I bought this on holiday in Pembroke. As often happens on our yearly holiday to South Wales, I become fascinated with the medieval and civil war periods. There’s something about being surrounded by those castles and houses and battle grounds that just bleeds into me. I’d looked in a few different book shops and a number had caught my eye but it wasn’t unilt we went into what was supposed to be a bookshop but was actually mostly a newsagent, and I found this and its sequel half hanging off a shelf.

I thought I knew about Agincourt from school and a bit about Henry V from Shakespeare . .or rather, Kenneth Branagh.  But I didn’t know the half of it.

To me, anything before WW2 was only vaguely real, possibly because there were very little photographs(!) but mostly because I didn’t understand the way people thought. Theres also the issue that history, as taught in school, seemed to focus more on dates and family trees (at least thats my memory of it) and it seemed a little distant and cold. But in the last decade or so we have really benefited from the likes of Simon Sharma’s History of Britain where suddenly these vague names from history were real people with thoughts and feelings. Michael Woods Christina – a Medieval Woman led us through the life, family, hardships and death of a medieval woman with such personal detail you felt you could almost know her. Then theres Peter and Dan Snows documentaries, which while often riddled with cliche have brought their subjects to life. And how can we forget the enigmatic Dan Cruickshank whos gentleness and sincerity infuses a new respect and awe in his subject matter.

So this is what Agincourt did for me. Despite a tricky start and a habit of jumping forwards and backwards in time I really did get a sense of who these people were and what motivated them and that is something that history lessons never gave me. Its not an easy book to read. In the same way that Beevors Spanish Civil War defeated me with its culturally relevant but very long, forgettable, confusing Spanish names, so Agincourt threatened to confuse me with its time hoping and date quoting. But I persevered and eventually I got a vague if precarious handle on the web that was European dynastic politics. Comparatively little is written about the actual battle because there’s comparatively little actually known about it. Most of the book deals with the build up to, and the campaign as a whole. If you want a more vivid account of the battle you’re best reading Bernard Cornwells Azincourt.

But this is a good book that certainly appears to of been well researched and as unbiased as possible and certainly sheds light and doubts on many of the accusations made against Henmry V, the French,  English and Welsh combatants.