Review: Conquest

Juliet Barker, Conquest: The English Kingdom of France 1417-1450

The title of this nonfiction work is pretty self-explanatory: Barker narrates the progress of the Hundred Years’ War starting shortly after Henry V’s victory at Agincourt. She describes the major battles and sieges in meticulous detail, while also painting a picture of the broader diplomatic situation between England and France. The book depicts the major players during this phase of the Hundred Years’ War, including Henry V of England; the Duke of Bedford, Henry’s brother and the chief military leader in France; Charles VII of France; the Duke of Burgundy, whose relationship with the English informed much of the course of the war; and Joan of Arc. Ultimately, Barker analyzes the course of events and offers an explanation for why England eventually lost its claim to the crown of France.

Honestly, this is a book you’re only going to like if you’re already interested in the subject matter. Personally I’ve always been fascinated by the Middle Ages; I’d also previously read Juliet Barker’s Agincourt, so in some ways I was the ideal audience for this book. Barker is a good writer, and this book appears meticulously researched. The book is told more from the British perspective than the French; I wouldn’t necessarily call it a pro-British bias, but there is definitely more time spent on England than on France, perhaps because of the availability of sources. I will say that I struggled at some points because of the repetitive nature of events (“then X castle was besieged and taken by the English, and then the French got mad and took it back,” etc.). But I would definitely recommend this book as a source for anyone studying the period. For someone with less knowledge of or interest in the late Middle Ages, I’d recommend Agincourt instead.

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