The English aristocracy at war, 1272-1314

The English aristocracy at war, 1272-1314

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The English aristocracy at war, 1272-1314

Simpkin, David

Doctoral Thesis, Department of History, The University of Hull, October (2006)


In the closing decades of the thirteenth century, the king of England, Edward I, embarked upon a series of wars in Wales, France and Scotland that placed unprecedented demands on the community of the realm. Although the Crown’s war aims varied depending on whether the campaigns were being fought within the British Isles or on the continent, one factor remained constant: the need to recruit hundreds and sometimes thousands of soldiers on an almost annual basis from among the landholding elites. It is the aim of this thesis to assess how the gentry and nobility responded to these demands; how they discharged their military obligations; and what their service patterns and military experiences can tell us about the strengths and weaknesses of the armies that were put into the field.

By using an innovative methodological approach established in recent decades by historians such as Philip Morgan, Andrew Ayton and Anne Curry, the thesis seeks to gain insights into the characteristics of the military community in its entirety. The individual soldier forms the main focus of enquiry throughout much of the discussion; and the frequency with which he gave military service, his connections to other members of the military elite, and, in the case of the king’s chief commanders, the leadership duties that he performed, are each considered in detail.

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