Conquest: The English Kingdom of France 1417-1450 by Juliet Barker is the follow up to her book Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England. After reading Agincourt, I was interested in finding out what happened afterward and found that Barker wrote Conquest, which fills that bill. She picks up where she left off in Agincourt and tells the story Henry V’s attempt to create an “English Kingdom in France” that he believed was rightly his and of the end of The Hundred Years’ War.
Conquest is broken up into five sections that with the exception of Part Two divides the end of The Hundred Years’ War into relevant sections. The first, Establishing the Kingdom, covers the invasion of and conquest of France, the death of Henry V, the birth of Henry VI, and his inheritance of the English Kingdom in France. In the second part, Barker spends a lot of time telling the story of Jehanne D’Arc (Joan of Arc)’s rise, campaigns, capture, trial, and execution. Part Three deals with “The War of Attrition” and tells the story of how fortunes changed and the French began to gain the upper hand. In Part Four, “The Search for Peace,” the road to the end of the English Kingdom in France is explored before that end is described in Part Five “The Truce of Tours.”
What I learned in my reading is that the English lost their Kingdom in France in much the same way the French lost the Battle of Agincourt. First of all, Henry V simply bit off more than England could chew. Ultimately they didn’t have the resources to win and hold the Kingdom. One wonders had Henry lived would he have realized this and decided to back off? Regardless, Henry V died and over time, for a variety of reasons, the quality of leadership both at home and in the English Kingdom in France deteriorated as the quality of the French leadership improved. By the end, the shoe was on the other foot. England had lost their advantage in leadership, in unity of command, and ran out of resources to prosecute the win whereas the French learned from their mistakes, unified, husbanded their resources, and overran the English.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Conquest. A long book that covers over 30 years of conflict could easily become tedious, but Barker avoids that trap. This a very interesting and engaging read. Even though you know the English ultimately lose Barker keeps it interesting developing personalities and describing the rivalries that drove the war. I particularly enjoyed her development of the Duke of Bedford and how she told the story of the role the Burgundians played between the English and French. My only problem with Conquest, as it was with Agincourt, is the lack of maps. When you’re dealing with the capture of towns and how the capture or fall of those towns influenced what happened in other towns and cities, maps make it a lot easier to visualize and understand how it happened. For some reason, some authors and/or printers (I’m not sure who made the decisions in this case) just don’t understand the importance of maps to military histories. The Kindle version did not have those maps, and because that’s the version I read it gets four stars. If the print version has maps then I would give the print version five stars. Otherwise, this a terrific book and one that, if you’re interested in learning more about the end of The Hundred Years’ War, you should add to your reading list.