Why did Caesar conquer France in 8 years but the English failed after 112 years?

Jul 2019
San Diego, CA
As for your question, Caesar conquered Gaul because Gaul was being invaded by Ariovistus, a Germanic Suevi, at the same time, and marauding Cimbrians and Teutons had also devastated much of southern Gaul, allowing the Romans to pour in from Italy without much resistance. Caesar invaded Gaul using precisely the excuse that Ariovistus was invading and the Aedui, a Celtic people allied with the Romans, requested their aid.
Good point. The French were fighting a two front war.

Yet another reason, aside from Germanic rampages, is that Caesar straight up committed genocide. He killed about 1 million Gauls and enslaved a million more.
This is not a reason for why C conquered G in such a short time period but is a consequence of his conquering Gaul.

The French since Philip Augustus developed a standing navy or something close to it, and even after the Battle of Crecy where the English gained permanent territories in France, they still had to transport their troops by water and still did not control the whole French coast. It was therefore very difficult to keep control of France. The Romans didn't have this problem.
Good point, though crossing Alps did present difficulties.

We have to add that France was far more populated than the whole of Britain, which scarcely numbered more than 5 million if that during the whole of the Middle Ages while the French by the Hundred Years War were almost triple that number. Gaul, meanwhile, was about as populated as Italy, being in the 5-6 million range while Italy was in the 6-7 million range, and that's not the entire empire of the Roman Republic, which at that point was approximating the 15 million range.
I've already discussed this above. The Romans did have more people but they had to use those people for defending others parts of the Empire.
Apr 2017
This is so wrong on so many level. The French aren't the Gauls and the English here were actually ethnically French as well. So it is more complicated. The Anglo-Saxons themselves ironically had little to do with the Anglo-French war itself.
Feb 2017
Devon, UK
But Caesar didn't conquer all of Gaul, there was at least one village of indomitable Gauls that caused him endless trouble.*

* Typographical joke footnote.
Sep 2012
Tarkington, Texas
Kyle you might want to check your dates in your post!

Caesar had logistical support and the locals never had enough. His army lived off the locals. The English never had much of a tail. At Agincourt Henry V's men were hungry and had dysentery. France was too big to conquer and hold for the English.

Oct 2018
I don't know if it's true or not but in Stacy Schiff's book, Cleopatra, she quotes Caesar as claiming to have fought in 300 battles and won all of them, whereas Napoleon was something like 54 wins and 6 loses. Even if Caesar is exaggerating we at least know that he didn't die on the battlefield. Alexander was also good but certainly did not win 300 battles.
I know this isn't central to the thread's theme, but I've never come across this quote before, and if he did claim such a thing and it has any truth to it rather than being a grandiose bit of rhetoric, the majority of these 300 battles would have to have been mere skirmishes. A great thing about Caesar is that we have his commentaries on the Gallic campaigns and the civil war, and so we know about his battles. There aren't nearly that many.
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Jan 2019
Kent, England
English here were actually ethnically French as well
You're talking nonsense. By the time of the Hundred Years War, the English aristocracy was pretty well entirely Anglo-Saxon in origin. The idea that a few thousand Normans could affect the genetic make-up of a country of 2-3 million English is laughable.

By the way, the HYW actually ended in a draw. If you go back to the outbreak of the war, the English war-aim was to get places like Gascony free of feudal obligations - but the French aim was to carry out a second Norman conquest, and clearly both combatants failed in their initial goals. At the start of the war the French drew up a plan for an invasion, started gathering ships, and even constructed a prefabricated fort to be erected on arrival in England. Of course, the English victory at Sluys thwarted this plan, but throughout the 1370's and into the early 1400's the French repeatedly tried to invade - sometimes in league with Scots and Welsh troublemakers - and all these ended in ignominious failure.

As an analogy, in WWI the French went to war to overrun Germany, and the Germans went to war to overrun France, - hence the cries of "On to Paris/Berlin" - and I doubt many French people would accept that they lost the war because they failed in their aim. You have to look at both combatants war-aims before deciding who won or lost.
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Feb 2017
Latin America
I'm not sure that population matters. Hitler conquered France in 6 weeks in 1940 at a time when it had probably 30 million people.
Germany alone had surpassed France, and that isn't including Czechoslovakia and Austria. In fact, Germany in 1871 had over 40 million people:

Should be pointed out that Hitler had basically recreated a semi-empire as well. He was allied with Mussolini who had conquered Ethiopia, and with Franco's Spain, and of course with Japan which controlled not just Korea but also a large portion of China by then. In other words, the Third Reich with its politico-ideological allies was in fact similarly populated even to the entirety of the French colonial empire (and even when adding the empires of the Netherlands and Belgium together with the French). Population does matter a lot. There are cases of much lower populations conquering much bigger ones (the Visigoths and the Western Roman Empire and the Mongols and the Jin dynasty), but even in these instances, it's because the lower populations controlled a similar territorial extent. The Mongols controlled more territory than the Jin, for example, and the Visigothic empire founded by Ermanaric that may have extended from the Baltic all the way to the Urals was almost as big if not bigger than the Western Roman Empire.
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Feb 2017
Latin America
This is not a reason for why C conquered G in such a short time period but is a consequence of his conquering Gaul.
It does explain why the Romans managed to keep Gaul while the English failed in keeping France, however.

Good point, though crossing Alps did present difficulties.
It's still not as difficult as keeping a standing navy and especially a navy to invade territories across the sea. Even the Seleucids who were much bigger than the English did not have a standing navy or had a lot of difficult keeping one.
Jan 2009
The key is really in KEEPING France/Gaul. Technically Henry V did conquer France in 5 years (1415-1420) with the Treaty of Troyes recognizing him as the regent and the heir of France. Had he not died in 1422 at only 35 years of age, things could have gone very differently.

If you compare the resources, England had less than half the population of France. Roman Republic dwarfed Gaul, and many tribes were allies of Rome or destroyed in Roman reprisals. It was always going to be an uphill struggle for the King of England to conquer and keep France, unless they'd manage to co-opt the French nobility on their side, too.

As for later conquests, the higher the tech, the faster the armies can move and cover ground. As well as communicate and organize a swift surrender when the war has been lost.