Tuesday 29 May 2018

The Battle of Crecy: A Casebook ed. Michael Livingstone and Kelly DeVries

AMAZON UK £25.00
AMAZON US $ 29.02

France / Crecy

Despite the title of the book, this volume has value well beyond those with an interest in this one battle, as fascinating as the battle undeniably is.

At five hundred pages of large format softback, this is not a book for the faint-hearted, or weak-wristed; it is far larger than you expect. But it is a treasury of information. This is the most comprehensive collection of sources for the Battle of Crecy ever drawn together in one place, and in full translation with the original text on the opposite page. Letters and chronicles from England, France, Italy and Bohemia, reveal the very many viewpoints and opinions on the one action, and essays at the back explain further and reveal new thinking on the site of the battle, the various combatants and their role as well as general tactics and background to the battle.

This volume serves many purposes. Most obvious is its value as the book on the battle that took place in northern France on 26th June 1346, but it has immense interest beyond that. 

It is an instruction in sources, how to read them and assess the bias, each piece of text being a tutorial in evaluating source material. Who is writing, for whom and why? What are they trying to say? With what authority? Why does it differ to other sources?

The letters are perfect examples of how the great addressed others, those subservient to them, each other. Some begin quite abruptly, others with more flowery language. These are an instruction to all historians and writers of history of the era and those years around how the great and good referred to themselves.

And the other less obvious but very, very useful purpose this volume can be put to - to improve knowledge of the languages of the era - medieval French, Flemish, Latin. With the original text alongside the translation, it is easy to follow the original work and begin to feel more comfortable with a language that may have otherwise been beyond the reader.

For anyone who approaches history, this is as close to the action that you get - these are, in many cases, eye-witnesses and these are their words. For all that this is a big book, such sources so easily obtained is rare and this is to be treasured.

© Nicky Galliers

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