If you’ve ever wondered whether your ancestors served as a medieval soldier in the Hundred Years War, a newly launched website from historians at the universities of Southampton and Reading may have the answer.
The names of over 3,500 French soldiers linked to the Battle of Agincourt (1415) have been added to www.medievalsoldier.org. They join the quarter of a million names already available for English armies who fought in a number of campaigns, including Agincourt- forming what’s believed to be the largest database of medieval people in the world. This latest stage of the Soldier in Later Medieval England project has been supported by the charity Agincourt 600 and by both universities.
Professor Anne Curry, project Director and Dean of Humanities at the University of Southampton, says: “It is fitting that this new resource has been made available following the major 600th anniversary commemorations of Agincourt in 2015, in which our university played a key role. The Medieval Soldier website has already proved an invaluable resource for genealogists and people interested in social, political and military history. This new data will help us to reach out to new users and shed fresh light on the Hundred Years War.”
Of the thousands of French soldiers added to the new website, 550 were killed on the battlefield. Research by Southampton’s Dr Rémy Ambühl has also shown that over 300 were taken prisoner and held for ransom.
Professor Adrian Bell, fellow project Director and Head of the ICMA Centre, Henley Business School at the University of Reading, comments: “Our newly developed interface interrogates sources found in many different archive repositories in England and France. Without our site, searching for this information would require many visits to the National Archives of both England and France, the British Library and Bibliothèque nationale and all of the Archives Départementales in Normandy.”
The Medieval Solider website was first launched in 2009, resulting from a three year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). Names of soldiers were sourced from archive collections of muster rolls used to audit pay during military campaigns and from evidence of letters of protection, which soldiers bought from the Chancery to prevent legal actions while they were absent from home.
Now refreshed and given a new search interface by Russian postdoctoral fellow Dr Aleksandr Lobanov, the website brings together three separate databases to make them searchable as a single resource. In addition to the names of the French soldiers recently added, the database now also contains details of geographical origins of soldiers and locations of their service — enabling the local life of the medieval soldier to be illuminated more fully. People can search by surname, rank, or year of service.
For example, Professor Bell was pleased to find 58 ‘Bells’ on the database, including a John Bell from Chatham serving in Calais in 1414 and again with the royal household on the Agincourt campaign.
The site provides biographies of all English captains of 1415 and further insights into the Battle of Agincourt, which was commemorated extensively in the UK and France last year.
1) The University of Southampton provides a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) exploring the Battle of Agincourt which will run again from 17 October 2016. For this and details of other MOOCs, please visit http://www.southampton.ac.uk/courses/free-online-learning.page
2) The Soldier in Medieval England originated from a major project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). This research grant was worth just under £500,000 and was awarded jointly to Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton and Professor Adrian Bell of the Henley Business School to challenge assumptions about the emergence of professional soldiery between 1369 and 1453. The original project ran from 1/10/2006 — 30/9/2009 and the team was made up of Professor Bell, Professor Curry and Dr Andy King, Dr David Simpkin and Dr Adam Chapman.
Since the end of the official project, researchers have continuously developed, with funding from both institutions, this sustainable website and its searchable database. They have welcomed interactions with colleagues, academics and ‘citizen’ historians and now host a number of soldier profiles. In the summer of 2016, working with Dr Aleksandr Lobanov, the website and database was refreshed following feedback from users.
The database contains the names of soldiers serving the English crown between 1369 and 1453. Most were fighting the French. In this second phase of the Hundred Years War, major invasions of France were launched, including that of 1415, which culminated in Henry V’s victory at Agincourt in 1415. Soldiers serving in other theatres have also been included (Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Spain, Calais in France etc), and in all types of service (expeditions on land and sea, garrisons, escorts and standing forces). www.medievalsoldier.org