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  • Author: Andrew Mark Spencer
  • Publication Date: 09-2015
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Fletcher Security Review
  • Institution: The Fletcher School, Tufts University
  • Abstract: Two key facts about late medieval England: The kingdom had no standing army and was at war for most of the period between 1294 and 1485. Given these circumstances, it might seem ambitious to identify a role for the military of the time in a non-war environment. Nonetheless, this peacetime role existed, and created a state of preparedness that was crucial to success when the kingdom went to war. Under ‘bastard feudalism’ the leaders of the army, trained in war and incubated in a thoroughly military ethos and culture, through their efforts in domestic governance, provided the stability at home and the financial and material resources which were as vital to the victories of the Hundred Years’ War as the much better known and remembered archers of Crecy and Agincourt. This article will provide background into medieval military and landed society before tracing how the governmental role of this group increased alongside ‘bastard feudalism’ in response to the crown’s need to find the resources for war. It will then show how ‘bastard feudalism’ worked for king, nobles and gentry in tandem and how this, in turn, created experienced administrators who were able to support the war effort. ‘Feudalism’ is a term synonymous with the Middle Ages. The feudal pyramid, with the king at the apex, his nobles and knights beneath, and peasants on the bottom, will be familiar to readers from their school days. ‘Bastard feudalism’, on the other hand, is less well-known and usually has currency only in academic journals. Both are highly controversial terms among medievalists and some even deny the existence of one or the other, or both. Most historians, however, would accept that, in England at least, there was a gradual transition from feudalism—where the principal means by which the king or nobleman rewarded his followers was through a permanent grant of land—to ‘bastard feudalism’—where rewards were primarily paid in cash payments. Where historians do not agree, however, is on the timing, causes and results of such a change...
  • Topic: War, History, Governance, Feudalism, Middle Ages
  • Political Geography: Europe, England