The Hundred Years' War, 1336-1453
Western Europe in 1328
The Battle for Flanders
Flanders had grown to be the industrial center of northern Europe and had become extremely wealthy through its cloth manufacture. It could not produce enough wool to satisfy its market and imported fine fleece from England. England depended upon this trade for its foreign exchange. During the 1200's, the upper-class English had adopted Norman fashions and switched from beer to wine.
(Note that beer and wine were very important elements in the medieval diet. Both contain vitamin and yeast complexes that the medieval diet, especially during the winter, did not provide. Besides, the preservation of food was a difficult matter in that era, and the alcohol in beer and wine represented a large number of calories stored in an inexpensive and effective fashion. People did get drunk during the middle ages, but most could not afford to do so. Beer and wine were valued as food sources and were priced accordingly)
The problem was that England could not grow grapes to produce the wine that many of the English now favored and had to import it. A triangular trade arose in which English fleece was exchanged for Flemish cloth, which was then taken to southern France and exchanged for wine, which was then shipped into England and Ireland, primarily through the ports of Dublin, Bristol, and London.
But the counts of Flanders had been vassals of the king of France, and the French tried to regain control of the region in order to control its wealth. The English could not permit this, since it would mean that the French monarch would control their main source of foreign exchange. A civil war soon broke out in Flanders, with the English supporting the manufacturing middle class and the French supporting the land-owning nobility.
The Struggle for Control of France
The English king controlled much of France, particularly in the fertile South. These lands had come under control of the English when Eleanor of Aquitaine, heiress to the region, had married Henry II of England in the mid-12th century. There was constant bickering along the French-English frontier, and the French kings always had to fear an English invasion from the South. Between Flanders in the North and the English in the South, they were caught in a "nutcracker".
The "Auld Alliance"
The French responded by creating their own "nutcracker." They allied with the Scots in an arrangement that persisted well into the 18th century. Thus the English faced the French from the south and the Scots from the north.
The Battle for the Channel and North Sea
The French nutcracker would only work if the French could invade England across the English Channel. (The French call it "La Manche," "The Sleeve," for what reason I do not know.) Besides, England could support their Flemish allies only if they could send aid across the North Sea, and, moreover, English trade was dependent upon the free flow of naval traffic through the Channel. Consequently, the French continually tried to gain the upper hand at sea, and the English constantly resisted them. Both sides commissioned what would have been pirates if they had not been operating with royal permission to prey upon each other's shipping, and there were frequent naval clashes in those constricted waters.
The Dynastic Conflict
The last son of King Philip IV (The Fair) died in 1328, and the direct male line of the Capetians finally ended after almost 350 years. Philip had had a daughter, however. This daughter, Isabelle, had married King Edward II of England, and King Edward III was their son. He was therefore Philip's grandson and successor in a direct line through Philip's daughter. The French could not tolerate the idea that Edward might become King of France, and French lawyers brought up some old Frankish laws, the so-called Salic Law, which stated that property (including the throne) could not descend through a female. The French...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document