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What caused the turning point in Hundred Years' War?

What caused the turning point in Hundred Years' War?


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At school I have learned that the English had upper hand in the war until Joan of Arc convinced the French king to give an army under her command to besiege Orléans and since then, the French forced their enemies to withdraw up to Calais.

How did an illiterate girl with no military experience do that according to the modern point of view? What is her significance?


Joan of Arc

Or rather, God. Before her arrival on the scene, it had appeared to English and French alike that God was on England's side. Her contribution to the lifting of the siege of Orleans gave some hope to the Dauphinist cause, and for a while, a belief that God was on their side. The emphatic victory at Patay and the coronation of Charles VII further enhanced this view. Desmond Seward wrote that:

It is impossible to know whether Joan's inspiration was restricted to a small circle of court soldiers or if - as today's social romantics would like to think - she spoke to the rank and file as one peasant to another. What is undeniable is that for a few months many Frenchmen thought they were fighting a holy war, and the English went in terror of the Maid and her sorceries.

And:

The coronation of Charles VII, as we must now call him, did wonders for Dauphinist morale; according to Monstrelet, a Burgundian: 'The French believed that God was against the English.'

While she raised French spirits and that in turn slowed the English advance, she didn't immediately turn fortunes towards the French. After her capture and execution in 1431, many of the gains made in her time were reversed, allowing Henry VI to be crowned at Paris.

Burgundy

The power struggle between the Burgundians and Armagnacs had weakened France internally for much of the early 15th century. Their rivalry was what allowed Henry V to make sweeping gains on his second campaign. Burgundy was also important to England in terms of the military support that it could provide. A number of things tested the alliance over the years. Anne, sister of the Duke of Burgundy and wife of the English regent Duke of Bedford, played a major role in holding the alliance together through her relationships with its two leading men, so her death in 1432 was a blow to the alliance, further aggravated by Bedford's subsequent remarriage, which riled Burgundy both for its speed and because he had not been consulted given the new wife was his vassal. Also, as with any ally, Burgundy expected to be paid for his deeds and he wrote to complain after the failed siege of Compiègne when his payments had been two months in arrears and he had had to bear the cost of his artillery when English payments had not been forthcoming.

Over time, Burgundy edged away from England and towards a reconciliation with Charles VII. In 1431, he announced a 6 year truce. In 1435, around the time of Bedford's death, he made peace with Charles VII in the Treaty of Arras. Losing Burgundian manpower and freeing up French forces previously arrayed against Burgundy made the task of the English significantly more difficult. They had also owed much of their support in some of their occupied territory to Burgundian influence and once Burgundy switched allegiances, the people of these regions did too. In 1436, Paris, under Burgundian influence, opened its gates to the troops of Charles VII.

Money

According to Seward, areas controlled by the Armagnacs could command three to five times the amount in taxation as English-occupied France, though it wasn't effectively marshalled due to lax collection and embezzlement. The essential difference was due to the different levels of devastation in these areas. The people of England were also beginning to tire of the war that they were continually being asked to fund and economic circumstances also led to a decrease in tax revenue. In 1433, Bedford's investigation of the finances showed an overall debt amounting to almost 3 years worth of revenue. In spite of his success and popularity, he was unable to procure extra taxes. Seward wrote that:

The agricultural depression and a decline in overseas trade had lessened the yield from taxation, and diminished revenues were a far greater threat to the Lancastrian dual monarchy than any Joan of Arc.

As a result, England struggle to pay its men and its allies. Some soldiers returned home early, leaving important strongholds understaffed. Others turned to brigandage, diminishing local support for the English cause. The shortage of money also meant that it was difficult to fund armies to recapture places lost to the French. Also, since Cardinal Beaufort was both a significant political player and a primary source of funding for campaigns, it meant that funding was sometimes given to causes that were more political than military in nature. This was why in 1443, Beaufort's nephew the Earl of Somerset was allowed to embark on an indulgent and futile expedition independent of the Lieutenant-General Duke of York's command and against his advice that the money could be better spent.

Popular support

While there had been popular local support for the English while they were steamrolling the French, that gradually dissipated due to a combination of factors. One was the gradual withdrawal of Burgundian support. Weather problems led to a greatly reduced crop yield and food shortages, exacerbated by Armagnac raids that prevented supplies from being delivered, thus leaving many unhappy with their English rulers. Many in Paris were also upset with the parsimony of Henry VI's coronation. English deserters took to brigandage as they were left unpaid by their army. Some, such as Richard Venables, banded together with other deserters, setting themselves up in fortresses and terrorising neighbouring villages. The loss of popular support was significant in that it made towns and cities difficult to hold. A Norman revolt in 1436 threatened the security of Rouen and ultimately had to be put down by force. Paris itself was to fall when the citizens changed sides.


England held the ascendancy for a long time in France because it had two very capable leaders in Henry V and the Duke of Bedford at a time when France was wracked by internal strife. But a successful occupation required a lot of factors to continue in their favour. Whatever England's successes on the battlefield, the Burgundian alliance, French disunity and particularly the English financial situation could not have been expected to hold forever.

Sources:

  • The Hundred Years War, Desmond Seward
  • Conquest, Juliet Barker

There were many reasons the English lost the 100 year's war, with Joan of Arc being one of them. The chief factor for their success upto the 1430's was Burgundy's involvement in the war. Burgundy at that time was a massive duchy under the court in Dijon and tied down a significant portion of French troops. When Burgundy switched sides, the war went decisively against England's favour.

A second important issue is the increasing adoption of Full Plate and Gothic Plate armor by the French nobility. These evolutions in armor made the knight impervious to Longbows, which were instrumental to the successes at Crecy (where modern tests using a piece of partial plate from the battlefield and a 100lb draw machine successfully shot clean through the plate - I have unfortunately lost the link to this, but it was a discovery channel or history channel program IIRC). As English armies at the time are composed mainly of longbowmen, this increasingly negates their effectiveness (it should be noted that Agincourt was won by LongbowMEN, not Longbows).

Lastly, the completely demoralized French needed a big rally after Agincourt. Orleans and Joan of Arc provided that.


Jean d'Arc understood the strategic situation better than the nobility, and used her influence with the commoners to force the issue. She understood that aggressive offense could make significant gains, where cautious and defensive concentration of massed forces would hopelessly slow them down and lose more than it defended.

The combination of aggressive offense and political mobilization of the commoners and nobility to the French cause changed the tide of the war. This was the work of an immature, illiterate girl, who's last action as a military commander managed to save her entire host with an exceptionally well executed retreat in the face of overwhelming opposition. Betrayal and bad luck meant she could not join them in safety.

In addition to her battlefield and political genius, the Pious and Pure Jean d'Arc had some right bastards working for her, and she unleashed them mercilessly. (e.g.: Bluebeard)


You forget the fact that Joan was not claiming to act on her own impulse - but to have had angelic visions. In the Middle Ages, when people set much store by such things this was a strong claim to attention and authority. If modern terms are really necessary, you may say she had huge charisma.

