Can anyone recommend possible battles/wars to write about for a 2000 word university essay?

Oct 2017
86
South Australia
#1
I need to write an essay for a uni course on medieval Europe.

What I really want is an open research question that can have multiple possible answers to be debated. What I'd really like to do is research causes for the outcome of battle a conflict, i.e "what was the most important factor leading to the victory/defeat of X in the Battle/War of X?" or "what was the main turning point in the Battle/War of X?

I was thinking of doing Agincourt but I think the answer is fairly straightforward there - the English longbowmen.

I don't know many medieval battles as my main interest in history is more 19th century. Most medieval battles seem fairly straightforward - e.g.French knights charge, get shot to pieces, the end, compared to battles like the Waterloo or Gettysburg which involved multiple different assaults, and you could argue for any one of them as the turning point.
 
Likes: Futurist
Mar 2016
1,106
Australia
#2
I was thinking of doing Agincourt but I think the answer is fairly straightforward there - the English longbowmen.
Actually this isn't the case, and Agincourt would be a great battle to write about specifically because the common misconception of the English lowbows being the deciding factor is inaccurate. The effect of the English longbows is dramatically exaggerated, since they were only used at the very beginning of the battle. Essentially the battle played out like this: The English set up a defensive position and wait for the French to attack; the French commanders decide not to wait for reinforcements from the King and send in their heavy cavalry; after heavy rainfall the day before the ground is very muddy, though, so the horses cannot pick up momentum; the knights dismount when they get close to the English and advance towards the English position; the English low-bowmen open fire on the dismounted knights, inflicting serious casualties; the bulk of the French army - the infantry levies - begin their assault; the English infantry (which made up the entire army, since the English had no cavalry) leave their defensive position and engage in close quarters combat with the French infantry - the English low-bowmen do not fire into the melee since it would hit too many of their own troops, so they discard their bows and join in with their swords; this melee continues for hours with massive casualties on both sides; even King Henry V joins in personally because it's so desperate and close; eventually after hours of grueling slaughter the English 'win' the ground and take the rest of the French infantry captive (who they soon massacre out of fear of French reinforcements, because the French captives outnumbered the English troops).

So, as you can see, the English long-bowmen were only used at the beginning of the battle against the dismounted heavy cavalry of the French. This made up only a small part of the French army - the vast majority of it was regular infantry troops that the English engaged in a hand-to-hand melee, and the battle certainly was not one-sided - the English took enormous casualties too, they just endured slightly longer than the French. Agincourt is not, despite the popular image, a display of the incredible power of the English lowbow - it's a testament to defensive planning and pure physical endurance. Had the French not gone on the offensive, or had they waited for reinforcements, the English would have been wiped out easily. The French defeat is more attributed to poor and impatient commanders, attacking a defensive position, and bad battlefield conditions (not only was the ground covered in mud, which slowed the horses, but on both the flanks of the battlefield there were woods, so they could not outflank the English with their cavalry). The English chose an excellent defensive position and used it to its full advantage.

So yeah, I think you certainly can write about Agincourt, if just to dispel the popular misconceptions of it. If you're interested in a highly detailed account of it, and the entire 1415 campaign, I recommend Ian Mortimer's 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,452
Portugal
#3
You will probably have here a long list of battles suggested by the forum members, but you should consider what are your interests? What are your bias? What is the time period that you prefer (the Middle ages have around a millennium)? What are the arms/weapons that you like more? Etc.. and than you will have something closer to your answer.

After this answer, if you still want that I gave you the name of a Battle, and since you named Agincourt, I could mention the Battle of Aljubarrota (for the first step: Battle of Aljubarrota - Wikipedia) an essential battle that allowed that the Kingdom of Portugal wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Castilian king. And a major Castilian blow with the dead of many of the elite of the Castilian nobility and with the presence of French and Aragonese knights. On the Portuguese side you can analyse the killing of the French prisoners by the Portuguese or explore the presence of the English bowman. Indirectly this was a battle of the hundred years war since often Portugal sided with England and Castile with France.
 
Feb 2019
602
Serbia
#4
[QUOTE="Marshall Ney, post: 3131168, member: 48797"
I don't know many medieval battles as my main interest in history is more 19th century. [/QUOTE]

I wold like to point out that you are wrong about Agincourt if you just say ''the English Longbowman'' as the definitive only answer.

