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Medieval UK Battle Records Released Online 178

eldavojohn writes "Do you have ancestors who served in the British military under Henry V or fought in the Hundred Years War? Look them up online now that 250,000 medieval battle records are online and available for searching. According to the project details (PDF): 'The main campaigns of the period were to France but there were others to Flanders, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Wales and Scotland, a much wider geographical spectrum than before 1369. In addition, garrisons were maintained within England (such as that held at the Tower of London), the Channel Islands, Wales and the marches, as well as at Calais and in Gascony. In the fourteenth-century phase of the Hundred Years War, the English also held some garrisons in areas of northern France, and in the fifteenth century phase, there was a systematic garrison-based occupation of Normandy and surrounding regions...'"
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Medieval UK Battle Records Released Online

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  • Freedom!!! (Score:2, Funny)

    by spinlight ( 1152137 )
    Maybe we can find him there.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:21PM (#28776423)

    Terrorists could exploit this knowledge to close the trebuchet gap.

  • by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:32PM (#28776523) Journal

    If you were wondering who won, it was the British.

    • by glitch23 ( 557124 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:57PM (#28776717)

      If you were wondering who won, it was the British.

      I know you were probably joking but someone should mod you informative for those people who are too stupid/ignorant to know who won. I say that because I was recently interviewing someone from the West Coast of the U.S. (I'm in WV) and the person did not catch the fact that we said we were located in *West* Virginia 3 times during the course of the interview. The person even made a note to ask how close we were to a particular airport because he said he has been to Virginia in the past. Someone needed to remind him of the Civil War and what happened afterward. Your comment reminded me of that, which just happened a couple weeks ago.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      You do know, don't you, that before the Hundred Years War the English owned Normandy and other bits and pieces of what's now Western France? The reason they don't still is because the French gradually kicked them out.
      • by sqldr ( 838964 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @09:15PM (#28777259)

        the English owned Normandy

        It was the other way around. The Normans invaded in 1066 and annexed England. After that, things got complicated.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          It was the other way around. The Normans invaded in 1066 and annexed England. After that, things got complicated.

          Not all that complicated. When Norman Willie died, he gave his eldest Normandy, since that was the valuable part of his lands, and left England for a younger son.

          Because, after all, England wasn't really worth giving to your primary heir...;)

  • by jamstar7 ( 694492 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:37PM (#28776567)
    Yeah, they had them back then:

    Dr Bell said: "The service records survive because the English exchequer had a very modern obsession with wanting to be sure that the government's money was being spent as intended.

    Seems that even absolute monarchies had problems with bureaucrats. Makes you wonder if the species will ever evolve past them.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:15PM (#28776849) Journal
      Actually, bureaucrats were a creation of the monarchy and essential to their attempts at absolutism.

      Before bureaucracy, the king's only way of making something happen beyond his own landholdings was to apply pressure down a chain of one or more (generally recalcitrant) nobles who theoretically owed him ties of obedience and/or kinship; but, in practice, enjoyed considerable autonomy. Bureaucrats, by contrast, were simply commons with technical skills(yes, reading, writing, and bookkeeping count, even when you don't do them with computers) and depended directly on the monarchy for their positions.

      Everybody loves to hate them, and sometimes they deserve it; but bureaucracy is one of the defining characteristics of the move from feudalism to the nation-state.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by John Hasler ( 414242 )

        > Everybody loves to hate them, and sometimes they deserve it; but bureaucracy is one of
        > the defining characteristics of the move from feudalism to the nation-state.

        You say that as though you consider it to be self-evident that it was progress.

        • by MrMista_B ( 891430 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @09:08PM (#28777193)

          You don't know anything at all about feudalism, do you?

          Yes, it /is/ progress.

        • Feudalism, when you have a bunch of rich nobles with armies who own most of the land where the peasants grow their food, is not particularly conducive to the egalitarianism of democratic government, or a variety of things like that which modern society views as quite nice; furthermore, the excesses of feudalism and serfdom and such are not too pretty.
        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @09:20PM (#28777297) Journal
          I'd say, on the balance, that it was(though it isn't self-evidently so).

          From the perspective of the present, where highly centralized governments are a nontrivial threat to freedom and efficiency, decentralized systems sound like a good idea. And, it is true that centralization can, and frequently has, taken a downright nasty turn. However, the feudal model of decentralization looks very little like the modern one and, to be frank, it sucked.

