The Management of the Mobilization of English Armies: Edward I to Edward III

Edward III counting the dead on the battlefield of CrécyThe Management of the Mobilization of English Armies: Edward I to Edward III

Ralph Anthony Kaner

University of York: History Department, Doctor of Philosophy, August (1999)


This thesis examines government administrative action that can be described as ‘management’, in the context of the logistics of mobilizing royal armies during the reigns of Edward I, Edward II and Edward III. Its purpose is to contribute to understanding of how fourteenth-century government worked. Mobilization required the issuing of detailed instructions for administrative actions to be taken by individuals. The actions covered recruiting, arranging transport, and providing for supplies. Government’s objective was to assemble armed forces at a particular place and time. Merely issuing the instructions did not guarantee that all would be fulfilled, or achievement of the overall objective. Government had to make on-going arrangements to try to ensure that orders were obeyed, to correct failures, to monitor progress, and, if necessary, to modify plans in good time. Those arrangements, and consequent actions, are the ‘management’ that is studied. The detailed management of mobilizations for eight selected campaigns, from Edward I’s Second Welsh War (1282-3), to Edward III’s Reims campaign in 1359- 1360, is described. Recruitment, transport and supplies are considered, first in relation to each other for individual mobilizations. They are then considered as separate themes, followed by a discussion of the coordination of planning, in Chapter 9.

The thesis shows that in mobilizing armies Edwardian government made good use of practical management techniques. Planning was coordinated. Plans were by and large based on realistic, deliberately collected, quantitative information. Progress and other reports were required, and acted upon. ‘Progress chaser’ appointments were made to supervise executive action. ‘Privatisation’ was used pragmatically, particularly in 1359. Chapter 10, ‘Conclusion’, argues that, though in mobilization as in other fields, what are remembered are administrative failures, in fact Edwardian government was managerially sophisticated enough to be able to mobilize its armies effectively. This ability to manage effectively may therefore be more true of its general administration than sometimes appears.


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