Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-692xr Total loading time: 0.504 Render date: 2023-02-01T18:34:33.395Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

7 - Medieval Irregular Warfare, c. 1000–1300

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  12 September 2017

John France
Affiliation:
Professor Emeritus of History at Swansea University, a coeditor of The Journal of Medieval Military History, and the 2015 recipient of De Re Militari's Bernard Bachrach Prize for Distinguished Service to the Discipline of Medieval Military History.
Get access

Summary

Insurgent actions are similar in character to all others fought by second-rate troops: they start out full of vigor and enthusiasm, but there is little level-headedness and tenacity in the long run.

Thus Clausewitz dismisses irregular soldiers, but he was writing in an age when the contrast between regular and irregular warfare was very sharp. On the one hand there were the state armies of uniformed men, often with bands, marching in set formations and committed to well-defined savage and close-range confrontations. On the other there were what we have learned to call guerrillas, who wore no uniforms and were often poorly armed, wholly indistinguishable from the rest of the population, and who operated hit and run by ambush. The line between these was slightly blurred because various powers deployed irregulars, such as so-called “Croats” and Hussars, and even by the existence of sharpshooters like the British Rifle Brigade, but these were essentially only ancillary to the regulars. This sharp distinction between official and “other” forces has imprinted itself on our consciousness and forms the whole basis of military law as applied to relations between armies and populations. Yet it was a phenomenon of a particular age. War has changed since, and it was certainly very different from this stereotype before, and especially in the Middle Ages.

For in medieval Western Europe there was no such thing as a regular standing army. Towards 1100 the English crown, with what was then its unusual tax-raising capacity, had established a royal military household, but it formed only the kernel around which real armies could be organized in their short-term existences. For even the English crown could not support large forces over long periods of time. At the end of the twelfth century, Richard I of England (1189–99) conceived of the idea of raising a permanent body of 300 knights, apparently to be paid for by remitting “feudal” service for taxes. Magnate resistance scuppered the idea, and Richard could not pay for it out of his own resources because it would have cost over half the normal annual income of the crown. In fact, in the eleventh century the English kings were unusual, because most monarchs were struggling to assert the ascendancy implied by their title. Essentially, kings were landowners amongst other landowners who all felt they could use armed force in pursuit of their ends.

Type
Chapter
Information
Journal of Medieval Military History
Volume XIV
, pp. 123 - 132
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2016

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×