he Hundred Years’ War is the most debated war within the medieval era because many historians believe that this war didn’t actually last 100 years, but it represents some small military and political conflicts between England and France during the 14th and the 15th century. One of the biggest voices that supports this theory is the famous British historian Ian Mortimer.
When and why did the war start?
England and France have such a notorious history during the medieval era that it is difficult to say where this war started. Some historians believe that it began in 1337 with the battle of Cadsand when England attacked a poor French community in order to start a conflict with France. Others argue that the war began in 1340 when Edward III took the title of King of France.
The problem is that there are too many conflicts between England and France at the beginning of the 14th century to come to a solid conclusion as to when its war began, making this one of the factors to question the integrity of this hundred years’ war. There are simply too many events between the two nations at that period of time to mention.
Some historians even go as far as arguing that the war started in 1338 when France tried to take over the Duchy of Aquitaine where an English colony lived on French land for almost 200 years. However, with this theory, there are too many problems. The war for Aquitaine between England and France started as early as the 12th century, making the theory obsolete.
Due to this and many other theories, historians could not come to a conclusion about when the war began or why. The relationship between England and France has carried throughout the centuries, but we all can agree that the hunger for power and being the leading Empire in the medieval era has a lot to do with the conflicts between the two.
What is more interesting is the events that took place within this debated period that are referred to as the “Hundred Years’ War” (around 1337 to 1453) which clearly show that the war never lasted 100 years whilst some show that the war lasted even longer than that.
Conflicts that disagree
What is known for sure is that the war never started before 1323 as the Treaty of Paris (1323) held both nations at peace or at least a break from war for a few years. From 1337 until the 1360s England was defeating France in their homeland, taking over some of the regions near the English channel one of which we mentioned was Aquitaine.
If the war did start over this region then based on historians that believe this, the war would have ended in 1453 because that is the year that France retakes the region from England. So if the war was based on territorial conquering, then what about Calais? Calais was the last French region conquered by England and it was not taken back by France until 1558, that’s another 100 years later.
The most common period of time chosen by historians upon this war is 1337 to 1453 for the reasons mentioned above, but those that disagree with the hundred years’ war say that most of the war is “artificial” in the sense that many years within this 116 years period (from 1337 to 1453) nothing really happens between the two nations.
The war is filled not only with military conflicts but also with suspicious actions that are indirectly understood by historians. That refers to things that might have happened, but there are no historical records saying that it did happen or the referral to small political debates between the two nations that were started in the hopes to improve relations.
Some historians who agree with the hundred years war are considered lazy because truly, based on the research done by Mortimer there are actually five wars taking place in this period between the two nations:
- The first war (1333–1360) can be defined by Edward III’s wish to accomplish a great military campaign against the French in order to be recognized in history as a great King. He truly did accomplish this and after there was quite a long period within the following nine years where no major conflicts between the two nations took place.
- The second war (1369–1389) can be defined by the French trying to take over the regions taken over by England, so pretty much a counteroffensive of the French for the main war that was mainly started by England.
- The third war (1399–1453) is defined by the Kings of England who had this annoying stubbornness of wanting to be the kings of two nations. Besides Edwards III, Henry V was one such king that really wanted to be the king of two nations and this was something approved by everyone within England, justifying the cause of war for the nation.
The end of the war?
By the end of the war, England left the regions conquered in France (apart from Calais) and the war was seen as ended, however, after 1453, many small naval battles were still taking place.
Two important periods are quite interesting to mention within these wars. 1399 to 1413 is defined by Henry V becoming the new King of England and trying to defend the regions conquered by England within France as well as some small naval conflicts. You can see that even between the second and third wars there are another 10 years where nothing significant happened.
Another one from 1429 to 1453 is defined by England relocating its focus by leaving some of the conquered settlements within France to focus their troops somewhere else. Defending so many regions was costly and the return was not that great.
It is also imperative to mention that between the broken-down wars mentioned above, there were also a few years within those dates where nothing significant happened. What is the most important part within this argument held between historians is that many conflicts still take place after 1453 and the wish to prolong the war or have another war after this date can be seen from the small conflicts as well as the intentions of future Kings of England wanting to fight the French once again on their territory.
The same can be seen in the Mongol Invasion of Europe in the 13th century. Although the invasion is argued to have lasted for about 100 years, there are also many gaps in which nothing really happened and to be more accurate you would define it with smaller wars, specific to each nation.
However, this is the interesting part about history, most of the time, concrete data does not exist or it has either been lost or never found therefore we argue using different perspectives and theories which in my opinion is what makes history so entertaining.