The Course of the Hundred Years' War

The Course of the Hundred Years’ War

The Beginning of the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1340)

  • Edward III of England formally declared war on Philippe VI of France in 1337, marking the start of the Hundred Years’ War.
  • It began as a dynastic conflict over the French throne and territorial claims, with Edward III claiming his right to rule through his mother Isabella, sister of the previous French king.
  • Edward created a naval blockade of France, which successfully cut off French grain imports from the Baltic.

The Early English Victories (1340-1356)

  • Edward won a great naval victory at Sluys in 1340, achieving dominance in the Channel.
  • The battle of Crecy (1346) was a significant English victory, demonstrating the power of longbowmen.
  • The Black Prince’s raid across France (1355-1356) was a successful strategy that threw the French onto a defensive footing.
  • Another pivotal English victory was at the battle of Poitiers (1356), where the French king, John II, was captured.

The Treaty of Bretigny (1360)

  • This treaty marked a pause in the war. The Black Prince’s victories and the capture of John II forced the French to make concessions.
  • England was given full sovereignty over Aquitaine, considerable ransom for John II, and Edward gave up his claim to the French crown.

Renewal of Warfare and French Success (1369-1381)

  • War resumed due to an uprising in Aquitaine and Edward III’s revival of his claim to the French crown.
  • The final phase of the war during this period was dominated by French success under Charles V.
  • Bertrand du Guesclin’s ‘Fabian’ strategy of avoiding set-pitch battles and targeting English possessions gradually eroded English domains in France.

Impact of the War on England

  • The war placed a heavy financial burden on England, leading to multiple revolts against taxation, notable of which is the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381.
  • The reign of Edward III ended in failure and disappointment with the loss of most English territories in France.
  • It was a period marked by military innovation such as the large scale use of the longbow, introduction of gunpowder artillery and increasing role of infantry.
  • Despite the territorial losses, the war created a strong sense of national identity and the English language began to re-emerge as the language of governance and court.