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5 - The Impacts of Warfare on Woodland Exploitation in Late Medieval Normandy (1364–1380): Royal Forests as Military Assets during the Hundred Years’ War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 October 2019

Danny Lake-Giguère
Affiliation:
Ph.D. candidate at the Universitè de Montreal, under a joint supervision with France’ Université de Rouen.
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Summary

Recent scholarship has demonstrated that warfare had a profound impact on medieval landscapes, which it transformed and altered considerably. As it stands, environmental history provides a new way to understand warfare, as “in the long perspective of global environmental history, warfare and the preparation for war stand out as a central dimension of how societies, states, and economics have been organized.” Whether it was intentional, as demonstrated by Philip Slavin's study on the use of fire and scorched earth tactics during the Anglo-Scottish Wars, or collateral, as shown by The Ecology of Crusading, Aleksander Pluskowski's research program which studies the influence of the Baltic Crusades on the region's ecosystem, medieval warfare significantly and lastingly affected the natural world as well as human populations. Consequently, it greatly impacted how medieval powers administered their natural resources; this in turn served to emphasize the growing importance of natural resources in military affairs and ultimately contributed to the development of sustainable forestry.

Late medieval Normandy provides an excellent field of study, as it was at the forefront of the Hundred Years’ War, a conflict that exemplifies how warfare shaped both landscape and environment. If the English chevauchées and the war against the king of Navarre and his routiers brought great devastation to the Norman countryside, they also accentuated the strain on the duchy's forests at a time of growing military needs, therefore stressing the need for better regulations. As this paper will demonstrate, the royal forests of Normandy were of vital importance to the king of France. Not only were they an essential part of the province's economy; they were also a major military asset for the kingdom in time of war. Such a notion might seem anachronistic for the Middle Ages; but a “military asset” simply represents, according to its core definition, “something useful in an effort to foil or defeat an enemy.” While one could argue that, for the medieval era, the definition better suits fortifications or available military strength, Nicholas Morton has shown that the notion can also be applied to resources of the time such as crops, mines, flocks or, as this paper will argue, forests. Normandy's shipyards, and more precisely Rouen's Clos des galées, as well as its royal castles and fortresses all required an important timber intake for their daily operation and maintenance.

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Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2018

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