The 100 Years War began in 1337, when the very young King of England, Edward III, decided that he was the legitimate king of France rather than the man the French had crowned. Did he have a case? Yes, to an extent. But from the point of view of the French, his claim was fatally flawed because the French did not accept a female sovereign, and his claim came through his French mother. But this objection did not stop the aggressive young English King from proceeding with his war. And in the next 100 years plus, he and his armies ruined France. During the fourteenth century, France went from the position of the number one most powerful nation in all of Europe to total social and political collapse. At the end of the fourteenth century the French monarchy was in a nation in shambles. The king, Charles VI, was insane for long periods of time, the court was a pit of violent intrigue, the Queen was a scandal sleeping with whomever she might desire including, it is believed, the king's brother. The economy was a disaster. The war had ruined it. The very borders of the nation were crumbling. And the Englsih occupied the northern third of the French nation. How did France survive?
Here is an excellent general history of France that will be very useful for our entire year.
La Belle France,
"Fascinating. . . . Engaging. . . . Filled with 'hot-blooded' kings, royal mistressesÉand tales of cruelty, treachery and even, occasionally, heart-warming loyalty."
–San Francisco Chronicle
"[Horne] is a virtuoso of the character sketch and the illuminating vignette. . . . La Belle France, with its refreshingly subjective style, possesses more treasures than a whole wall full of textbooks."
–The Wall Street Journal
"A breathtaking tour of French history, from its earliest kings through the Mitterrand government. . . . There are few countries with a more fascinating history than France."
–The Seattle Times
"A useful and charming introduction to a nation that has oh-so-definitely helped make the modern world what it is. . . . Horne does a service in helping the reader navigate the complexities of French history."
–Los Angeles Times
The best book on fourteenth-century France is:
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century,
Random House Trade Paperbacks; Reissue edition (July 12, 1987),