          Central government existed largely in theory(the king did have power, under the right circumstances; but it was severely tempered by the local power of the nobility and the church); but that didn't make the people any freer. In the country, many people were serfs(legally bound to the land and service to the local noble, though not salable as slaves are) or small renters. In the towns and cities, the guilds controlled much of the commerce and industry. Religion exerted considerable temporal power(and siphoned off a good deal of wealth). Because of the fragmentation of power and the quasi-independence of numerous little fiefdoms, codes of law were a hideous mess of customary cruft, civil and ecclesiastical, that often varied from place to place. Weights and measures were not standardized across many areas and running into taxes, tolls and whatnot at the edge of every petty strongman's domain was always a risk(does wonders for trade, that).

          For all its(considerable) vices, the notion of the nation-state, first under monarchs of greater or lesser absoluteness, and gradually under more representative flavors of government, was vital in breaking down the heavily entrenched local nobility, and their webs of onorous customary obligation, and replacing it with the notion of equals under law, with standardized rights and obligations. This is not to say that that was the intent(indeed, it almost certainly wasn't, it was about the king attempting to consolidate his own power at the expense of other strongmen); but it turns out that the effect of the absolutist project was the creation of an institutional system of governance that could survive a transition from dynastic power to representative governance.

          In a sense, it took a period of centralization to attenuate the power of local nobility and create a uniformity of infrastructure and law sufficient to allow the modern concept of decentralization(often an excellent idea) to exist. Feudal decentralization was pretty pathological.
          • However, the feudal model of decentralization looks very little like the modern one and, to be frank, it sucked.

            Well it depends on how you look at it...

            Serfs got more time off for holidays than most US workers do today.
            Serfs were guaranteed employment by their lord.
            Serfs were guaranteed housing and food by their lord.
            Serfs were guaranteed law enforcement by their lord.

            This is a lot more than most of us corporate workers get.

            The lord in most cases could not beat or strike their serfs nor sell them to other l

        • And actually, the beginnings of bureaucracy go far further back than the 1300's: basically, as soon as writing was developed, scribes became the bureaucrats of their day. Egyptians, Sumerians, Myceneans, Israelites, Chinese, and so forth all had their bureaucratic classes.

          So cheer up, beancounters, because you're part of a glorious 3000+ year tradition!

  • by fantomas ( 94850 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:40PM (#28776599)

    Lots of records with no family /surname. "What's your name soldier?" "John" "Right, stick him down scribe, John the archer".

    Don't hold your hopes out if you were dreaming to find your ancestor on some particular march out to France or Scotland. Not unless your ancestors happen to be the Dukes of Northumberland or the like...

    • by Daimanta ( 1140543 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:39PM (#28777013) Journal

      I actually looked up the first name of John as it would return something with near 100% success rate and a lot of Johns have surnames and looking at the nature of these names(names not directly refering to objects, professions or places), I'd say a good bunch are not invented on the spot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) *
      "Don't hold your hopes out if you were dreaming to find your ancestor..."

      I found 8 records with my family name and only one of them was an Earl. However I already knew my family name was connected with some powerfull head-kickers who owned large chunks of land and a couple of castles along the welsh border. They were part of the nobility for ~400yrs starting with a donation of 22 viking boats and crew for William the conqueres invasion. The male line died out and the families claims to the throne were pa
      • by Nethead ( 1563 )

        Lucky you. I found The Bastard Hamelin when looking up my surname.

      • Interesting... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @07:49AM (#28779975)
        I found 15, though none above the rank of knight, which is about right from what I know of the family history post-Conquest (they lapsed into obscurity in Norfolk, and don't really reappear until the 16th cent.)

        However, I have to ask - if the male line died out, how do you come to have your surname? Cadet branch?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rs79 ( 71822 )

      I found my namesake was an archer in 1441.

      He was probably an asshole, too.

    • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )

      Have a Conquistadore out of Spain as an ancestor. Came over to the new world in the late 1600's []. Looks like originally, he was from Murcia. Don't they have swallows there?

  • Wow can't imagine someone actually invested the time to put this together. As cool/interesting as this is... it really doesn't serve a purpose. or does it ?
    • Does understanding history really serve a purpose? I contend unto you that it does.
    • Re:Purpose? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gardyloo ( 512791 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:59PM (#28776743)

      You can do statistics on the datasets...

      Did the name "Cuthbert" not appear before 1361, and then it spread along river valleys because its carriers were predominantly farmers (with occurrences of it popping up here and there because people were conscripted into armies/died out/whatever)?
            Did the plague wipe out mainly those with surnames common to the Mediterranean region, because those people had less exposure to the rats, which carried the fleas, which were the main vectors?
            Do "Smiths" follow the armies, or settle in the cities? Were Teutonic names more indicative of higher classes? Did northern European names cluster more with archers rather than cavalry?

            I'm forseeing a lot of interesting temporal/spatial analysis which could be done with the data.

