Intro to JMMH vol. 1

Introduction to Volume 1

by Bernard S. Bachrach


Consistent with the tastes of the educated reading public throughout the West, students in American colleges and universities for a very long time have filled and, indeed, have overfilled, classes in military history. Courses dealing with war and its multifaceted influence, however, are few and far between in our institutions of higher education because the work of specialists in military history is not highly regarded by many of our colleagues. On the eve of the Second World War, Sir Charles Oman, the doyen of Anglophone military historians, tried to explain this dissonance and argued with especial attention to the Middle Ages: “Both the medieval monastic chroniclers and the modern liberal historiographers had often no closer notion of the meaning of war than that it involves various horrors and is attended by a lamentable loss of life. Both classes strove to disguise their personal ignorance or dislike of military matters by deprecating their importance and significance in history.”


Educated citizens, apparently as contrasted to the majority of academics, are painfully aware that throughout the history of Western civilization, war, preparation for war, and the aftermath of war have dominated society. As a result, the informed citizenry of the democratic West have concluded that these topics deserve our concentrated attention. In the medieval West, the focus of this journal, the greatest part of surplus human and material resources was utilized for building and maintaining fortifications such as town walls, castles, and lesser strongholds. In addition, during the Middle Ages, the production of arms and armor, the creation of stud farms for breeding “war” horses, and the construction of roads and bridges, as well as the ongoing maintenance of these infrastructural components of the society and economy were voracious consumers of resources. In social perspective, war provided then as it does today a major road to upward mobility for those who were successful and for their families. Politically, of course, war was then and remains the pursuit of diplomacy by other means.


Sir Charles Oman’s insights into the regrettable but perhaps understandable behavior of academics, who had been thoroughly traumatized by the great losses suffered in the First World War, ring true. It might be thought, however, that during the past generation even academics in their tenured ivory towers might have learned that the ostrich approach to military history is productive neither to understanding nor peace. Indeed, they may have been able to grasp, at least in principle, that recognition of the need to study war does not mean that those who pursue such studies are advocates for war. As historical studies have demonstrated and contemporary affairs in the West affirm, the better one is informed regarding military matters the more cautious one is likely to be in advocating that diplomacy be pursued by other means.


In any case, many medievalists are now fully aware of the central importance of res militaris in determining the social and political structure of medieval Europe, and appreciate how great an impact they had on the daily lives of men and women of all classes. Even in armies raised to fight open battles (the strategic role of which is discussed below in two articles, by Clifford Rogers and Stephen Morillo), there was plenty of room for contributions by the common people – as we can see in the articles by John France, Douglas Biggs, and J. F. Verbruggen alike. The conduct of siege warfare could place an even greater burden on the peasantry and on urban economies, as Emilie Amt’s study of the siege of Bedford clearly illustrates. And it was of course the common people of the countryside who suffered the most in the devastating raids and chevauchées which formed such a large part of medieval campaigning.


Indeed, the study of warfare and martial institutions in the Middle Ages has undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Prestigious university presses, including Oxford, Yale, California, Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Pennsylvania, have brought out titles in our field within just the past three years, while Boydell and Brewer has made it one of their principal specialties. De Re Militari, the Society for Medieval Military History, regularly now sponsors five full panels at the annual International Congress of Medieval Studies, and many more papers in the same area are presented each year at Leeds, at the Battle Conferences, and at other gatherings. Although books and conference papers have, thus, found a reasonable sufficiency of outlets, there has not until now been any scholarly journal devoted to publishing articles in this field. Indeed, although general historical journals like the English Historical Reviewand the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, and military history publications like War in History and The Journal of Military History have made some room for pieces dealing with medieval warfare, military topics have been noticeably scarce on the contents pages of some of the medieval journals, particularly Speculum. Considering the amount of high-quality work being done in this area, the need for a venue specifically dedicated to this topic is evident.


The Journal of Medieval Military History, while focused on preparation for war, war, and the aftermath of war in Medieval Europe, welcomes studies over a very broad chronological and geographical compass. Chronologically, we will publish studies that deal with the later Roman empire, both East and West, where the research demonstrates either a break with the Middle Ages or continuity from the late antique period into medieval Europe. The later terminus of this journal is the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648. Here again connection with medieval period is essential in that we will favor studies that deal with the matter of continuity between the early modern era and its medieval past or demonstrate something that is radically new and marks a sharp or revolutionary break with that past.


Geographically, we take all of Europe as our focus and encourage studies that deal with areas such as Central Asia or West Asia in so far as these either have had an impact on Europe or provide a basis for comparative study. In regard to the latter, we also encourage straight-forward comparative studies, e.g. a comparison of medieval English and Japanese naval tactics or strategies.
From a technical point of view, we aim to publish only studies which reflect high standards of scholarship, primarily pieces of original research. We recognize, however, that many important articles have been published in languages with which most scholars are unacquainted. Therefore, will regularly publish in English translation such classics, often with commentary and updating of the research. We do not currently plan to include reviews of individual books (for which we refer our readers to the De Re Militari website, at, but we will sometimes publish historiographical survey articles. The style used in The Journal of Medieval Military History is the same as that used by Speculum, the official organ of the Medieval Academy of America, and authors are advised to submit their manuscripts in this format both in hard copy and on disk.


It remains for me, as founding editor of The Journal of Medieval Military History, to thank my two associate editors, Professor Clifford J. Rogers of the United States Military Academy at West Point and Professor Kelly DeVries of Loyola College, Baltimore, Md. for the immense amount of work they have done to see to the launching of the Journal. In this same context, Susan Dykstra-Poel, the representative of our publisher Boydell and Brewer, has been of the greatest help and without her this journal would never have seen the light of day. Finally, it is my pleasure to note that De Re Militari, the Society for Medieval Military History, under the leadership of its three-term president Professor Charles Bowlus, has voted to have The Journal of Medieval Military History serve as it official organ.


Bernard S. Bachrach

Professor and Fellow of the
Medieval Academy of America

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