Monday, October 26, 2009

Agincourt Was An Even Fight?

This one caught me off guard.

Henry V’s “happy few” were not outnumbered five to one by the French at the Battle of Agincourt, as traditionally believed, but were in a much more even fight, according to new research.

I don’t think it’ll change my opinion of the speech at all, but this new research suggests that rather than 4 to 1 odds (24,000 French against 6,000 English) it may have been closer to 12k to 9k. 

By the way who’s the genius that clearly states the 24k and 6k figures, but also says “5 to 1” earlier in the article?  Am I missing something?


American Delight said...

Is this lady some kind of closet Frenchy sympathizer?

I think 5 to 1 is the traditional estimate; 5,000 men for Henry, 25,000 for Charles.

The West Point professor thinks it was really 4 to 1. The francophilic Southhampton professor is saying 4 to 3.

I don't see how Henry could have had 9,000 men. In The Face of Battle, military historian John Keegan wrote that at the outset of the French campaign, the English "numbered about 10,000 in all, 8,000 archers and 2,000 men-at-arms..." But that Agincourt neared, "at least a third of his army was dead or disabled, chiefly through disease." Hmm, ten divided by three makes about six, not, er, nine.

You're right that it doesn't change anything about Shakespeare. Particularly since Shakespeare wouldn't have access to or interest in the copious "military and tax records" that this team of researchers dug through.

American Delight said...

Oops, did I say 10÷3=6? D'oh! I meant to say ten divided by three equals about three, which would leave 7, ie 7,000 English troops.

"O dear Ophelia, I am ill at these numbers..."