Another important point is that for the Dauphin, who gave Joan an army, this was a no lose situation. If she won, he would take the credit (as happened in actual history). If she lost, it'd be just "an immature, illiterate girl" who took the blame. Standard managerial trick.


A failed Missouri habidasher a few years later was the man who led the US in the nuclear obliteration of two major Japanese cities.

Or consider a man who had finished near the bottom of his class at West Point and was forced out of the Army for drunkenness, left scraping together a living as destitute saddle salesclerk. Four years later he went on to defeat first the Confederate armies guarding the Mississippi in the west, then their armies guarding the capitol in the East, effectively winning the bloodiest war in American history.

So I wouldn't be so quick to use cold biographical facts to dismiss the leadership qualities of someone you've never met. In the right situation, some otherwise very flawed people are the perfect leader for the moment. In a big enough group, such people will naturally rise to the top.

And yes, it is a recorded fact that, even in less enlightened ages, men would follow a female, if she had good enough leadership abilities, and was leading a direction they felt was the right one. For examples, look at the lives of Boudica and Ching Shih.


Following the death of Henry V (of Agincourt fame) in 1422, England was ruled (in name) until 1461 by Henry VI, who would be incompetent throughout his reign in turn by reason of minority, madness, imprisonment and abdication. During this period the English monarchy was in no position to enforce its claim to the French throne that was the underpinning of the Hundred Years' War, and in fact the Dukes of the realm spent much of Henry's realm squabbling over English spoils, with no time or interest in French ones.

The defection of the Dukes of Burgundy from being English allies to being French allies is listed elsewhere as the turning point, but I see this as the effect and not the cause. What sane Duke of Burgundy would stand alone against the French while the English were so focussed on internal squabble to be useless as allies? Far safer and more productive to split Continental spoils plundered from English possessions with the French monarchy, than to risk the dukedom by standing alone against it.

Following the madness of Henry Vi in 1453, and the concurrent reduction of English continental holding to Calais, the War of the Roses breaks out and the English nobility are distracted for another generation with the English succession. By the conclusion of that conflict at Bosworth Field in 1485, the French monarchy has succeeded in forming the first real continental nation state, and English claims to the French throne have been reduced to absurdity.

So, to return to the question asked - the turning point in the Hundred Years' War was the loss of interest (and ability) on the part of the English monarchy to enforce its claim to the French monarchy, in consequence of an extended period of internal instability during and following the death of Henry V in 1422 that lasted until 1485.

Yes, all my links are to Wikipedia - but this is an analysis question and I cannot think of any facts that are in dispute. The question is really about how best to interpret the accepted facts to deepen understanding of underlying causes and inter-relationships.


The turning point in the Hundred Years' war came about when France regained its self confidence, thanks in large part to Joan of Arc.

France had a larger population, and fielded larger armies than England. French armies were outmaneuvered at famous battles like Crecy, Poitiers, and Agincourt. But except for the long bow, French armament was not inferior to the English, either. France basically had to avoid battles of maneuver, and fight battles hand to hand.

Joan's victory at Orleans was a huge psychological victory, since Orleans was the gateway to the south. The battle was won because Joan led the required hand to hand fights, and then started others, including a march to hReims, the site of the coronation of French kings.

Joan's ignorance was not necessarily a disadvantage; and the fact that she was a shepherd in the fields may have given her essential fighting qualities. What the French needed at the time was not a strategist, but a "brawler," think of Ulysees S. Grant whose fellow officers complained that he "drank too much whiskey." President Lincoln's answer was, "Find out which kind and send a barrel to all the other generals."

Joan's "illiteracy" wasn't exactly a disadvantage when the French needed was a leader who could "dumb down" the war into one that the numerically superior French could fight "up close and personal." (The English won most of their victories by superior maneuvering in the open field.)

A young shepherd named David won a duel against a prominent warrior named Goliath, and went on to lead his country in a successful war against Goliath's Philistines.


France's population was roughly three times England's. This meant that while small but efficient English armies could defeat the French in pitched battles - at least when they could fight on their own terms - there simply weren't enough of them to win the war.

Political division at home (the warm-up phase for the wars of the roses) was the last straw.


Part of the Answer is that the French adopted 'fabain' tactics to some degree and generally stopped seeking to give battle to English forces, they dogged and harassed, but avoided major battles. The English forces of occasions marched from across France (Calais to Bordeaux).

I only recently read Jonathon Sumption "Divided Houses : The Hundred Years War III" and definitely true for the period covered by this book, but my general knowledge of the war and period is not great.


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Historical tradition dates the Hundred Years War between England and France as running from 1337 to 1453.

In 1337, Edward III had responded to the confiscation of his duchy of Aquitaine by King Philip VI of France by challenging Philip’s right to the French throne, while in 1453 the English had lost the last of their once wide territories in France, after the defeat of John Talbot’s Anglo-Gascon army at Castillon, near Bordeaux.

Edward III formally assumed the title 'King of France and the French Royal Arms'.

The overseas possessions of the English kings were the root cause of the tensions with the kings of France, and the tensions reached right back to 1066. William the Conqueror was already duke of Normandy when he became king of England. His great-grandson Henry II, at his accession in 1154, was already count of Anjou by inheritance from his father and duke of Aquitaine (Gascony and Poitou) in right of his wife Eleanor.

These trans-Channel possessions made the kings of England easily the mightiest of the king of France’s vassals, and the inevitable friction between them repeatedly escalated into open hostilities. The Hundred Years War grew out of these earlier clashes and their consequences.

England's King John lost Normandy and Anjou to France in 1204. His son, Henry III, renounced his claim to those lands in the Treaty of Paris in 1259, but it left him with Gascony as a duchy held under the French crown. The English kings’ ducal rights there continued to be a source of disquiet, and wars broke out in 1294 and 1324.

The 1294 outbreak coincided with Edward l’s first clash with the Scots, and thenceforward the French and Scots were allied in all subsequent confrontations with England. It was indeed French support for David Bruce of Scotland, in the face of Edward III’s intervention there, that triggered the breakdown between England and France and culminated in Philip VI’s confiscation of Aquitaine in 1337 - the event that precipitated the Hundred Years War.

Edward’s 1337 riposte - challenging Philip's right to the French throne - introduced a new issue that distinguished this war from previous confrontations. In 1328, Charles IV of France had died without a male heir. A claim for the succession had been made for Edward, then 15 years old, through the right of his mother Isabella, daughter of Philip IV and Charles IV’s sister. But he was passed over in favour of Philip, the son of Philip IV’s younger brother, Charles of Valois.

Edward now revived his claim, and in 1340 formally assumed the title 'King of France and the French Royal Arms'. Historians argue about whether Edward really believed he might actually attain the French throne. Irrespective, his claim gave him very important leverage in his dealings with Philip.