If you are interested in the 19th century I can recommend plenty of Napoleonic battles. Trafalgar, Waterloo and Austerlitz provide good amount of material to write about, including many myths that surround them. Unfortunately hundreds of books and documents have already been written on them so if you want to be a bit ''original'' I would recommend Borodino (Also heavily written about but not as much.), Mauritius Campaign (Not 1 battle but I hope it still counts.) and the Nile (Not quite 19th century as it is in 1798, still interesting and worth of study, sadly I was never able to find many good books on it.) and if you want a full campaign Napoleon's Egyptian Expedition is underappreciated by many but I find it to be just as interesting as any of the coalition wars.
 
Likes: Futurist

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,452
Portugal
#5
If you are interested in the 19th century I can recommend plenty of Napoleonic battles. Trafalgar, Waterloo and Austerlitz provide good amount of material to write about, including many myths that surround them. Unfortunately hundreds of books and documents have already been written on them so if you want to be a bit ''original'' I would recommend Borodino (Also heavily written about but not as much.), Mauritius Campaign (Not 1 battle but I hope it still counts.) and the Nile (Not quite 19th century as it is in 1798, still interesting and worth of study, sadly I was never able to find many good books on it.) and if you want a full campaign Napoleon's Egyptian Expedition is underappreciated by many but I find it to be just as interesting as any of the coalition wars.
According to the OP is an "essay for a uni course on medieval Europe".

And I just recalled that we have a homework policy that I just disrespected in my previous post: History Homework Help
 
Likes: Futurist
Feb 2019
602
Serbia
#6
According to the OP is an "essay for a uni course on medieval Europe".
I missed that one.

If so my question is what is ''medieval'' and when does it end? If it ends at 1453 with the Fall of Constantinople I find that the Hussite Wars are great and also underappreciated. Most primary sources are of course in Czech and so are many books, so if the OP doesn't speak a Slavic language researching them could be difficult.
 
Oct 2017
86
South Australia
#7
Agincourt would be a great battle to write about specifically because the common misconception of the English lowbows being the deciding factor is inaccurate.
Good point, I feel like I probably knew that argument but had forgotten it, its been a long time since I studied medieval history.
If you're interested in a highly detailed account of it, and the entire 1415 campaign, I recommend Ian Mortimer's 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory.
Thankyou for the recommendation! I shall check it out
I could mention the Battle of Aljubarrota
Thanks for the suggestion, sounds intersting so I shall read up on it
If you are interested in the 19th century I can recommend plenty of Napoleonic battles.
When I said I was interested in the 19th century I meant I've studied it in depth, particularly Napoleonic battles, but thanks for the offer ;)
If so my question is what is ''medieval'' and when does it end?
In this course, it's defined as roughly 500AD to 1500.

Since starting this thread I've spoken to my lecturer and decided to change the focus of the question a bit, I'm now going to research when and why noble knights were replaced by professional footsoldiers as the dominant force on the battlefield (and if knights were ever actually supremely dominant), using specific battles as case studies. I might start a new thread on this as I need some ideas for battles to use as case studies. Your suggestions have been helpful in considering this though, so thankyou for the help!
 
Last edited:

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,702
SoCal
#8
I need to write an essay for a uni course on medieval Europe.

What I really want is an open research question that can have multiple possible answers to be debated. What I'd really like to do is research causes for the outcome of battle a conflict, i.e "what was the most important factor leading to the victory/defeat of X in the Battle/War of X?" or "what was the main turning point in the Battle/War of X?

I was thinking of doing Agincourt but I think the answer is fairly straightforward there - the English longbowmen.

I don't know many medieval battles as my main interest in history is more 19th century. Most medieval battles seem fairly straightforward - e.g.French knights charge, get shot to pieces, the end, compared to battles like the Waterloo or Gettysburg which involved multiple different assaults, and you could argue for any one of them as the turning point.
What about the success of the First Crusade?
 
Oct 2017
86
South Australia
#9
What about the success of the First Crusade?
That would be quite interesting, thanks for the idea.

However, you may have missed the follow-up post I made not long before your post:
Since starting this thread I've spoken to my lecturer and decided to change the focus of the question a bit, I'm now going to research when and why noble knights were replaced by professional footsoldiers as the dominant force on the battlefield (and if knights were ever actually supremely dominant), using specific battles as case studies. I might start a new thread on this as I need some ideas for battles to use as case studies. Your suggestions have been helpful in considering this though, so thankyou for the help!
 
Likes: Futurist

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