In This Review

By Anne Curry
Oxford University Press, 2015

On the first page of her excellent book on the Battle of Agincourt, whose publication marked the battle’s 600th anniversary, Curry reminds readers that the encounter, at which English forces defeated a larger French contingent, was not actually decisive in determining the course of the Hundred Years’ War. Nevertheless, the battle has never left British popular imagination. Shakespeare made Agincourt the centerpiece of Henry V, surrounding the battle with noble language and oratory that live on today (“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”). The emotional force of Shakespeare’s play was well captured in the film version starring Laurence Olivier, which reached cinemas just months after the 1944 Normandy landings. The battle’s legacy is not one-dimensional, however: although the British have long celebrated the skill of the humble English archers who struck down members of the French nobility at Agincourt, they also recall that Henry V rather less heroically ordered French prisoners of war to be killed. Throughout the book, Curry displays extraordinary command of the sources, from early written chronicles to recent archaeological research. 

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