He could use it to stir up trouble by encouraging French malcontents to recognise him as king instead of Philip. He could also use it as a powerful weapon in negotiation, by offering to renounce his claim against very large territorial concessions, for instance the independence of Aquitaine from France - possibly even the cession of Normandy and Anjou on the same terms.


What Hundred Years War?

By challenging the very idea of a continuous Anglo-French medieval war Ian Mortimer reveals the remarkable complexities of a series of distinct conflicts that began with a prophecy and ended with an English dynasty seeking the approval of God.

Everyone knows that the Hundred Years War was a protracted series of conflicts between England and France that took place in the 14th and 15th centuries. It was characterised by the claim of the kings of England also to be kings of France by right of inheritance through Isabella of France (c. 1296-1358), mother of Edward III (r. 1327-77) and the last surviving child of Philip the Fair (r. 1285-1314). But while such a description might suffice for an encyclopaedia, it is laden with problems. What did the protagonists seek?

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Rite that caused riots: celebrating 100 years of The Rite of Spring

The audience, packed into the newly-opened Théâtre des Champs-Élysées to the point of standing room only, had neither seen nor heard anything like it.

As the first few bars of the orchestral work The Rite of Spring – Le Sacre du Printemps – by the young, little-known Russian composer Igor Stravinsky sounded, there was a disturbance in the audience. It was, according to some of those present – who included Marcel Proust, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy – the sound of derisive laughter.

By the time the curtain rose to reveal ballet dancers stomping the stage, the protests had reached a crescendo. The orchestra and dancers, choreographed by the legendary Vaslav Nijinsky, continued but it was impossible to hear the music above what Stravinsky described as a "terrific uproar".

As a riot ensured, two factions in the audience attacked each other, then the orchestra, which kept playing under a hail of vegetables and other objects. Forty people were forcibly ejected.

The reviews were merciless. "The work of a madman … sheer cacophony," wrote the composer Puccini. "A laborious and puerile barbarity," added Le Figaro's critic, Henri Quittard.

It was 29 May 1913. Classical music would never be the same again.

On Wednesday evening at the same theatre in Paris, a 21st-century audience – hopefully without vegetables — will fill the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées for a reconstruction of the original performance to mark the 100th anniversary of the notorious premiere. It will be followed by a new version of The Rite by the Berlin-based choreographer Sasha Waltz, among a series of commemorative performances.

Today, the piece has gone from rioting to rave reviews and is widely considered one of the most influential musical works of the 20th century.

"It conceals some ancient force, it is as if it's filled with the power of the Earth," Waltz said of Stravinsky's music.

Finnish composer and conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, currently principal conductor and artistic adviser for the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, who will conduct the Rite of Spring at the Royal Festival Hall on Thursday and at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées shortly afterwards , said The Rite still made his spine tingle. "I have to admit that when we come to the moment just before the last dance … my blood pressure is up. I have this kind of adrenaline surge," he told Reuters.

"It's an old caveman reaction."

Salonen added: "The miracle of the piece is the eternal youth of it. It's so fresh, it still kicks ass."

There is still confusion and disagreement about events that night in 1913, which the theatre describes as "provoking one of the greatest scandals in the history of music" and turning The Rite into the "founding work of all modern music".

Stravinsky, was virtually unknown before Sergei Diaghilev hired him to compose for his Ballets Russes's 1913 Paris season. His first two works, The Firebird, performed in 1910, and Petrushka, in 1911, were generally acclaimed. The Rite, subtitled "Pictures of Pagan Russia in Two Parts", begins with primitive rituals celebrating spring, and ends with a young sacrificial victim dancing herself to death.

Not only was the theatre hall packed that evening in 1913, but the stairways and corridors were full to bursting with excited and jostling spectators.

The Rite opened with an introductory melody adapted from a Lithuanian folk song, featuring a bassoon playing, unusually, at the top of its register, and prompting composer Camille Saint-Saëns to exclaim: "If that's a bassoon, then I'm a baboon!" The heavy, stomping steps were a world away from the elegance of traditional ballet, as the dancers enacted the brutal plot.

As the audience erupted, Diaghilev called for calm and flashed the house lights on and off, while Nijinsky was forced to call out steps to the dancers as the beat of the music was drowned out by the riotous cacophony. Even now there is debate over whether the audience reaction was spontaneous or the work of outraged traditionalists armed with vegetables who had come looking for trouble.

The turbulent premiere was followed by five more relatively peaceful performances before one show in London, which received mixed reviews, but the complete ballet and orchestral work were only performed seven times before the outbreak of the first world war.

After the fighting ended, Diaghilev attempted to revive The Rite of Spring, but found nobody remembered the choreography. By then Nijinsky, the greatest dancer of his generation, was in mental decline.

Since then The Rite has been adapted for and included in an estimated 150 productions around the world including gangster films, a punk rock interpretation, a nightmarish vision of Aboriginal Australia by Kenneth MacMillan, and Walt Disney's 1940s film Fantasia. A commemorative performance was staged at the Royal Albert Hall in London to mark the 50th anniversary of the premiere.

To mark this year's centenary of The Rite of Spring, described by Leonard Bernstein as the most important piece of music of the 20th century, both Sony and Universal have released box sets reprising the best versions in their back catalogues.


Significance of the Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War, begun on the pretext of an English claim to the French throne, was later renewed and perpetuated in an attempt to establish in reality Henry V’s grandiose conception of a dual monarchy by which the English king should rule two kingdoms on either side of the Channel. It demonstrated, however, that English authority could not become effective in a hostile France and that the French were not strong enough to make the English kings recognize the utter folly and impracticability of their pretensions. In fact, during the 14th and 15th centuries, behind the facade of claims and counterclaims, behind the battles and political maneuvers, two nations were being forged whose natural development and juxtaposition were bound to lead to warfare.

The initial claim to the French throne can be explained only by Edward III’s strong ties with France and by a feeling for his Capetian ancestry as strong as his manifest pride in his English kingdom. By the 15th century, however, this feeling was virtually dead in the Lancastrian and Yorkist kings who challenged Charles VII and Louis XI. During the previous three or four generations, the English had acquired a taste for profitable expeditions to the Continent, from which they always hoped to return laden with spoil and with prisoners for ransom, so that France was ravaged and wasted as it had been when the Vikings and Northmen raided the Carolingian empire. Apparently unable to remedy this state of affairs, the French sought instead to alleviate their sufferings by reforming the monarchy—a reform which took effect, after the Paris revolution of 1356–58, in the reigns of John II and Charles V. The weakening of the monarchy by the minority and the insanity of Charles VI left the greed of the princes and favourite ministers unbridled and the country prey to extortion. Public disgust at these abuses was expressed more and more frequently, with ever-increasing violence but with less and less effect.

