The best books to understand the Hundred Years' War

Who am I?

I decided to write this book because while there are many works on the Hundred Years War, they tend to dwell on the political and diplomatic, rather than the military aspects. I considered that this period marked a real revolution in military affairs, led by England. It was England that had the world’s only professional army since the collapse of the Roman Empire in the west in the 5th Century, that used technology (the longbow) as a force multiplier, and while moving on horseback did its fighting on foot. It was these three legs of the revolution that allowed tiny English armies to defeat far larger French feudal ones.


I wrote...

A Great and Glorious Adventure: A Military History of the Hundred Years War

By Gordon Corrigan,

Book cover of A Great and Glorious Adventure: A Military History of the Hundred Years War

What is my book about?

France and England, and then Britain, are traditional enemies. Since the Norman conquest in 1066 English, and then British, soldiers have fought all over the world, but far more time has been spent fighting France than any other enemy. Even today that resentment persists, and one of the reasons for Britain leaving the European Union was French domination of that organisation.

This book is about one of the longest periods of Anglo-French enmity, which later came to be known as the Hundred Years War. The war lasted for rather more than a hundred years, but was not one of continuous fighting.  Rather it was a series of campaigns punctuated by truces, one lasting sixteen years, but in that English aims remained the same throughout the period it is reasonable to consider it as one war. It is an important period in British and European history in that the war turned Anglo-Normans into Englishmen and citizens of semi-autonomous duchies into Frenchmen. While not ignoring the politics, I have concentrated on the military aspects of the various episodes of the war, as many other accounts do not always understand how medieval armies operated.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Hundred Years War, Volume 1: Trial by Battle

Gordon Corrigan Why did I love this book?

Quite simply the seminal work on the war. It describes the twists and turns of politics and diplomacy in fascinating detail. Not a read on the train but a magisterial study and an essential work for those interested in the subject.

Book cover of Isabella: She-Wolf of France, Queen of England

Gordon Corrigan Why did I love this book?

"The Fair" Phillip IV of France died in 1314. His three sons ruled after him in turn, and none provided a legitimate heir, so when the youngest son, Charles IV, died in 1328, the Capetian dynasty, which had ruled France for over 300 years, came to an end. 

But Phillip IV had a daughter, Isabella, who had married Edward II of England, and so their son, the future Edward III, was the nearest male relative to the deceased Charles IV.

Isabella was adamant that her son was the legitimate heir to the French throne, and it was this claim that was pursued throughout the Hundred Years War and which was only relinquished in 1802.

Isabella has not had good press. Derided as "the she-wolf of France," she was an adulteress, waged war against her husband, and was probably complicit in his murder. In fairness, she had much to contend with. Edward II was a weak and vicious ruler, a homosexual who lavished more attention on his catamites than on his wife. This book is an excellent biography of a woman whose impact on history was dramatic and far-reaching.  

By Alison Weir,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Isabella as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Described by Christopher Marlowe as the 'She-Wolf of France', Isabella was one of the most notorious femme fatales in history. According to popular legend, her angry ghost can be glimpsed among church ruins, clutching the beating heart of her murdered husband. But how did Isabella aquire this reputation?

Born in 1292 she married Edward II of England but was constantly humiliated by his relationships with male favourites and she lived adulterously with Roger Mortimer, 1st Earl of March. Had it not been for her unfaithfulness, history might have immortalised her as a liberator- the saviour who unshackled England from a…


Book cover of The Battle of Crécy, 1346

Gordon Corrigan Why did I love this book?

There are lots of books about Crecy, the first major land battle of the war, but here the authors examine and compare all the original sources. 

Medieval historians were not necessarily interested in the things that modern historians are, so there are many gaps in the various accounts. Similarly, many academics, through no fault of their own, do not understand the mechanics of organising, deploying, and administering an army, or how it actually fought. 

Here the authors do examine points such as what formation the English armies would have taken up, where exactly the archers would have been placed, and suchlike. 

While I, with my own military experience, might not agree with all the Authors’ conclusions, they do an admirable job of comparing, contrasting, and shining light into dark corners.

By Andrew Ayton, Sir Philip Preston,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Battle of Crécy, 1346 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With additional contributions from Francoise Autrand, Christophe Piel, Michael Prestwich, and Bertrand Schnerb.

On the evening of 26 August 1346, the greatest military power in Christendom, the French royal army withPhilip VI at its head, was defeated by an expeditionary force from England under the command of Edward III. A momentous event that sent shock waves across Europe, the battle of Crecy marked a turning point in the English king's struggle with his Valois adversary. While the French suffered humiliation and crippling casualties, compounded by the consequential loss of Calais a year later, the self-confidence and military reputation of the…


Book cover of The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham [1376-1422]

Gordon Corrigan Why did I love this book?

