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Historical Myth Buster

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Komnenos View Drop Down
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  Quote Komnenos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Historical Myth Buster
    Posted: 07-Jun-2005 at 13:26
Watched a program on Discovery about the Battle of Agincourt yesterday, which had an interesting new angle on the whole thing.
Generations of British schoolchildren have been told that the surprising victory by 6.000 English soldiers over 20.000 French Knights was down to the superiority of the English Long Bow men over the clumsy and antiquated armoured horse men.
This program however claimed that the large number of casualties amongst the French was the result of two other factors, and the number of the actual victims of the Long Bow were rather small.
Firstly, the terrain, its peculiar shape apparently worked like a funnel, and as the advancing French cavalry had suffered the first casualties and began to slow down, crowd dynamics began to work and a large number of French knights were simply trampled to death by the second wave of the French attack that was unable unable to reduce speed and impetus.
Secondly, the English made a large number of prisoners who, against all customs of the age were not kept and eventually ransomed, but killed on the spot, as the English were completely unsure about their own victory and didnt want to take any risks.

Now, I have no means to verify the claims made here, but it is an interesting theory which would debunk an ancient myth.
Do you know of any other stories that over the ages have become accepted as gospel truth, but wouldnt stand historical scrutiny?
Would you like to bust any other historical myth, like the one with the Viking helmet with horns?
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Constantine XI View Drop Down
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  Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2005 at 22:54

Well it is true that the English killed many French prisoners, but they would only have been a small minority of French casualties and when you are that badly outnumbered in a battle the last thing you need is a hostile group of prisoners you dont have enough men to guard left in the rear. In any case the French trampling their own men is no different from the military incompetence with which they generally responded to the English threat during that particular campaign. The English either had better soldiery and used it more professionally or otherwise they simply exploited the weaknesses of their opponents.

One thing we did with medieval history is look at witchcraft. Other factors aside such as the reformation which caused much of the "witch-hunt" mentality, i saw a program on TV which claimed that ergot poisoning drove people mad. Ergot poisoning occurs when especially cold weather causes a fungus to grow on rye crop which is then eaten. Supposedly the same thing caused the collapse of Peter the Great's army as he was preparing to invade Europe and he had to abandon the planned campaign. Ergot poisoning wouldn't be the sole reason for the witch hunts, but they may be an important factor.

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  Quote Quetzalcoatl Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2005 at 03:07

 

 One thing though the size of french army is vastly exaggerated. Usually it is an army of knights, infantry and archer with a huge mass of ragged militia. The problem with French knights is that they have that stupid frankish tradition of glory in battle. No matter what, they just rushed onto the opposing army seeking glory in battle. In fact the battle of Frank vs saxon is being revised as a frankish defeat because of similar attitude. Not until Joan of Arc that they started to change their mentality. After that the battle became one sided sometime an entire english army was destroyed for only 5 casualties. I believe arrogance was the cause of defeat. Possibly at the time of the battle french forces didn't quite outnumbered english forces. This whole chaotic mass was difficult to coordinate.

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  Quote Paul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2005 at 04:30

Not sure what the program was but the quality of some discovery programs often worry me.... I've seen similar done with other historical events too. Where they take a well known fact and bill it as startling new evidence, when the only account around that doesn't mention it is the Hollywood movie.

I think all the points you mention are in most mainstream histories of Agincourt, so repackaging them as new evidence is a bit dubious.

 

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  Quote Cywr Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08-Jun-2005 at 08:17
I thought the weather played an important role too, made the battlefield very muddy which slowed the French down.
Arrrgh!!"
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