The 14th and 15th centuries marked, both in France and in England, a prolonged struggle for power between the crown, the nobility, and various reforming elements. Similarities in political and constitutional development and the common experience of social upheaval might well have resulted in alliances between parallel parties on either side of the Channel. As it happened, when one group was in the ascendant in France, the other was frequently ruling in England, so that, far from bringing the two countries closer together, their similar experiences divided them more bitterly. National consciousness, born and nurtured in the long struggle, grew in the end so strong that any project of union—even a merely personal union of the crowns as envisaged by Henry V—was doomed to failure. The most obvious result of the Hundred Years’ War was to make both France and England determined to avoid the revival of such a struggle, in which both sides had squandered their manpower and resources utterly without profit. In both countries rulers and populace alike avidly turned their energies to other projects.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn, Managing Editor, Reference Content.


The Balkan Wars: 100 Years Later, a History of Violence

Soldiers remove the dead from the battlefield at Adrianople during the First Balkan War.

A century ago today, the Balkan wars began. On Oct. 8, 1912, the tiny Kingdom of Montenegro declared war on the weak Ottoman Empire, launching an invasion of Albania, then under nominal Turkish rule. Three other Balkan states in league with the Montenegrins — Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia — rapidly followed suit, waging war on the old imperial enemy while drawing upon a wellspring of national sentiment in each of their homelands. By March 1913, their blood-soaked campaigns had effectively pushed the enfeebled Ottomans out of Europe. Yet by July, Greece and Serbia would clash with Bulgaria in what’s known as the Second Balkan War — a bitter monthlong struggle that saw more territory change hands, more villages razed and more bodies dumped into the earth.

The peace that followed was no peace at all. A year later, with Europe’s great powers entwined in the fate of the Balkans, a Yugoslav nationalist in the Bosnian city of Sarajevo killed the crown prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Europe plunged into World War I.

“The Balkans,” goes one of the many witticisms attributed to Winston Churchill, “generates more history than it can locally consume.” To Churchill and many Western observers of his era, this rugged stretch of southeastern Europe was a headache, a geopolitical mess that had for centuries been at the crossroads of empires and religions, riven by ethnic tribalisms and the meddling of outside powers. Half a century earlier, Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck — the architect of the modern German state — expressed his disgust with this nuisance of a region, scoffing that the whole of the Balkans was “not worth the bones of one Pomeranian grenadier” in his employ.

But while these grand statesmen of the West saw a backward land brimming with ancient hatreds, the Balkans’ turbulent past, and the legacy of the Balkan wars in particular, perhaps offers a more instructive history lesson for our present than even World War I. This is not just because the Balkan wars spawned some historic firsts on the battlefield — such as the first instance when aircraft was used to attack an enemy (by the Bulgarians) or some of the first grim scenes of trench warfare in continental Europe (observers recount how, in one trench, the legs of dead Turkish soldiers froze into the ground and had to be hacked off). It’s because in many ways these battles fought a century ago reflect our world today: one where internecine and sectarian conflicts — in, say, Syria or the Democratic Republic of Congo — are enmeshed in the agendas of outside powers and where the trauma of that violence often augurs more of the same.

On the surface, the Balkan wars were opportunistic land grabs. The Ottoman Empire, at this point very much “the sick man of Europe,” had held sway over a vast swath of the region since the 15th century, but by the 19th century was a steadily hemorrhaging territory. Newly independent states in Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia — at times, egged on, at others, reined in by imperial powers like Russia, Austria-Hungary, Germany and the U.K., who were all jockeying for supremacy— were now possessed by their own fantasies of creating a Greater Serbia or Greater Bulgaria. The genie of ethnic nationalism was very much out of its bottle, and the Balkans were suffused with anti-Turkish, anti-Muslim feeling. See these popular lines of doggerel, penned by a mid-19th century Montenegrin prince:

So tear down minarets and mosques,

and the kindle the Serbian yule logs,

and let us paint our Easter eggs …

… our faiths will be submerged in blood.

The better of the two will be rise redeemed.

[Eid] can never live in peace

with Christmas Day.

And there was blood. The joint Balkan invasion of Turkish territory in Albania, Macedonia and Thrace, along the rim of the Aegean Sea, saw brutal, bitter fighting, miserable sieges and myriad atrocities committed on all sides. A Czech correspondent described the approach to Lozengrad, the Bulgarian name for what’s now Kirklareli, Turkey, as something out of Dante’s Inferno. “Only his dark genius could recreate all the horrors of the cold swamps out of which stick the twisted and mutilated bodies of the fallen,” he wrote in the Czech daily Pravo Lidu in October 1912. Another journalist entering the city of Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) when it was finally surrendered by the Ottomans to the Bulgarians in March 1913, recounted the utter desolation of the ancient town, then a “ghastly theater of blood”: “Everywhere bodies reduced to mere bones, blue hands ripped from forearms, the bizarre gestures, empty eye-sockets, open mouths as if calling in desperation, the shattered teeth behind the torn and blackened lips.”

The capture of Adrianople effectively brought what’s considered the First Balkan War to a close. A treaty brokered in London by Europe’s great powers ended hostilities by May, but would soon unravel when, in late June, territorial disputes led to the Greeks and Serbs turning on the Bulgarians — the biggest victors of the First Balkan War — and, even at times with the help of Turkish fighters, stripping the Bulgarians of much of the gains they had made in the earlier conflict. It was a huge source of national humiliation for the Bulgarians, who had mobilized 500,000 troops — a quarter of their entire male population — during the wars.

In all, over the course of the Balkan wars, some 200,000 soldiers died in less than a year with countless numbers of civilians massacred in raids on towns or laid low by starvation and disease. Grisly accounts followed one after the other of pogroms and ethnic cleansing in a dizzyingly complex, diverse part of the world that, for all the inefficiencies and injustices of Ottoman rule, had existed in relative multicultural harmony for centuries. A landmark report on the Balkan wars, issued in 1913 by the then brand new Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., claimed that “there is no clause in international law applicable to land war and to the treatment of the wounded, which was not violated … by all the belligerents.” The Carnegie report went on to declaim “the megalomania of the national ideal” — the ugly, crude nationalism that fired the expansionist zeal of countries the world over. “Violence carries its own punishment with it and something very different from armed force will be needed to establish order and peace in the Balkans,” the report warns.

But that was a message, like many others made then by dovish liberals and peaceniks, that went unheeded. At a time when the great powers were steadily amassing arms and tying themselves into alliances primed for war, the smaller Balkan states could only end up pawns in a much bigger game of chess. Resurgent Serbian nationalism, backed by Russia, put the two ultimately at odds with Austria-Hungary, triggering World War I. “The Balkans were not the powder keg, as is so often believed: the metaphor is inaccurate,” writes journalist and Balkans historian Misha Glenny, in his book, The Balkans: Nationalism, War and the Great Powers, 1804-1999. “They were merely the powder trail that the great powers themselves had laid. The powder keg was Europe.”

