Beyond the Medieval military revolution: Robert Ufford, Earl of Suffolk, and the wars of England 1298–1369
By Daniel Franke
PhD Dissertation, University of Rochester, 2014
Abstract: In the last twenty-five years, a formidable body of scholarship has emerged that argues that a military revolution in occurred in England during the reign of Edward III (1327-1377). This revolution resulted from Edward’s far-sighted combination of new technology, effective infantry, changes in military recruitment, and new leadership into a formidable army. He used this army in campaigns that resulted in decisive battlefield victories, particularly at Crécy in 1346 and Poitiers in 1356. These victories changed the way that war was waged, and helped to set in motion a series of developments that ultimately led to the gunpowder revolution in the Early Modern period. This study tests the applicability of these claims to the first half of the fourteenth century. It focuses on a combination of administrative, cultural, social, and material evidence surrounding Robert Ufford, earl of Suffolk, a war captain who was a confidant of and important commander under Edward III.
A different aspect of Suffolk’s military experience is explored in each of four chapters: culture, biography, society, and demography. A close reading of the surviving evidence (including several documentary sources hitherto overlooked by or unknown to scholars) indicates that fourteenth-century England not only did not experience a military revolution at the Battle of Crécy, but that medieval people would not have applied such a concept to warfare. Instead of revolution, the English army of 1346 was the product of adaptation and response to social and military challenges.
Introduction: On August 26, 1346, the French and English armies clashed near the village of Crécy-en-Ponthieu, in northern France. The result was an English victory that astounded their contemporaries for several reasons. First, it was an unexpected result: the French army was considered to be the best fighting force in Christendom up to that point, full of bravery and valor, led by men who understood both the tactics and strategy of warfare, battle-tested and confident in divine support of their righteous cause. Second, it was a far more complete victory than medieval audiences would have expected, given not only the disparity of the two armies but also the acknowledged competency of the French commanders. Third, the manner in which Edward had gained his victory caused people to marvel.