 PM  

Obdicut: Meh. This is being presented like it isn't an old argument. It is. And the documentary evidence for it is on the flimsy side.

For example, they're using tax records and other documents to determine how many men were with Henry, but they're not really paying much attention to how many of those men were too sick on the day of battle to fight, or at least fight effectively. Many of the men in Henry's army has dysentery. There is never going to be a way of accurately knowing how many men Henry actually had in fighting trim.

That being said, the battle at Agincourt was not so much an English victory as French loss. The French knights attacked through calf-deep mud, in a huge, disorganized mob. They were suffering casualties due to the old 'falling down in foot-deep mud with heavy armor on' problem before they reached the English lines.

The numbers aren't really all that important. The essential narrative-- that French knights showed up and got their asses kicked by the English lower classes, due to their own arrogance and lust for glory-- remains.

Also, this is the same study that concludes, for no particular reason, that the English didn't make steel arrowheads, because it was a waste of steel. They don't really support that conclusion very well, and if you think about it-- the equivalent of one steel cuirass makes a shiatload of arrows.

A thirty-pound cuirass could make a lot of one ounce arrowheads, and you can then use those against the guy wearing a cuirass.


Still, the study itself is pretty nifty.


Yes of course the english didn't make steel arrowheads. I mean it's not like we haven't uncovered a very specific arrowhead that english archers used as an armor-piercing tip or anything:
upload.wikimedia.orgView Full Size


So to sum up, this small band of historians, facing the overwhelming might of recorded history are seeing to triumph against incredible odds?
 
2009-10-25 02:47:00 PM  

Kwisatzhaderach: Greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history?

What the... what the hell, man?


Didn't stay to the end of the movie did ya?
 
2009-10-25 02:47:35 PM  
I thought Cannae was more than 600 years ago...
 
2009-10-25 02:49:10 PM  

dittybopper: Since I am currently re-reading "The Great Warbow" by Matthew Strickland and Robert Hardy, this is in my interest.

Though I'm at Crecy, not yet up to Agincourt.

Here's a thought: The English Army of 1350 could have easily defeated the English Army of 1750. Discuss.


Entirely possible. Of course by then, English naval power would have been far superior, especially for the latter half of the 1700s.

IANA Historian, but until decent rifles came along, longbowmen were far more deadly than barrel-loaded firearms. The reason for the switch-over was that training a man to fire a gun was far easier than the life-long conditioning required to fire a longbow. Therefore, larger armies could be recruited and fielded far faster.


Kwisatzhaderach: Greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history?
[picture from 300]
What the... what the hell, man?


The Spartans didn't win that battle, they lost it. However, winning it allowed them to win the war.
 
2009-10-25 02:50:46 PM  
The Highlander???
/*clicks*
dang...
 
2009-10-25 02:51:07 PM  

maidtina: I presume this happened before they were disbanded by Goonswarm...


NBSI
 
2009-10-25 02:51:26 PM  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UK16e-Emrms&feature=related

/obligatory
 
2009-10-25 02:53:24 PM  
It's still real to me, dang it!
 
2009-10-25 02:54:46 PM  
Anne Curry?

Never trust a woman's view of history... it's bound to change each time she runs it through her head and bounces it off all her friends and relatives.

She also probably asked a couple of astrologers, palm readers and consulted the The Secret.

Agincourt: It happened for a reason.
 
2009-10-25 02:54:59 PM  

TenPoundSledge:

Didn't stay to the end of the movie did ya?


Did you? The last lines of the movie...

(Dilios) And so my king died, and my brothers died, barely a year ago. Long I pondered my king's cryptic talk of victory. Time has proven him wise, for from free Greek to free Greek, the word was spread that bold Leonidas and his three hundred, so far from home, laid down their lives. Not just for Sparta, but for all Greece and the promise this country holds.

Now, here on this ragged patch of earth called Plataea, Xerxes's hordes face obliteration!

Just there the barbarians huddle, sheer terror gripping tight their hearts with icy fingers... knowing full well what merciless horrors they suffered at the swords and spears of three hundred. Yet they stare now across the plain at *ten thousand* Spartans commanding thirty thousand free Greeks!

The enemy outnumber us a paltry three to one, good odds for any Greek. This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine.

Give thanks, men, to Leonidas and the brave 300! TO VICTORY!

/Now, can we please get back to the French bashing?
 
2009-10-25 02:55:42 PM  

buckler:

It could happen. By 1750, armor had been pretty much abandoned, so the troops would be exposed to volleys from archers. Also, the reloading time for a gun would have been significantly longer than the time it takes to nock and loose an arrow. I'd suggest that the 1750 troops might be able to get off one or two good shots before they were creamed.


Until the cannon started going off and the army of 1350 pooped themselves in fear.
 
2009-10-25 02:55:48 PM  
It's not that hard to beat the French. I think we all need to remember that, most of all.
 
2009-10-25 02:56:46 PM  

Kwisatzhaderach: VICTORY!


images.rockmnation.comView Full Size
 
2009-10-25 02:57:39 PM  

Kwisatzhaderach: Greatest victory against overwhelming odds in military history?

What the... what the hell, man?


Thermopylae went more or less as the odds dictated: the Spartans lost. The battle is remembered for other reasons.
 
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