    • by sqldr ( 838964 )

      If you want to know what England is, or what France is, or what Normandy was, or what Wales is, or who was responsible for all that, and how it could have all ended up different, and why you're speaking on this website in English, which didn't really exist as a language until it replaced Anglo-Saxon, or why there's so many French words in it, and you want proof of it, then a load of verifiable evidence from a bean-counter in charge of paying each individual soldier involved in it, complete with dates, is a

  • Man... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by XPeter ( 1429763 ) *
    For the first time in my life (Probably the last), I wish I was British. This is so damn cool...
    • Re:Man... (Score:5, Funny)

      by commodoresloat ( 172735 ) * on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:58PM (#28776725)

      yeah it is pretty cool but it's not worth carrying an umbrella all the time.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by digitig ( 1056110 )

        yeah it is pretty cool but it's not worth carrying an umbrella all the time.

        We don't have to carry umbrellas all the time -- we've had roofs for, ooh, years now.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by rs79 ( 71822 )

          " We don't have to carry umbrellas all the time -- we've had roofs for, ooh, years now."

          Can central heating be far behind?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      I am British.

      My ancestors didn't come over on a ship, because I came over on United, connecting through Chicago, in 1999.

      Some time in the future, historians will put my travel records in a big online database along with the records of millions of others, for non historians to check out for a few minutes before forgetting about it.

      • by Plunky ( 929104 )

        Some time in the future, historians will put my travel records in a big online database along with the records of millions of others, for non historians to check out for a few minutes before forgetting about it.

        not if the people running The Disney Corporation have anything to do with it..

  • by EWAdams ( 953502 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:52PM (#28776685) Homepage

    Nerds love ancient historical stuff -- who the hell else is in the Society for Creative Anachronism, the Sealed Knot, various battle re-enactment societies, etc. etc.? Nerds! And what could be more nerdy than a mountain of statistics about the same?

    Oh, and anybody who can't think of a use for this data has no idea what historical research is. You crowdsource this stuff and all kinds of interesting things will pop up. The better we understand our past, the better we understand ourselves.

    As for the observations about monarchs needing bureaucrats -- EVERYbody needs bureaucrats, unless you'd prefer the government to be run by astrology and guesswork. If you're a soldier and you want to get paid the correct amount, on time, you need a bureaucrat to look after it. Plus, Britain during a lot of this period was essentially a police state, and police states need more bureaucrats than most. The Stasi in East Germany were Exhibit A, closely followed by the Nazis. The latter's record-keeping got a fair number of them hanged.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      Working off the oldest surnames I have been able to track back to in my family tree (1600s), one side of my family seem to be all descended from archers and the other side is all descended from men-at-arms. This would explain why I'm hopelessly confused all the time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gothmolly ( 148874 )

      SCA is not ancient or historical. It's an excuse for Internet Tough Guy to put on black leather, take a few tokes, and finally make it with that weird chick at the pet store.

      • by rs79 ( 71822 )

        " SCA is not ancient or historical. It's an excuse for Internet Tough Guy to put on black leather, take a few tokes, and finally make it with that weird chick at the pet store."

        Oh rly? Where do I sign up?

  • ...check out John Keegan's Face of Battle []. It covers the battle of Agincourt and several other major battles - Waterloo and the Somme. This book really gives you a feel for the human element in these battles.

    As an additional stamp of approval, it's also on both the Army and USMC reading lists [].

    • I'm reading Cornwall's book Agincourt right now. It's a bit repetitive at times, and has a fictional main character, but otherwise provides a great deal of information on Henry V and his campaign through northern France. I'd never heard of the massacre at Soissons before the book, as well, but it was apparently bloody enough (in real life as well as in the book) to help convince Henry V that he should invade.

    • by hachete ( 473378 )

      Face Of Battle is indeed a fine book. The histiorography in the introduction is worth reading by itself, his shift from romantic descriptions of battles to more logical modes of battle analysis. Also worth reading are his books Mask Of Command and Five Armies In Normandy. The Mask Of Command is particularly useful in describing why Hitler was a bad leader, and Grant was so good. I read Grant's autobiography on the strength of that book.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:01PM (#28776753)

    that a family member had served in the military back in the day.

    John Arrowbait

  • by lumenistan ( 1165199 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:02PM (#28776763)
    Reports like this, where fairly old records are referenced, always make me wonder about the accounting that we keep regarding current events. To what degree will our own stories be available to future generations? We have an ever-growing dependency on a computerized-only storage monoculture, and frankly all this may just be a good $CATASTROPHE$ away from being made into doorstops.

    I'm not suggesting we transfer the contents of Slashdot to cave paintings, or transcribe $CELEBRITY_DU_JOUR$'s Tweets to stone tablets, but does anyone know of projects underway to preserve the highlights of modern history in some sort of permanent medium? Is anyone taking down the top x significant stories in a year and sticking them in a jar in a cave somewhere?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      I imagine that there are at least dozens of libraries that archive major newspapers to microfilm (err, microform, I guess) and store it in artificial, man made caves.