What followed, of course, involved more bloodshed, more seismic upheavals, more redrawing of maps. Decades later, the Balkans tragically convulsed in another round of ethnic warfare following the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of Yugoslavia’s own communist state. As some commentators parroted Churchill and Bismarck’s dismay with the region, Mark Mazower, a noted scholar of Eastern Europe now at Columbia University, wrote in an essay how the fragile politics of a nation — not simply old ethnic enmities — can lead to the disintegration of once tolerant, integrated societies: “It has been war — first as a specter then as a reality — which affected people’s sense of ethnic identity.”

Looking at the vicious sectarian fighting taking place now in Syria, one wonders what sort of country can possibly emerge when the shooting stops. The hideous excesses 0f an authoritarian regime, the cash and weaponry supplied to rebels by foreign powers and the unraveling of the delicate political consensus that once existed has led to a grinding, miserable civil war with no end in sight.

Prescient for its time, the 1913 Carnegie report opens with an impassioned appeal for peace and an end to the “monstrous business” of the arms race. Otherwise, the legacy of the Balkan wars was clear:

[It will be] only the beginning of other wars, or rather of a continuous war, the worst of all, a war of religion, of reprisals, of race, a war of one people against another, of man against man and brother against brother. It has become a competition, as to who can best dispossess and “denationalize” his neighbor.

Violence, as the report says, is its own punishment. And a century doesn’t seem so long ago.


7 facts about the Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453) was a series of conflicts fought between England and France over succession to the French throne. It lasted 116 years and saw many major battles – from the battle of Crécy in 1346 to the battle of Agincourt in 1415, which was a major English victory over the French. Here are seven facts about the long-running struggle…

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Published: July 17, 2018 at 11:47 am

When Charles IV of France died without a son in 1328, Charles’s first cousin was chosen to succeed, becoming King Philip VI. Yet Edward III of England, as the deceased king’s nearest male relation, was considered by some to have the stronger claim. When Phillip VI confiscated the duchy of Aquitaine from England in 1337, Edward III responded by pressing his claim to the French throne, beginning the Hundred Years’ War. The conflict saw major developments in military strategy and technology and the final French victory at Castillon in 1453 was the first major field engagement of the war to be decided by gunfire. Here, historian David Green, author of The Hundred Years War: A People’s History, shares seven lesser-known facts about the series of conflicts…

A Hundred Years’ War?

The first thing anyone usually learns about the Hundred Years’ War is that it did not last 100 years. Tradition dates it from 1337 to 1453, but in some ways it is more helpful to view this longest of European wars as one phase of an even longer struggle between England and France, stretching perhaps from the Norman Conquest of 1066 until the 1904 Entente Cordiale [a series of agreements signed between Great Britain and France that marked the end of hundreds of years of intermittent conflict between the two states.]

Conflict with the ‘ancient enemy’ has shaped the identities of both countries, and memories of the war remain long on both sides of the Channel. Charles de Gaulle remarked in June 1962: “Our greatest hereditary enemy was not Germany, it was England. From the Hundred Years’ War to Fashoda, she hardly ceased to struggle against us… she is not naturally inclined to wish us well.”

V for Victory?

The legend that the origins of the ‘v’ sign can be found in the Hundred Years’ War is, sadly, just legendary. There are no contemporary sources that suggest English archers, as an insult, raised to the French the two fingers with which they drew their longbows, nor that the French dismembered captured archers – removing those same fingers and thus preventing them from ever firing a bow again.

There is, however, an account of the French ‘mooning’ a detachment of English troops during the campaign that led to the battle of Crécy. This so enraged the English that they launched an ill-advised attack on a well-defended position and were beaten back with heavy losses.

Total war?

We are often told that ‘total war’ is a sad product of the modern, industrial age. It is, however, difficult to find any section of English or French society that was not affected by the Hundred Years’ War.

The peasantry in both countries, for example, were central to the war effort and suffered greatly as a consequence. Indeed, its members were targeted directly: because of the connection between taxation (paid chiefly by the peasantry) and military defence, the status of ‘non-combatants’ became very uncertain during the war. So, by attacking taxpayers, the English also attacked French military resources.

Furthermore, as the war unfolded it became a consciously ‘national’ struggle and, consequently, there were few reasons non-combatants should be immune from its effects. This policy and its brutally sophisticated implementation are clear from a letter written in 1355 by Sir John Wingfield, who served in the retinue of Edward the Black Prince (1330–76):

It seems certain that since the war against the French king began, there has never been such destruction in a region as in this raid. For the countryside and towns which have been destroyed… produced more revenue for the king of France in aid of his war than half his kingdom… as I could prove from authentic documents found in various towns in the tax-collectors’ houses.

Wingfield served as ‘governor of the prince’s business’ (essentially his business manager), and he wrote in the aftermath of the so-called grande chevauchée (a raid across southern France in which an army of around 6,000 soldiers destroyed 500 settlements of various sorts – villages, castles, towns, hamlets – and may have devastated up to 18,000 square kilometres of territory).

The Black Prince, however, was not content merely to orchestrate and witness the destruction, he wished to determine its exact extent, and so he brought officials such as Wingfield with him to calculate the precise cost to the French treasury. The psychological cost of this sort of raiding – the fear and insecurity it surely engendered – is more difficult to measure, but as the war drew on in France the ringing of church bells might as easily mean an impending raid as a call to prayer.

Rituals at the battle of Agincourt

The battle of Agincourt began at about 11am on 25 October 1415 (the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispian). It had not been a pleasant night: heavy rain had turned the ploughed field between the two armies into something approaching a quagmire. The English and French forces had deployed in the cold before dawn, and hours had passed without either side making any move. Finally, King Henry V (r1413–22) ordered an advance.

But before they moved forward, a fascinating and seemingly extraordinary act took place: each man knelt – archers and men-at-arms alike – kissed the ground, and took a little earth in his mouth. This collective and yet deeply personal ritual seems to have been sacramental a ceremony that combined elements of the Eucharist with the burial service. It served as a blessing, a purification, and a preparation for death.

Throughout the Anglo-French war, battles had enormous religious and symbolic significance. Not only was victory or defeat an indication of divine judgement, but for many it might bring one decidedly closer to divine judgement of a very personal nature.

We few, we happy few: part one

While chronicle accounts allow us to reconstruct the narrative of the battle of Agincourt with some precision, the size of the opposing forces remains a matter of contention. Shakespeare would have us believe that in 1415 the English were outnumbered at least 10-to-one. Such a number was shaped by dramatic necessity and also by various contemporary and near-contemporary English sources that suggested the French army totalled between 60,000 and 160,000 men.

Such numbers are patently absurd given what we know of the possibilities of military recruitment at this time they were grossly inflated with the aim of exaggerating the scale of Henry’s victory. Recent work makes it clear that the Valois army was considerably more modest in size, perhaps 20,000–30,000 troops. And, indeed, in her 2005 account of the battle, Anne Curry argues that the French army was smaller still, numbering no more than 12,000 soldiers.

By comparison, Henry commanded between 6,000 and 9,000 soldiers – the anonymous author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti (The Deeds of Henry V), who witnessed the battle, suggested he led 5,000 archers and around 1,000 men-at-arms (although the numbering is not precise). The French, therefore, outnumbered the English by two to one, but probably no more.

