by Tom Lewis
Oxford and Philadelphia: Casemate, 2021. pp. 256.
. Illus., plans, table, appends., notes, biblio., index. $12.59. ISBN: 1612008879
Dr. Lewis, a former Australian naval officer and museum director, examines weaponry and combat techniques in England during the dynastic wars of 1455-1487, making use of modern military analytical methods and experience gained through re-enactments.
Readers will find much criticism of established perceptions about warfare and combat in the period “learned” from older works and motion pictures, Lewis noting that in cinematic epics, “actors perform with much lighter movie props instead of the real thing, and are thus able to swing them with much more dexterity” (p. 46), which is largely correct, though he might have mentioned the rare example of 1961’s El Cid, in which much of the weaponry was period correct .
Making extensive use of tables and plans, and frequent reference to military experience from other eras, Lew addresses matters such as weight of armor and weapons, organization of the battle line and how bowmen and poleaexmen interacted tactically, numbers and losses, and more. Although he touches on many battles for his example, Lewis includes a particularly detailed analysis of the Battle of Towton (Mar. 29, 1461), the largest of the war, which helps illustrate his observations on warfare in the period.
Medieval Military Combat is a very good read for anyone trying to better understand warfare in the period and also for those interested in analytical approaches to the study of poorly documented conflicts.