      Apparently, some of the archives go back a ways: []

      And some are enormous: []

    • We have an ever-growing dependency on a computerized-only storage monoculture

      I'm more concerned about the corporate/government insistence on deleting data older than some period of time, be it seven or five or three years, or even 60 days. It makes me ponder the possibility of limiting the admissibility of certain evidence in civil cases where the evidence is older than a particular timeframe. Otherwise, we risk intentionally deleting data that could be used by future generations to understand how our civ

    • by ivoras ( 455934 )

      Throughout history it was mostly left to individual efforts and chance - while certain rulers tried the stone tablet method of ensuring their subjects would talk about them for centuries to come, most of the records were done for contemporary purposes. It was important, for example, to record who fought where because they needed to get paid (in some way; upto giving land, etc.) not because some descendant 1000 years later would want to know about it. In the same way, future digital archeologists will find i

    • I can read this online - because it was written on Paper/vellum
      I can read the great works of literature - because they were written on paper
      I can read the original doomsday book online- because it was written on paper

      It is rather difficult to read the new Doomsday project (1986) - it was issued on laserdisc LV-ROM to be read by an Acorn BBC Master - this had to be reverse engineered in 2002 (because of obsolete hardware and systems) to be available at all ... and is now offline .....

  • by tcopeland ( 32225 ) <.moc.dnalepoceelsamoht. .ta. .mot.> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:07PM (#28776795) Homepage

    ...Sphinx [] for lightning-fast searches (and stemming, and relevancy, and much more) and Open Calais [] for text analysis. Combine this data set with those two tools and you could have a pretty nifty site.

  • Wrong Side (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:27PM (#28776923)

    >The main campaigns of the period were to France but there were others to ... Scotland

    Sorry, but my ancestors were on the other side. Damn English. Well, they were good at raising cattle to steal.

    • AND they smelt of elderberries.

  • by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:31PM (#28776957)
    "I am Arthur, king of the Britons."

    "King of the who?" - "The Britons." - "Who are the Britons?" - "We all are. We're all Britons. And I am your king." - "Didn't know we had a king. I thought we're an autonomous collective." ... "I am your king!" - "I didn't vote for you." - "You don't vote for kings." - "How did you become king then?"

    "The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying, by divine providence, that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. That is why I am your king." - "Listen, strange women lying in ponds, distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses. Not from farcical aquatic ceremony."
  • Binary Expansion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by meehawl ( 73285 ) <meehawl.spam@gm a i l .com> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:34PM (#28776979) Homepage Journal

    Let's see...
    2009-1369 = 640 years
    Using a (conservative) 25 years/generation...
    640/25 ~= 25.6. Call it 26.
    2^26 = 67,108,864

    According to medieval demographics [] and human population [], the number of people alive in "Europe" around then peaked at 70-100m *before* the famines and plagues of the 14th century []. Europe would not regain that population peak again for 200 years.

    If you are caucasian then, given these figures, unless you are descended from a multi-generational set of *extremely* inbred kin, the probability that at least one of your ancestors was in that battle is quite high. The Most Recent Common Ancestor [] of all peoples. never mind all Europeans, is more recent than you think.

  • Damn it!! (Score:4, Funny)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @09:02PM (#28777149) Homepage

    And here I thought we were going to get to hear some 15th century hip-hop!

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @09:57PM (#28777525) Journal
    All of my ancestors are dead.
  • And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
    From this day to the ending of the world,
    But we in it shall be remembered

  • The search sucks (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thewils ( 463314 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @10:09PM (#28777613) Journal

    I guess it's only a start, but speaking as someone who works on database searching from a website the search method they use really sucks. You practically have to know what you're looking for in order to find it, and once you do there's precious little information apart from a couple of names and a campaign. there's no hyperlinking (er, this _is_ the web in 2009 yaknow) and there's no way to just browse the data (see commanders in a campaign for instance) to pick up interesting facts or trends. In short, useless. Most people will look up a couple of names then forget about it completely.

    I hope I'm wrong.

  • Duke of Monmouth 705 vs Earl of Derby 1,201 (away win)
    Lord Gloucester 11,703 vs The French 602 (home win)
    The Scots 0 vs The Highland Scots 0 (match abandoned due to fog)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is typical of the National Archives. They take a document which belongs to Britain and for which the copyright has long since expired, and allow a third party to compile data from it suitable for insertion into a database. Great stuff... except they also allow that third party to retain copyright of the data as it exists in the database, thus forcing anybody else who might want to use the source material to go through the whole process again or pay up.

    The 'researchers' only allow you to conduct searche

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