The name conjures up so many images. Most memorable is King Henry and his band of brothers massacring the creme of French Chivalry with longbows and poleaxes and the knavish French sacking the English baggage before Henry orders the killing of the French prisoners so they could not set upon him from the rear as he prepared to defend against the third wave of French knights and men at arms.
Well now the name conjures a well written and well studied book by Bernard Cornwell entitled simply "Agincourt." The book follows the journey of a Welsh archer named Thomas Hook as he goes abroad, first as a mercenary to the Burgundians and then with King Henry the Fifth on his campaign to become King of France.
The book has Cornwell's usual fast pace and it adheres well to known facts about the battle. For example a quick read through the post script will tell you that all of the characters who appear in the book were soldiers listed on the rolls of Henry's army as it embarked for France and the French characters were all listed on the rolls of the French army that came to face Henry at Agincourt field.
The book also takes care to explain the English victory at Agincourt in compliance with the modern view of what happened at Agincourt field. The modern view attributes the carnage more to the topography of Agincourt field and crowd dynamics.
Tradition holds that the English long bowmen mowed down the English knights in rows with hails of arrows. However recent studies of the battlefield have led researchers to disbelieve this theory. For one thing they have speculated that Henry's army just didn't have enough arrows for this to be the case.
Cornwell dabbles in the math by noting the fact that Henry's army was so small it just couldn't carry enough arrows to sustain an arrow barrage for more than the opening moments of the battle. Instead researchers, and therefore Cornwell, have begun to rely on crowd dynamics as the explanation for the English victory, mainly that the French knights were crushed down into a smaller and smaller funnel and as they were having trouble moving over the muddy ground the result became a kind of Caen, where only the front rank can move their weapons, but they are being shoved into the English weapons by the people trying to march up behind them. The theory now goes that while the English weapons of all kinds took a heavy toll on the French battle ranks, many more of the French were simply trampled on by their own troops or were pushed to the muddy ground where they drown in the mud. Not nearly as romantic as a shower of arrows and a charge of cavalry, but it remains, none the less, very effective.
Hence during the battle you see Thomas Hook and the English archers running out of arrows, but then slamming into the French flanks with poleaxes and hammers.
Agincourt field is allegedly the place that the famous English "Two Finger Salute" comes from and Cornwell has a neat little passage wherein the archers of Henry's army are all raising the two fingers of their right hand up to the retreating French to defiantly show the French that the archers still possessed the fingers on their right hand they used to draw their bows. The French were notorious for hacking off the fingers of captured French archers.
It's only out in hard cover, as it is a new release. It will read over the course of a weekend and it is worth the price.