When and why did professional infantry replace noble knights as the dominant force on medieval battlefields? How dominant were cavalry in this period?

Oct 2017
79
South Australia
#1
I previously started a thread on this topic but the question was somewhat poorly worded in conveying what I really wanted to discuss, so I've had to start this new thread

I'm currently researching this topic for a university essay and thought I'd see what others had to say, I would put this in the Homework Help section but I think it makes for an interesting general discussion as well.

What particular battles can you think of as case studies? Those in the Hundred Years War such as Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt are the ones which spring to my mind, particularly Crecy

I'm afraid I haven't really got much to show for what I've done yet on the essay as I've only just begun my research, the main sources I've found so far are The Hundred Years War by Robin Neillands and The Battle of Crecy, 1346 by Andrew Ayton and Philip Preston, plus about 6 articles on the same topic. The introductory essay to John France's Medieval Warfare 1000-1300 was the inspiration for this question as it is one of his main focuses in this piece. Any recommendations for sources would be greatly appreciated.

The medieval period here is defined as roughly 500 to 1500.
 
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Nov 2010
7,513
Cornwall
#2
I'm not sure about these noble knights. War is a messy business with food problems, filth and dysentery. At Agincourt I would have thought the English/Welsh archers were the dominant force, just as at Zalaqa/Sagrajas the Almoravid light cavalry were the decisive force, togther with their solid infantry, in a compltete rout of Castillio-Leonese heavy knights. Just as a couple of examples

So the time and distance scope of your theme is enormous
 
Oct 2016
1,079
Merryland
#4
considering Europe after Rome
the feudal system was based partly on King-appointed nobility that were given estates and expected to show up and fight as needed.
these nobles/knights were basically professional soldiers.
the 'shire levies' were untrained peasants that quickly ran when charged by the knights.
well-trained and organized infantry (Swiss pikemen) could and did stand and break these charges.
I remember a quote from 'War Through the Ages' by Montross; the feudal system was ended by the presence of standing armies.
the bowmen of Crecy/Potiers were the early version of same.

as much as anything the feudal system, with its knights dominating the battlefield, ended as economics developed. feudal knights cost the kings virtually nothing as the estates were self-supporting; only when kings got more money could they afford a permanent professional military, whose trained footmen could stand up to the knights.
mounted knights evolved into cavalry, and for many years they maintained a tradition of elitism; 'gentlemen' fought on horse, not foot.
hope this helps.
 
Oct 2017
79
South Australia
#5
I'm not sure about these noble knights. War is a messy business with food problems, filth and dysentery. At Agincourt I would have thought the English/Welsh archers were the dominant force, just as at Zalaqa/Sagrajas the Almoravid light cavalry were the decisive force, togther with their solid infantry, in a compltete rout of Castillio-Leonese heavy knights. Just as a couple of examples

So the time and distance scope of your theme is enormous
Thanks for the example, it's an interesting one.

My apologies, I should have made things clearer. I'm merely defining what I consider the "medieval period" here, as someone asked that in the previous thread.
The time and distance scope I'm looking at is Western Europe between roughly 1000 to 1500, though particularly focusing on 1300 to 1500 - so roughly the period of the Hundred Years War. But references to anything beyond that scope are welcome too as it can be useful to make comparisons.
Try Swiss-Burgundian wars.
Thanks for the suggestion!
considering Europe after Rome
the feudal system was based partly on King-appointed nobility that were given estates and expected to show up and fight as needed.
these nobles/knights were basically professional soldiers.
the 'shire levies' were untrained peasants that quickly ran when charged by the knights.
well-trained and organized infantry (Swiss pikemen) could and did stand and break these charges.
I remember a quote from 'War Through the Ages' by Montross; the feudal system was ended by the presence of standing armies.
the bowmen of Crecy/Potiers were the early version of same.

as much as anything the feudal system, with its knights dominating the battlefield, ended as economics developed. feudal knights cost the kings virtually nothing as the estates were self-supporting; only when kings got more money could they afford a permanent professional military, whose trained footmen could stand up to the knights.
mounted knights evolved into cavalry, and for many years they maintained a tradition of elitism; 'gentlemen' fought on horse, not foot.
hope this helps.
Good argument, I like your point about economics.
Not all knights held estates though, some were career soldiers who fought for pay/upkeep and booty. And not all cavalry in the middle ages were nobility or even knights at all, some were merely professional soldiers wealthy enough to afford a horse and the right equipment.

Mercenaries and paid professional soldiers were around for the entire medieval period, they merely rose in prominence later on to form full armies. For example, in the early medieval period Vikings often served as mercenaries - the famous Varangian Guard of the Byzantine emperors is one such instance.

Some rulers had permanent retinues of men-at-arms who you could argue were like small standing armies, though not quite in the same sense as the organized standing armies of later periods. Also, they may have been bound to the ruler by more than just pay, certainly personal loyalty played an important role in many cases. So this is more of an interesting aside than an argument against the currently accepted chronology of the development of standing armies.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,192
#6
In one word - Gunpowder.

The 1485 Battle of Bosworth for instance is usually thought of in purely medieval tradition, but archaeology has shown evidence of a considerable amount of artillery in use by both sides, which must have been telling against targets like cavalry.
 
Oct 2017
79
South Australia
#7
In one word - Gunpowder.

