This week: Crécy

Throughout history, military commanders have employed new tactics and groundbreaking technologies to gain an edge over their opponents.

In 490 BC, Herodotus tells us, ancient Greek generals made innovative use of a troop formation known as the hoplite phalanx to defeat a powerful Persian army at the Battle of Marathon.

Many centuries later, on 25 July 1945, General Thomas Handy, the US Army’s acting Chief of Staff, issued the order that atomic bombs should be used for the first time, sealing the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki while effectively ending the Second World War.

This week on The Past, we learn about the impact of another game-changing weapon – the English longbow, as used to such devastating effect against the French in the early part of the Hundred Years’ War.

In a special double feature in the new issue of Military History Matters, Graham Goodlad charts the military careers of Edward III and the Black Prince, the 14th-century father and son who led the English armies in the early years of the conflict; while Neil Faulkner explains how longbow archery and a new tactical system combining ‘bill and bow’ brought about an extraordinary series of English successes, culminating in one-sided victory at the Battle of Crécy on 26 August 1346. Graham is also the guest on this week’s edition of The PastCast, out brilliant podcast, where he talks to Calum Henderson about the background to this ‘revolution in military affairs’.

Elsewhere this week, we’ve also been digging in the archives for more clues about the Hundred Years’ War: Marilyn Livingstone and Morgen Witzel re-assessed the Black Prince’s famous 1356 victory at the Battle of Poitiers; Fred Chiaventone reminded us that it was the English who were ultimately defeated, and analysed how the French turned the tables at the Battles of Formigny and Castillon; and Seema Syeda looked at the career of Jean Froissart, the brilliant court poet who chronicled the war in an elaborate series of illustrated manuscripts.

And finally, if all that just whets your appetite for more, don’t forget to have a go at our latest themed quiz, which this week also focuses on the Hundred Years’ War. Good luck, and we hope you enjoy The Past!

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