We few, we happy few: part two

Some other aspects of Shakespeare’s account of the battle closely accord with contemporary accounts, and there is good reason to believe them to be accurate. When Sir Walter Hungerford (1378–1449) bemoaned the lack of archers in his company, Henry is said (again by the author of the Gesta Henrici Quinti) to have reprimanded him in a speech remarkably similar to that familiar from Shakespeare: “That is a foolish way to talk”, the king said, “because by God in Heaven… I would not, even if I could, have a single man more than I do. For these I have here with me are God’s people… Do you not believe that the Almighty, with these His humble few, is able to overcome the opposing arrogance of the French”.

Guns and gunpowder

The Hundred Years’ War saw some major developments in military strategy and technology. Indeed, some historians have argued that these changes amount to a ‘military revolution’.

Among such developments, the evolution of gunpowder weaponry was particularly significant. That evolutionary process was, however, a slow one. At Agincourt, for example, it appears that French artillery accounted for a solitary English archer during the battle, and in 1431 Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, fired 412 cannonballs into the town of Lagny and succeeded only in killing a chicken.

Nonetheless, as the war entered its final phase such weapons were becoming increasingly effective. They played important roles in a number of Joan of Arc’s battles and sieges, and the ‘Maid’ was considered particularly adept in aiming the weapons. Then, in the late 1430s, Charles VII (1422–61) took steps to put in place a professional artillery train under the command of the Bureau brothers – John, the king’s Master Gunner, and his brother, Gaspard.

Thereafter, the weapons available to the French grew in number and efficiency, and they proved their worth in successive sieges. Gunpowder weapons allowed the French to eject the English from Normandy and Gascony with astonishing speed. In 1437, the castle of Castelnau-de-Cernès in Gascony was “broken down… by cannon and engines, and a great part of the walls were thrown to the ground”. In some cases, as at Bourg in 1451, the mere presence of guns was sufficient to bring about an immediate surrender.

Around this time, gunpowder weapons also began to be used effectively as field artillery. Formigny in 1450 (a decisive victory for the French) may have been the first battle decided by gunpowder artillery. The engagement began with a cavalry assault on the English infantry and longbowmen, which was repulsed. Soon afterwards, however, the Bureau brothers arrived with two breechloading culverins on wheeled carriages.

These were capable of a high rate of fire and could outdistance the English archers. Although it required the arrival of further reinforcements to decide the battle, the artillery clearly played a telling role.

This was also the case at Castillon in 1453 (a decisive French victory), the final engagement of the Hundred Years’ War. This was, undoubtedly, determined by artillery, and, as a consequence, the battle marks a deeply significant point in the history of European warfare.

David Green is senior lecturer in British studies at Harlaxton College and the author of The Hundred Years War: A People’s History (Yale University Press, 2014 paperback edition 2015).

This article was first published by History Extra in October 2015

Anne Curry will be speaking about ‘Henry V: A Life of Transformations’ at our Kings and Queens Weekend in March 2019. Find out more here


What caused the turning point in Hundred Years' War? - History

The Tet Offensive of 1968 proved to be the turning point of the Vietnam War and its effects were far-reaching. It changed the entire way that the United States approached the war: before the Tet Offensive the U.S. objective in Vietnam was to win the war after the Tet Offensive, the U.S. objective shifted toward finding a face-saving way to get out of Vietnam.

To understand fully the impact of the 1968 Tet Offensive, we must first go back to the previous year. By 1967, after more than two years of bitter fighting, the commitment of more than 400,000 troops, and steadily increasing casualty figures, many Americans believed that the war had degenerated into a bloody stalemate. At the same time, the anti-war movement was increasing in volume and intensity. Politically, President Johnson was under fire even within his own party for his handling of the war.

Given this situation, Johnson launched what became known as the “success offensive,” designed to convince the American people that the war was being won and that administration policies were succeeding. Administration spokesmen fanned out and began to spread the word. As part of this effort, the President brought home General William Westmoreland, senior US commander in Vietnam, in mid-November 1967 to make the administration’s case.

Westmoreland was glad to do so. By his primary metric—the body count—the US and allied forces were making significant headway against the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army on the battlefield, prevailing in every major battle and inflicting heavy casualties on the NVA and main force VC units. In a number of public and private venues, the general insisted that progress was being made in the war and that there was “a light at the end of the tunnel.” These words would come back to haunt him in a very short time.

Meanwhile, in Hanoi, even as Westmoreland spoke, the Central Committee of the Lao Dong Party was finalizing preparations for a country-wide offensive designed to break the stalemate and ‘liberate’ South Vietnam.

The decision to launch the offensive was the result of a long-standing internal struggle over military strategy within the leadership in Hanoi. These struggles were principally over the timing involved in shifting from a protracted war toward a more decisive approach. In the end, however, the more cautious proponents of protracted war were overcome by those like General Nguyen Chi Thanh, commander in the South, who advocated a nationwide general offensive.

Ironically, Thanh died before the decision was made to launch the offensive and the responsibility for preparing the plan for the offensive fell to General Vo Nguyen Giap. The plan he came up with was designed to ignite a general uprising among the people of South Vietnam, shatter the South Vietnamese armed forces, and topple the Saigon regime, while at the same time increasing the level of pain for the Americans by inflicting more casualties on U.S. forces. At the very least, the decision-makers in Hanoi hoped to position themselves for any follow-on negotiations that might take place in the wake of the offensive.

The preparations for the offensive began in the summer months of 1967 the target date for launching the offensive was the beginning of Tet, the lunar New Year holiday, which would come at the end of January 1968.

During the second half of 1967, in what we would today call “shaping operations,” the Communists launched a number of attacks to draw US and allied attention away from the population centers, which would be the ultimate objectives for the 1968 offensive. As part of this effort, NVA forces engaged the Marines in a series of sharp battles in the hills surrounding Khe Sanh, a base in western Thua Thien Province, south of the DMZ up against the Laotian border. Further to the east, additional NVA forces besieged the Marine base at Con Thien just south of the Demilitarized Zone. Further south, Communist forces attacked Loc Ninh and Song Be, both in III Corps Tactical Zone, and in November they struck U.S. forces at Dak To in the Central Highlands. In purely tactical terms, these “border battles” as they became known, were costly failures for the Communists and they no doubt lost some of their best troops they sustained over 300 killed at Dak To alone. However, at the operational level, these battles achieved the intent of Giap’s plan by diverting General Westmoreland’s attention to the outlying areas away from the buildup around the urban target areas that would be struck during the Tet attacks.

US military intelligence analysts knew that the other side was planning some kind of large-scale attack in 1968, but they did not believe that it would come during Tet or that it would be countrywide. Still, there were many indicators that the enemy was planning something. When new intelligence poured in from all four Corps Tactical Zones, Westmoreland and his staff came to the conclusion that a major enemy effort was probable—all signs pointed to a new offensive. Still, most of the significant enemy activity had been along the DMZ and in the remote border areas.

