Wine History during Hundred Years’ War

The Hundred Years’ War was a 116-years-long conflict between France and England from 1337 to 1453. It was primarily fought over the French throne’s claim by English kings. Moreover, this war was punctuated by several brief and two lengthy periods of peace before the English were eventually expelled from France, except for the now-French territory known as Pale of Calais.

The war consists of three or four primary phases, namely: the Edwardian War (1337-1360), the Caroline War (1369-1389), the Lancastrian War (1415-1429), and the steady decline of English fortunes after Joan of Arc’s appearance (1429-1453). Nonetheless, historians have coined the phrase “Hundred Years’ War” to describe the series of events that occurred later in history.

Several factors contributed to the war’s historical significance. Despite being essentially a dynastic battle, the war triggered nationalist sentiments in both France and England. In terms of warfare tactics, many novel weapons and techniques were introduced, superseding the former system of feudal armies dominated by heavy cavalry. Moreover, the first standing armies in Western Europe since the times of the Western Roman Empire were introduced, which transformed the role of the peasantry. Due to these reasons and its long duration, the war is frequently regarded as one of the most significant confrontations in medieval warfare.

Changes After the War

The Hundred Years’ War had numerous immediate and long-term influences on regional demographics and politics. The long-lasting conflict killed a large number of French nobles, destabilizing the country and leaving the remaining ones to fight for power. In England, on the other hand, kings created a dynamic system to reward an increasing number of nobles for taxing them and financing the war. However, this strategy eventually proved insufficient, and England was forced to declare bankruptcy because of the enormous expenditure of stationing field armies in another country.

The Hundred Years' War, Wine History during Hundred Years’ War

Map page of Section LVI France during the hundred years’ war from Part VIII of Historical atlas of modern Europe from the decline of the Roman empire: comprising also maps of parts of Asia and of the New world connected with European history

Despite several notable wins, the English ultimately lost all of their holdings in France, barring the Calais. During a long war, the English trade suffered setbacks, and the peasantry was incessantly subjected to unending rounds of taxation to fund the war, leading to rebellions such as the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Even the operation of the medieval church suffered as kings diverted revenues intended for the Pope in Rome to remunerate their armies.

Gascon Wine Impacted

The Hundred Years’ War outbreak in 1337 and the resulting conflict between England and France significantly impacted Gascon wine production and trade. Although exports from Bordeaux totaled 13,158 tuns in 1412-1413 and 16,258 in 1422-23, these numbers had decreased considerably from much greater figures in the 14th century when over 100,000 tuns had been shipped in 1308-09. The decrease in production was due to a number of factors, including the destruction of vineyards by the English army during its occupation of Gascony from 1453 to 1475.

The Hundred Years' War, Wine History during Hundred Years’ War

Colin, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In addition, the English imposed high taxes on wines imported into England, which made Gascon wines less competitive in the market. Nonetheless, Bordeaux’s capacity was sufficient to supply the English if necessary, but wines from Portugal and Spain, as well as the more expensive sweet wines from Greece and Italy, were also regularly imported. All of these wines were eventually added to the supply pool.

The war eventually concluded on October 19, 1453, after the southwestern French city Bordeaux was surrendered to France, leaving Calais as the only English holding in France.

 

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