Agincourt History: Juliet Barker Versus Professor Ann Curry
Historical accounts of events are often in opposition and the Azincourt story is no exception. A mad King, murderous Dukes, scheming Bishops, heroic Knights, Surgeons, Heralds, Spies and Pirates; Disease, battle strategy, the story of Agincourt (Azincourt) has them all.
The version of history told by Juliet Barker in her book “Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle” (and 5 x CD Audiobook) is deeply at odds with Professor Ann Curry's 'Revisionist' version of events. How should readers and listeners determine who is right and who is not?
When Henry V and his 'band of brothers' defeated the assembled might of French chivalry on a rainy October day in 1415 it was a defining moment in English history.
9,000 English Against 20,000 French
Against all the odds, 9,000 exhausted English men claimed victory from an army of 20,000 and for six centuries the battle of Agincourt (Azincourt) has informed the nation's self-image and been celebrated as a triumph of the underdog. But what is the truth behind the battle about which many legends have been built?
In this landmark study of Agincourt, (Azincourt) prize-winning author Juliet Barker draws upon a huge range of sources to give a compelling account of the battle. But she also looks behind the action on the field to paint a portrait of the age, moving from the ambition of kings to the dynamics of daily life in peace and war.
The picture used on the front of the book and CD, shows many historical errors that anyone with a detailed knowledge of Medieval history should have spotted.
- The arrow is drawn on the wrong side of the bow,
- A hunting barbed arrowhead and not a bodkin war arrowhead.
- His upright (Victorian target Archer’s position) means the string when loosed will hit the Archer’s arm and foul the shot
- They didn’t wear these helmets to shoot as it would have impeded the draw and the loose.
- The stance for a 150 Lb heavy bow is also completely wrong and shows that of a target Archer with a 50 Lb bow, not a Warbow Archer with an average 120 – 150 Lb bow
- Does he look like he is drawing a 120 Lb bow?
For technical details and empirical tests on Medieval Warbows, visit Mark Stretton’s blog. He is the Guinness World Record Holder (for 13 years) of the heaviest Warbow ever drawn and shot at 200 Lbs. www.markstretton.blogspot.com
Is is a concern that such a historian as Juliet Barker failed to notice all this and allowed such a blatant historically inaccurate picture to portray her book?
Review of Professor Ann Curry’s Revisionist Version by James Bowen
For six centuries the Battle of Agincourt has been recognised as one of Britain's greatest military victories against extraordinary odds. In 2005, Southampton University's Professor Anne Curry decided to provoke controversy by turning everything that we thought we knew about Agincourt on its head.
In her revisionist "Agincourt: A new history", published in 2005, Professor Curry claimed to have exposed the famous victory of a heavily outnumbered, starving, and disease-ridden English army over a massive French army at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415 as a centuries-old "myth".
English records that are relevant to Agincourt still exists in British archives. These British records show that the attendance of most of King Henry V's army in France, including the presence of England's nobility, was purchased by the king. Even royal dukes signed contracts of employment (indentures) for the Agincourt campaign. Finally, and by contrast with English archival records, Professor Curry appears to have failed to appreciate, or perhaps wished to ignore, the historical fact that the massive French army at Agincourt was largely composed of the great nobles of France, their vassal lords, and their knights, squires, and retinues of men-at-arms.
These fighting men were present at Agincourt in pursuance of feudal obligations to the French king. They were not mercenaries. It is highly unlikely that these massive feudal levies would have been recorded in any French archival records of hired mercenaries, such as Genoese crossbowmen, used by Professor Curry to create her very questionable revisionist history of Agincourt.
The distinguished medieval historian Dr Juliet Barker published her own history "Agincourt: The King, the Campaign, the Battle" in 2005, and Dr Barker put her finger squarely on the deadly flaw in Professor Curry's argument for near equality of English and French numbers at Agincourt when she said of Professor Curry's suggested close ratio of English to French: "And if the differential really was as low as three to four then this makes a nonsense of the course of the battle as described by eyewitnesses and contemporaries". See "Acknowledgments" at page 366.
Ignoring the informed estimates of eyewitnesses in both armies, including the recorded account of one intelligent Burgundian man-at-arms in the French army, Jehan de Waurin, Professor Curry has grossly underestimated the numbers in each of the massive French divisions or "battles", namely, the vanguard, the main body, and the rearguard.
She appears to have totally forgotten or chosen to ignore the presence in the French army at Agincourt of several thousand archers who were relegated to the rear of the French army through the arrogant foolishness of the French nobility. As a result, the thousands of archers in the French army played no meaningful part in the battle but those archers were part of the French army and must be counted.
The heavily armoured French cavalry numbered at least 1,400, but an appalling failure of leadership of the French army, and lack of discipline, caused the cavalry charges from both wings to be made by only about one-third of that number.
The strength of English archers was in defence and not attack. Henry V knew that his small army was starving, and that flight was not an option. His weakened and starving army would be pursued and destroyed by armoured French cavalry
The French army although massive in overall size, was a "scratch" army drawn from every corner of France; there was no single effective commander; it lacked a vital chain of command; it lacked discipline; and consequently, its attacks were ragged and uncoordinated. One justifiable criticism of the French was their failure to use their thousands of deadly archers when the English advanced to within long bowshot of the French army
Is Dr Barker's "Agincourt" the definitive account of the Agincourt campaign? It is up to you the reader and listener to decide...