In the words of one official in the Johnson White House, writing later in 1968, the Tet Offensive represented “the worst intelligence failure of the war.” Many historians and other observers have endeavored to understand how the Communists were able to achieve such a stunning level of surprise. There are a number of possible explanations, but there are two main reasons for the failure to predict what was coming. First, Allied estimates of enemy troop strengths and intentions were flawed. Part of the problem was that in the fall of 1967, Headquarters MACV in Saigon, in the face of vigorous disagreement from the Central Intelligence Agency, changed the way it calculated enemy order of battle—in terms of strength and organization for combat. At Westmoreland’s direction, the military analysts decided not to count the local militias of the National Liberation Front in the enemy order of battle, instantly reducing estimated enemy strength downward from 300,000 to 235,000. Almost overnight, this seemed to indicate that the war was going better than it was, but at the same time discounted a large number of potentially effective enemy fighters and support personnel. Having revised their enemy estimates, it appears that US military intelligence analysts then apparently accepted those estimates at face value—as ground truth—this is tantamount to what is known in some military circles as “drinking your own bath water.”

This caused Westmoreland and his analysts to discount any intelligence indicators that ran counter to the assessment that the enemy was getting weaker and, they reasoned, that any new offensive, because of this overall weakness, would be localized and limited. Thus, when incoming intelligence reports indicated that the enemy was planning a country-wide offensive, the reports were largely ignored.

The second major reason for the failure to predict the size and scope of the coming offensive was the focus on Khe Sanh. In late December 1967, signals intelligence indicated that there was a significant enemy build-up in the Khe Sanh area, site of the earlier “Hill Fights” in western Thua Thien Province. Westmoreland and his intelligence analysts decided that this build-up signified that the enemy’s main effort in 1968 would come at Khe Sanh. Therefore, Westmoreland, his headquarters, and the White House turned their focus on Khe Sanh and the northernmost provinces.

On 21 January, the North Vietnamese Army began the first large-scale shelling of Khe Sanh, which was followed by renewed heavy fighting in the hills surrounding the Marine base. These attacks seemed to confirm Westmoreland’s earlier assessment that the remote Marine base would be the focal point for any new Communist attack. He was sure that this was the opening salvo of the anticipated enemy offensive. The fact that the Khe Sanh situation looked hauntingly similar to that which the French had faced when they were decisively defeated at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 only added increased urgency to the events unfolding there.

Accordingly, Westmoreland ordered the commencement of Operation Niagara, a massive bombing campaign focused on suspected enemy positions around Khe Sanh. Additionally, he ordered the 1st Cavalry Division from the Central Highlands to Phu Bai just south of Hue and one brigade of the 101st Airborne Division to I Corps to strengthen the defenses of the northernmost provinces. By the end of January, more than half of all US combat maneuver battalions were in the I Corps area.

For the reasons just stated, when the Communists launched the Tet Offensive, they achieved almost total surprise. It could have been worse—due to a failure in coordination, a number of enemy attacks were launched prematurely in the Central Highlands and the adjacent coastal plains, during the early morning hours of 30 Jan—this was due to the fact that they were using a different lunar calendar than the main force, which was off by 24 hours. These premature attacks provided at least some warning for U.S. forces, but it was too late in most cases for the South Vietnamese forces, because most of the ARVN soldiers were home on leave and could not be recalled in time to stop what was to come the next night.

In the early morning hours of 31 January, the combined forces of the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army, a total of over 84,000 troops, struck with a fury that was breathtaking in both its scope and suddenness. In attacks that ranged from the DMZ all the way south to the tip of the Ca Mau Peninsula, the NVA and VC struck 36 of South Vietnam’s 44 province capitals, 5 of its 6 largest cities, 71 of 242 district capitals, and virtually every allied airfield and key military installation in the country. One American general at the time said the situation map depicting the attacks “lit up like a pinball machine.”

In one of the most spectacular attacks, 19 VC sappers conducted a daring raid on the US Embassy in Saigon. Elsewhere in Saigon, VC units hit Tan Son Nhut Air Base, the South Vietnamese Joint General Staff headquarters, and a number of other key installations across the city. Some of the bitterest fighting was in Cholon, the Chinese section of Saigon.

Far to the north, 7500 VC and North Vietnamese soldiers overran and occupied Hue, the ancient imperial capital. Marines and ARVN soldiers had to be sent in to retake the city in almost a month of bitter house-to-house fighting.

The attacks of the Tet Offensive that raged up and down the length and breadth of South Vietnam were unprecedented in their magnitude and ferocity and the reports streaming in from Saigon portrayed the bitter fighting in near real-time on the evening news on the three TV networks.

CBS television news anchor Walter Cronkite, who had witnessed firsthand the bitter fighting at Hue, no doubt voiced the sentiment of many Americans when he exclaimed, “What the hell is going on?—I thought we were winning the war.” On 27 Feb, after returning from Vietnam, Cronkite went on the air, and declared the war a stalemate, and called for the U.S. to negotiate its way out of the war.

In truth, the Tet Offensive, as it unfolded during the next weeks and months, turned out to be a disaster for the Communists, at least at the tactical level. While the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong enjoyed initial successes with their surprise attacks, allied forces quickly overcame their initial shock and responded rapidly and forcefully, driving back the enemy in most areas. The first surge of the initial phase of the offensive was over by the end of February and most of these battles were over in a few days. There were, however, a few notable exceptions—fighting continued to rage in the Chinese section of Saigon, at Hue, and also at Khe Sanh—battles in which the allies eventually prevailed as well.

In the end, allied forces used superior mobility and firepower to rout the enemy troops, who failed to hold any of their military objectives. Additionally, the South Vietnamese troops, rather than fold, as the North Vietnamese had expected, acquitted themselves reasonably well. As for the much anticipated general uprising of the South Vietnamese populace, it never materialized.

During the bitter fighting that extended into the fall, the Communists sustained staggering casualties. Conservative estimates put their losses at more than 40,000 killed in action with an additional 7,000 captured. By September, when the subsequent phases of the offensive had run their course, the Viet Cong, who had borne the brunt of the heaviest fighting in the cities, had been dealt a significant blow from which they never really recovered the major fighting for the rest of the war would be done by the North Vietnamese Army from late 1969 until the end of the war.

The casualty figures during Tet for the allied forces were much lower, but they were still high. On 18 February, MACV posted the highest US casualty figure for a single week during the entire war—543 killed and 2,500 wounded. Total U.S. killed in action figures for the period February to March, 1968, were over a thousand. These casualty figures continued to mount as subsequent phases of the offensive extended into the fall. By the end of the year, U.S. killed in action for 1968 totaled more than 15,000.

