This was recommended to me by someone who’s opinion I trust, so I expected a good book going in. It exceeded my expectations.

Despite the title, this is not just an examination of the Battle of Agincourt. It occupies a central place in book, but it is more than that. The book starts with a brief description of the fourteenth-century succession crisis that ended with Edward III claiming the throne of France. The first parts of the Hundred Years War are covered in a similar amount of clear brevity. Then we get to Henry IV and Henry V.

The first detailed part of the book goes into Henry of Monmouth’s (the future Henry V) campaigns in Wales, and how that shaped his future outlook on warfare. The campaign was generally underfunded, and Henry had to scrape together the resources to bring the rebellion in Wales to an end. This mostly happened after he figured out ways of better financing it on his own.

Much time is spent with the beginning of Henry V’s reign, and the various diplomatic maneuvers with France even as he secures funding from Parliament, and begins putting together an army. This forms a significant part of the book, and a nicely detailed one, using lots of examples of surviving registers and indentures to show how the army was hired and organized and paid.

Then there is a good section on the siege of Harfleur. It also goes into detail, and takes a look at was (and wasn’t) happening at the French court during all of this. The march towards Calais afterwords is also very well covered, including the fact that it had nearly reached its goal before having to turn aside to look for safe river crossings. Much appreciated is the look at how long this was expected to take, and why, and just how much of the march went off on schedule.

And then we get to the field of Agincourt, the day before, and the battle itself. In some ways, this isn’t as well-covered as the lead up to the battle, but that’s more the high bar the rest of the book set rather than an actual lack here.

After that, there is good examination of the aftermath. The main subject boils down to the prisoners taken, and their fates. This is harder to determine in detail, but Barker spends some time picking out examples. The political and military aftermath get less attention than the lead up.

It’s a well-written, and well-focused book, without being so focused as to lose some essential context. In fact, the context (especially Henry V’s early career) is the best part of the book. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to know more about this period.