Renaissance France at War

November 2008
28 black and white, 17 line illustrations
454 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
Warfare in History
ISBN: 9781843834052
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
Boydell Press

Renaissance France at War

Armies, Culture and Society, c.1480-1560

David Potter

The rulers of Renaissance France regarded war as hugely important. This book shows why, looking at all aspects of warfare from strategy to its reception, depiction and promotion.
The `other' Renaissance experienced by France was that of war. In Italy from 1494 to 1529, for instance, France was involved in at least a hundred battles, some of them `batttles of giants' like Marignano. After 1530, though the emphasis partly shifted away from Italy and major battles were replaced by complex sieges and wars of manoeuvre, the presence of war was universal. In the `Habsburg Valois' wars that began in 1521, the country was subjected to major military incursions but continued to make notable attempts to occupy contiguous territory in the Pyrenees, the Alps and the north-east.

Explaining such prodigious military efforts is the theme of this book. Why did the rulers of France attach so much importance to war and did the development of French armies in this period contribute to a significant modernisation of the country's military potential? The author attempts to answer these crucial questions, through an exploration of the strategy of the country's rulers in the light of contemporary writings, analysis of the nature of the country's high command, and a study of the major components of the king's armies. He argues that France was a society geared to war, persuaded by a sophisticated network of printed communications; the reception of the triumphalist view of war favoured by the rulers is discussed via an investigation of public opinion, as revealed in the literary, artistic and musical worlds. He also shows how the strengthening of the frontiers with new fortifications emerged as a major stage in the adaptation of France to age of artillery.

DAVID POTTER is Reader in History at the University of Kent, Canterbury.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: France and its Wars, 1494-1559
War or Peace? Decisions on Policy and Strategy in Renaissance France
The High Command and Planning for War
Cavalry and Nobility at War
The Birth of the French Infantry
Foreign Mercenaries in the Service of the King of France
The Artillery Revolution, Fortifications and Siege Warfare
The Field of Battle
Military Administration and Finance
The Impact of War: Supply, Garrisons, Logistics and the Problem of Disorder
War, Propaganda, History and Public Opinion
War and Renaissance Culture: Music and the Visual Arts
War, Renaissance Culture and the Literary World


A substantial and important study which will require careful attention from all those interested in Renaissance warfare. DE RE MILITARI

A work of careful, exact scholarship, grounded in long familiarity with an impressively wide range of sources. [...] David Potter has written an important work which historians of France and of early modern Europe will read with enjoyment and profit. ENGLISH HISTORICAL REVIEW

[An] important and learned study. [...] The publishers are to be congratulated for producing such an excellent volume, permitting a large number of pictures, diagrams and maps. [...] A truly exceptional book that is a major contribution to our knowledge of military development in the early sixteenth century. SPECULUM
An impressive, thoroughly researched discussion of warfare. [It] will certainly be considered the authoritative statement on all aspects of French Renaissance warfare by anyone with a serious interest in the subject. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW
A highly detailed and well-documented description of all facets of the French royal army. [It] offers readers an impressive, comprehensive examination of warfare, society, and culture in Renaissance France. JOURNAL OF MILITARY HISTORY
A masterful and exhaustive consideration of all facets of war in early modern France. [It] will undoubtedly become indispensable in graduate seminars. [...] Scholars will find Potter's monograph a welcome and durable resource, one likely to serve its audience for a very long time. THE MEDIEVAL REVIEW

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