Thomas of Walsingham was a monk in the abbey of St Albans, then the equivalent of the National Archives where all official documents were deposited about the war. 

Based on the reports, letters, charters, and reports of parliamentary debates that Thomas was able to access, he wrote a history from 1376 until the year that he died, 1422, so the work is an account of the war as it appeared to an educated contemporary. 

By James G. Clark, David Preest,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Chronica Maiora of Thomas Walsingham [1376-1422] as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title Award

Translated by David Preest with introduction and notes by James G. Clark
Thomas Walsingham's Chronica maiora is one of the most comprehensive and colourful chronicles to survive from medieval England. Walsingham was a monk at St Albans Abbey, a royal monastery and the premier repository of public records, and therefore well placed to observe the political machinations of this period at close hand. Moreover, he knew the monarchs and many of the nobles personally and is able to offer insights into their actions unmatched by any other authority. It is this chronicle,…


Book cover of 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory

Gordon Corrigan Why did I love this book?

Henry of Monmouth, Henry V, was the second king of the disputed Lancastrian dynasty, and in my opinion the greatest Englishman who ever lived.

He was king at 25, slaughterer of the nobility of France at 27, regent and acknowledged heir to the French throne at 32, and dead at 34. Had he lived, the history of Europe might be very different. He was a man who shaped English history and who still affects Anglo-French relations to this day.

This book, by Ian Mortimer, one of the very best authors of the period, looks at the year 1415, the year when the young Henry led a sick, exhausted, and starving English army to a stunning victory over a far larger French force at Agincourt, in an example of leadership and military professionalism of the highest order.  

By Ian Mortimer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked 1415 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Henry V is regarded as the great English hero. Lionised in his own day for his victory at Agincourt, his piety and his rigorous application of justice, he was elevated by Shakespeare into a champion of English nationalism for all future generations. But what was he really like? Does he deserve to be thought of as 'the greatest man who ever ruled England?'

In Ian Mortimer's groundbreaking book, he portrays Henry in the pivotal year of his reign. Recording the dramatic events of 1415, he offers the fullest, most precise and least romanticised view we have of Henry and what…


You might also like...

Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

Book cover of Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

Martha Marks Author Of Rubies of the Viper

New book alert!

Who am I?

I made my first visit to Pompeii at age seven. That day, I told my parents that I had been there before. It was all very familiar. And that sense of déjà vu has never left me. I feel it whenever I go back to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and the Roman Forum. I don’t believe in reincarnation, but... As an adult, I’ve returned many times to those places and visited others featured in my books: the Etruscan necropolis at Caere, which was already 1,000 years old at the time of my novels; Athens; and the ancient ports of Piraeus in Greece and Itanos in Crete. I earned a Ph.D. at Northwestern University, taught for many years, and enjoyed a million marvelous experiences, but my lifelong love of ancient Rome is the direct result of that long-ago visit to Pompeii with my parents.

Martha's book list on the Roman Empire in 1st Century AD

What is my book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. But, as gamblers in love, they rolled the dice. And then they worked hard, took risks, caught lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the lottery of life. Over four decades, Lady Luck smiled on them, until one day, she didn’t. Out of the blue, Fortune spun her wheel and taught them that no one is immune to tragedy and heartbreak.

Betting on Bernie is Martha Marks’s memoir of their improbable courtship, happy and prosperous marriage, and not-so-golden “golden years.” It will make you think, wonder, laugh, and cry.

Betting on Bernie: A Memoir of A Marriage

By Martha Marks,

What is this book about?

Bernard Marks and Martha Alford met by chance. No real reason for it, just a series of fluky coincidences. The odds were long that they would hit it off. That wasn’t in the cards they’d been dealt at birth. “It’ll never last,” people whispered after they got engaged. “Poor probability of success” was the general consensus when they married. But Bernie and Martha ignored the naysayers. Gamblers in love, they rolled the dice.

And then they worked hard, took even more risks, caught a few lucky breaks, built satisfying careers, enjoyed terrific travels, and won their own version of the…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Hundred Years' War, the Middle Ages, and queens?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Hundred Years' War, the Middle Ages, and queens.

The Hundred Years' War Explore 17 books about the Hundred Years' War
The Middle Ages Explore 405 books about the Middle Ages
Queens Explore 92 books about queens