The 1485 Battle of Bosworth for instance is usually thought of in purely medieval tradition, but archaeology has shown evidence of a considerable amount of artillery in use by both sides, which must have been telling against targets like cavalry.
Interesting point, but I'm more focused specifically on infantry than artillery.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,117
Portugal
#8
Good theme, Marshall Ney!

I previously started a thread on this topic but the question was somewhat poorly worded in conveying what I really wanted to discuss, so I've had to start this new thread

I'm currently researching this topic for a university essay and thought I'd see what others had to say, I would put this in the Homework Help section but I think it makes for an interesting general discussion as well.

What particular battles can you think of as case studies? Those in the Hundred Years War such as Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt are the ones which spring to my mind, particularly Crecy

I'm afraid I haven't really got much to show for what I've done yet on the essay as I've only just begun my research, the main sources I've found so far are The Hundred Years War by Robin Neillands and The Battle of Crecy, 1346 by Andrew Ayton and Philip Preston, plus about 6 articles on the same topic. The introductory essay to John France's Medieval Warfare 1000-1300 was the inspiration for this question as it is one of his main focuses in this piece. Any recommendations for sources would be greatly appreciated.
In the 14th and 15th centuries – and battles of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt were mentioned, but many others could be mentioned, recently in other thread I mentioned to you the battle of Aljubarrota – we saw that the infantry seam to gain some ascendency over the cavalry, but let us also recall that in many of those cases the knights that once acted always mounted, as heavy cavalry, acted now dismounted in defensive positions. While on the other hand there was an emergency of the light cavalry.

João Gouveia Monteiro, a Portuguese military historian, and an expert in the 14th and 15th centuries, as an interesting article named “Cavalaria montada, cavalaria desmontada e infantaria - para uma compreensão global do problema militar nas vésperas da expansão portuguesa”/“Mounted cavalry, dismounted cavalry and infantry - for a comprehensive understanding of the military problem on the eve of Portuguese expansion”: https://digitalis-dsp.uc.pt/jspui/b...ontada,_cavalaria_desmontada_e_infantaria.pdf (in Portuguese, but the essentials can be understood with an online translation to English – Google works relatively well with these two languages).

The final part of the title can be misleading, giving the idea that the article is solely about the Portuguese case, it isn’t, Monteiro gives a wider European approach before diving in the Portuguese case, in fact the “eve of the Portuguese expansion” is mostly a timeline reference.

Anyway to make the things short the rise the infantry preceded its professionalization. The light cavalry rose in relevance. The raising of standing armies led to the change of the fiscal systems in many countries in Europe and thus to the concept of the modern state.

In one word - Gunpowder.

The 1485 Battle of Bosworth for instance is usually thought of in purely medieval tradition, but archaeology has shown evidence of a considerable amount of artillery in use by both sides, which must have been telling against targets like cavalry.
It can’t be explained in one word. It is more complex than that. Although gunpowder had a significant and crescent influence, often it wasn’t decisive or it was non existent. Was it decisive at Crecy or Poitiers? I don’t know enough of the battles, but I don’t think so. Was it decisive at Courtrai (1302), Bannockburn (1314), Morgarten (1315), Laupen (1339)? All this battles have one thing in common: The infantry was decisive in the battle.
 
May 2017
806
France
#9
As I am "seiziemist" I think that the wars of religion (1560-1598) are the biggest period of change.After the treaty of Cateau Cambresis (1559) which ends the eleven wars of Italia,the king Henri II decides to create the régiments of infantry opened to all the social classes.The development of the fire arms has for conséquences the end of the monopole of the cavalry,aristocrat o no.
 
Likes: walkman
Oct 2017
79
South Australia
#10
Good theme, Marshall Ney!
Thankyou!

In the 14th and 15th centuries – and battles of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt were mentioned, but many others could be mentioned, recently in other thread I mentioned to you the battle of Aljubarrota – we saw that the infantry seam to gain some ascendency over the cavalry, but let us also recall that in many of those cases the knights that once acted always mounted, as heavy cavalry, acted now dismounted in defensive positions. While on the other hand there was an emergency of the light cavalry.
Good point, one which I have come across in my research a couple of times.

João Gouveia Monteiro, a Portuguese military historian, and an expert in the 14th and 15th centuries, as an interesting article named “Cavalaria montada, cavalaria desmontada e infantaria - para uma compreensão global do problema militar nas vésperas da expansão portuguesa”/“Mounted cavalry, dismounted cavalry and infantry - for a comprehensive understanding of the military problem on the eve of Portuguese expansion”: https://digitalis-dsp.uc.pt/jspui/b...ontada,_cavalaria_desmontada_e_infantaria.pdf (in Portuguese, but the essentials can be understood with an online translation to English – Google works relatively well with these two languages).

The final part of the title can be misleading, giving the idea that the article is solely about the Portuguese case, it isn’t, Monteiro gives a wider European approach before diving in the Portuguese case, in fact the “eve of the Portuguese expansion” is mostly a timeline reference.

Anyway to make the things short the rise the infantry preceded its professionalization. The light cavalry rose in relevance. The raising of standing armies led to the change of the fiscal systems in many countries in Europe and thus to the concept of the modern state.
Sounds like an interesting article, thankyou!
 
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