Allied losses combined with the sheer scope and ferocity of the offensive and the vivid images of the savage fighting on the nightly TV news stunned the American people, who were astonished that the enemy was capable of such an effort. Their president and the senior US general in Vietnam had told them only two months before that the enemy was on its last legs and that the war was near an end. The intense and disturbing scenes depicted on the nightly TV news told a different story—a situation which added greatly to the growing credibility gap between the people and the administration. Having accepted the administration’s optimistic reports, but now confronted with a different reality, many Americans concluded that we were losing or at best locked in a bloody stalemate with no end in sight.

The Tet Offensive also had a major impact on Lyndon Johnson, who was visibly shaken by the turn of events. Although General Westmoreland rightfully claimed a great victory in the heavy fighting that continued into the fall of 1968, Johnson, like the American people, was stunned by the ability of the Communists to launch such wide-spread attacks. When Westmoreland, urged on by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Earle Wheeler, asked for 206,000 troops to “take advantage of the situation,” the president balked and began to consider alternative courses of action.

Johnson turned to a group of unofficial advisors known as the “Wise Men.” This was a group of senior statesmen and retired generals to whom he had turned in the past for advice and support. He had met with them in mid-1967 and they recommended that he stay the course in Vietnam. However, when he convened the group in March 1968, they almost unanimously recommended that he find a way to disengage from the war in Vietnam. Stunned by this reversal, Johnson charged Clark Clifford, who had replaced Robert McNamara as Secretary of Defense, to conduct a study to determine the way ahead in Vietnam.

In a very real sense, the Tet Offensive fractured the administration’s “shakey” consensus on the conduct of the war and the reassessment that Johnson ordered permitted the airing of new alternatives. The civilians in the Pentagon recommended that allied efforts focus on population security and that the South Vietnamese be forced to assume more responsibility for the fighting while the US pursued a negotiated settlement. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, not surprisingly, took exception to this approach and recommended that Westmoreland be given the troops that he had asked for and be permitted to pursue enemy forces into Laos and Cambodia.

While the way ahead was being debated within the administration, public opinion polls on the President’s handling of the war continued to spiral downward. In the New Hampshire democratic primary, Johnson barely defeated challenger Senator Eugene McCarthy, winning by only 300 votes—a situation which convinced Robert Kennedy to enter the presidential race as an antiwar candidate.

Beset politically by challengers within his own party and seemingly still in shock from the spectacular Tet attacks, on 31 March, Johnson went on national television to address the nation. He then stunned the audience by announcing that he would not run for re-election—The Tet Offensive had claimed its most important victim—the sitting president of the United States.

In the aftermath of Johnson’s announcement, chaos reigned at the Democratic National Convention in downtown Chicago. Eventually, Vice President Hubert Humphrey won the democratic nomination. The following November, Richard Nixon won the presidential election and began the long U.S. bloody withdrawal from Vietnam.

In summary, The Tet Offensive of 1968 was a turning point in the war in Vietnam. Westmoreland and other senior officials were blinded to the indications that a countrywide offensive was imminent because these indications did not conform to their preconceived notions about enemy capabilities and allied progress in the war. Even after the offensive was launched, the initial reaction at Westmoreland’s headquarters was to place the attacks within the framework of those notions, seeing them as diversionary actions meant to focus attention away from what was seen as the main objective—the Marine base at Khe Sanh. Thus, MACV was not prepared when the enemy offensive was launched.

In the case of the Tet Offensive, intelligence became an extension of Westmoreland’s optimism and LBJ’s need to show progress—not an accurate reflection of the enemy’s capabilities. This set the stage for the impact of the enemy’s surprise attacks in Tet 1968. Johnson and Westmoreland built a set of expectations – false, as it turned out — about the situation in Vietnam in order to win public support for the administration’s handling of the war and dampen antiwar sentiment. These expectations, based on severely flawed intelligence, played a major role in the stunning impact of the Tet Offensive. When the Tet Offensive exploded on 30-31 January, the resulting loss of credibility for the president and the military high command in Saigon was devastating. At that point, the fact that the allied forces had prevailed in 1968 was rendered irrevelant.


What caused the turning point in Hundred Years' War? - History

The Hundred Years War was fought between England and France and lasted from 1337 to 1453. The war was a series of battles with long periods of peace in between.

Small disputes and battles had been going on between the French and the English for years. However, in 1337, King Edward III of England claimed that he was the rightful king of France. This began the long battle between the two countries.

Other disputes kept the fighting going for over one hundred years. These included the control of the valuable wool trade, disputes over certain areas of land, and the support for Scotland by the French.


Battle of Agincourt from Chroniques d'Enguerrand de Monstrelet

King Edward III believed that he was the rightful heir to the French crown through his mother Isabella. He first laid claim to the throne when he was fifteen years old and King Charles IV of France died without a male heir. Instead of Edward, the French chose Philip to be their king.

When King Philip VI of France took control of Aquitaine from the English in 1337, King Edward III decided to fight back. He decided to invade France and reassert his right to the French throne.

Edward did not attempt to conquer and control the land of the French. Instead he led raids into the land called chevauchées. He would strike deep into the land of the French burning crops, plundering cities, and causing havoc.

In the 1350s, the army of King Edward III was led by his son, the valiant Edward the "Black Prince". The Black Prince became a famous hero to the English and was known for his chivalry. The Black Prince led the English to major victories over the French. At the battle of Poitiers, the Black Prince captured King John II, the current King of France.

King Edward agreed to release King John II for a ransom of three million crowns and some additional land. When King Edward died, the son of the Black Prince, Richard II became King. He was only 10 years old. There was a period of relative peace between England and France.

When King Henry V became king of England in 1413, he once again laid claim to the throne of France. He invaded France and won a decisive battle at Agincourt where with only around 6,000 soldiers he defeated a much larger French force of around 25,000. Eventually, the French gave in and King Charles VI named Henry as the heir to the throne.

Many of the people in southern France did not accept English rule. In 1428 the English began to invade southern France. They began a siege of the city of Orleans. However, a young peasant girl by the name of Joan of Arc took leadership of the French army. She claimed to have seen a vision from God. She led the French to a victory at Orleans in 1429. She led the French to several more victories before she was captured by the English and burned at the stake.

The French were inspired by Joan of Arc's leadership and sacrifice. They continued to fight back. They pushed the English army out of France taking Bordeaux in 1453 signaling the end of the Hundred Years War.


5. The Battle of Castillon: 17 July 1453

Under Henry VI, England lost most of the gains of Henry V. A force attempted to regain them but was dealt a crushing defeat at Castillon, with high casualties as a result of poor leadership from John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury. The battle is noted in the development of warfare as being the first battle in Europe in which field artillery (cannons) played a major role.

For all their victories during the war at Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt, the loss at Castillon saw England lose all their territories in France, except for Calais which remained in English hands until 1558. The battle is considered by most to mark the end of the Hundred Years War, although this would not necessarily have seemed obvious to contemporaries. King Henry VI had a major mental breakdown later in 1453: many consider the news of the defeat at Castillon to have been a trigger.


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