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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Thu 06 Sep, 2012 8:07 am    Post subject: Any good books on Bouvines?         Reply with quote

I have always found the battle of Bouvines to be one of the most spectacular in medieval European history. It was the time when the mighty French knight reigned supreme on the European battlefield. I would love to learn more about this battle. Can anyone recommend any good books?
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Julien M




Location: London
Joined: 14 Sep 2005

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PostPosted: Thu 06 Sep, 2012 1:43 pm    Post subject: Re: Any good books on Bouvines?         Reply with quote

Ahmad Tabari wrote:
I have always found the battle of Bouvines to be one of the most spectacular in medieval European history. It was the time when the mighty French knight reigned supreme on the European battlefield.


Hi Ahmad,

I'm certainly not the most objective person here Happy, but though France has been a mighty military power for centuries I'm afraid the contemporary anglo-saxon world will rather focus on Crecy or Agincourt...I might refer to the latest Ridley Scott masterpiece, Robin Hood, where a bunch of helpless invading french to bash into the sea always provide a convenient (and somehow fantasist) incident to spice up a weak movie script, or to quote Captain America in the otherwise excellent "Utimates" comic book, when half beaten to death by an Alien Nazi commander (Ah the Marvel multiverse!) eager to get him to surrender, spit back at his nemesis face the following answer "I'm not France!". A rather personal theory would be that WWII permanently annihilated french credibility as a military power as a all...Weather that's justified or not, I'm drifting off topic here and half joking too Happy so back to your question:

Georges Duby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Duby) one of the top french historians, as written the below:

Le Dimanche de Bouvines (1973) (Translated in English as The Legend of Bouvines (1990) ISBN 0-520-06238-8), which I have not read yet but other books by him always proved to be excellent (just finished his biography of William Marshall). I've planned to get my hand son this for a while.

Cheers!

J
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Thu 06 Sep, 2012 2:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Julien. I will be sure to check out that book.

I definitely agree with what you said. Most English language scholarship on medieval European warfare are understandably Anglo-centric. Though it would be nice to have more work done on French victories. Like you said, a lot of what happened during WWII has made people forget France's great military history. As much as everyone seems to enjoy reading about Crecy and Agincourt, it would be nice to also add to this list of often discussed battles encounters such as Bouvines, the Albiginesian Crusade, Formigny, etc. Just to keep things interesting...
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 3:26 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Duby's book is really the only book in English that focuses upon the battle in depth. What I do not like about it though is that he writes and narrates almost as though he is speaking with the attitudes and perspectives of the knights and people of the time in the Middle Ages. The problem with this is that it becomes difficult to sort out whether you're reading an authentic medieval voice and perspective, or whether you're really just reading the voice of Georges Duby, and how he sees the Middle Ages. John Gillingham once said something to the effect that Duby's later work is of a far lower standard than his research at the start of his character, and I would not be surprised if there was more than a little truth to this assessment.

De Re Militari's webpage has a number of primary sources on the battle, including this one from William the Breton, which is undoubtedly the most important:

http://web.archive.org/web/20110605012556/htt...vines5.htm (Since this is a web archive, click on "Impatient" if it seems to be taking a long time to reload)

You can read the other primary accounts here: http://web.archive.org/web/20110605003651/htt...uvines.htm
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Fri 07 Sep, 2012 7:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for all these great sources Craig. I just read William the Breton's account of the battle. A fantastic read.
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Lafayette C Curtis




Location: Indonesia
Joined: 29 Nov 2006
Reading list: 7 books

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PostPosted: Fri 14 Sep, 2012 2:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

J.F. Verbruggen's The Art of War in Europe in the Middle Ages has a long section analysing the source material on Bouvines in great detail--almost worth making into a short book in itself. You'll also get coverage of several Flemish battles that are usually a bit underemphasised in English-language historiography.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Fri 14 Sep, 2012 3:20 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am surprised that Osprey Books has not published a text devoted to the Battle of Bouvines. It's one of the most important battles of the High Middle Ages, and yet strangely, it does not appear in their Campaign series. I'm at a loss for why this is so.
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 8:39 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I should be getting my hands on Verbruggen's book in a few days. It sounds like a very promising read.

Quote:
I am surprised that Osprey Books has not published a text devoted to the Battle of Bouvines. It's one of the most important battles of the High Middle Ages, and yet strangely, it does not appear in their Campaign series. I'm at a loss for why this is so
I know many will disagree with me but I personally think it is largely because of a modern anti-cavalry bias going on (at least as far as medieval Europe is concerned). Modern military historians have shifted away from the traditional norm of glorifying the mounted knight and instead now praise the humble foot soldiers who supposedly brought him to his knees. Scholars and medieval enthusiasts alike seem to find upset victories such as the battles of the Golden Spurs, Stirling, and Agincourt more interesting than battles such as Civitate and Bouvines where knights asserted their dominance. Maybe its our preference for the underdog that makes many enjoy reading accounts of armed commoners prevailing over the big mounted bully.
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Craig Peters




PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 8:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

It sounds plausible, Ahmad, but I doubt that a company interested in turning a profit would reject the opportunity to publish a new book. I would be surprised if people actually decided "I'm not going to read this book, because it focuses too much on cavalry, and I want to read more on infantry". Most people who are interested in medieval miltiary history will want to read about as many battles and conflicts as possible to learn more about the subject. In many ways, Bouvines is one of the most important large scale battles, because it's one of a few major battles in the early 13th century.

Also, you might have noticed in the chronicle that the infantry did play an important supporting role. Some of the infantry men on the side of the imperial and English forces fought bravely even when the tide of the battle had turned against them, and this is mentioned in William's chronicle. Clearly then, the infantry plays an important role in this battle, even if its role was less decisive than in some other military engagements.
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Ahmad Tabari





Joined: 15 Jun 2008

Posts: 148

PostPosted: Sun 16 Sep, 2012 9:09 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
It sounds plausible, Ahmad, but I doubt that a company interested in turning a profit would reject the opportunity to publish a new book. I would be surprised if people actually decided "I'm not going to read this book, because it focuses too much on cavalry, and I want to read more on infantry". Most people who are interested in medieval miltiary history will want to read about as many battles and conflicts as possible to learn more about the subject. In many ways, Bouvines is one of the most important large scale battles, because it's one of a few major battles in the early 13th century

You have a point Craig, but by the same token a company wanting to turn a profit will cater to the current fad. And from what I am observing, the current fad/market preference seems to centre around around battles where infantrymen/archers vanquish haughty knights. But I do agree that a battle such as Bouvines should be focused on my those interested in medieval warfare. And like you said, it is strange that it isn't.

Quote:
Also, you might have noticed in the chronicle that the infantry did play an important supporting role. Some of the infantry men on the side of the imperial and English forces fought bravely even when the tide of the battle had turned against them, and this is mentioned in William's chronicle. Clearly then, the infantry plays an important role in this battle, even if its role was less decisive than in some other military engagements.

Oh the infantry no doubt played an important role. They certainly gave the French knights a hard fight. But at the end of the day, the knights remained the uncontested sovereigns of the European battlefield.
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