Hawkwood: The Diabolical Englishman

Hawkwood The Diabolical Englishman The second son of a minor Essex landowner John Hawkwood chose to head south in after serving as a captain in the Black Prince s wars against France He and other freebooters beseiged the Pope at

  • Title: Hawkwood: The Diabolical Englishman
  • Author: Frances Stonor Saunders
  • ISBN: 9780571219087
  • Page: 303
  • Format: Hardcover
  • The second son of a minor Essex landowner, John Hawkwood chose to head south in 1360 after serving as a captain in the Black Prince s wars against France He and other freebooters beseiged the Pope at Avignon, and when they were paid to go to Italy, discovered that the threat of force could be very profitable indeed The Italian city states Florence, Milan, Sienna and PiThe second son of a minor Essex landowner, John Hawkwood chose to head south in 1360 after serving as a captain in the Black Prince s wars against France He and other freebooters beseiged the Pope at Avignon, and when they were paid to go to Italy, discovered that the threat of force could be very profitable indeed The Italian city states Florence, Milan, Sienna and Pisa offered the richest pickings in Europe Hawkwood became the most successful, clever and reliable mercenary leader of the time, leading the Italians to conclude that the Devil is an Englishman.This is the story of an age when everything came to have a price when the mercenary companies were vastly rich corporations, with their own accountants, lawyers and orators But Frances Stonor Saunders s book is also a glittering and hard edged evocation of a time of cultural greatness, peopled by characters ranging from Chaucer, Petrarch, Boccaccio and St Catherine of Sienna to corrupt Popes and the Visconti tyrants of Milan Above all, Hawkwood is a brilliant illumination of one of the outstanding figures of English and European history.

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      Published :2019-01-07T14:44:54+00:00

    One thought on “Hawkwood: The Diabolical Englishman”

    1. All books about medieval European individuals are bold - unless they are about St.Augustine, who alone felt the need to share his memories of his thoughts and feelings at length with posterity, for everyone else the best that can be achieved is a life and time flavoured with conjecture.Hawkwood was an Englishman from Essex who led the White Company, a band of mercenaries, that operated in northern Italy during the fourteenth century. I found the book a disappointing read since I wanted more deta [...]

    2. So you thought the 21st century was bad? Try living in Italy in the 14th century. Of course you had plague, famine, poverty, and bloodshed, but don't forget the social injustice, backwards medicine, poor hygiene, living in filth, and religious mania. Although this book paints quite the picture of life in Europe of the Middle Ages, the most incredible thing isn't how bad it really was, but that we managed to actually survive as a species through it all. But that's not really what the book is supp [...]

    3. One thing is for sure: war is about money. Always has been and always will be. John Hawkwood was merely an excellent and unashamed practitioner of war as a revenue-generating activity. 1360, a treaty is signed and the Hundred Years War pauses, but people keep fighting, mostly English soldiers who stay in France to kill and burn and pillage because it beats going home and doing an honest day's work or dying of the plague. The soldiers coalesce into large companies who style themselves mercenaries [...]

    4. Highly accessible history of late Medieval Italy. This is a superb read, one that is evocative of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror.Like Tuchman, Saunders frames her book around the life and times of an individual - in this case, English mercenary John Hawkwood, who found himself in rather constant employ due to the various feuds and wars among the city-states of Italy.Through Hawkwood, we get a good look at several of the major players in the region during this time - Catherine of Siena, the V [...]

    5. Long before Italian organised crime had become organised; a bunch of 14th Century Essex boys were pillaging, extorting, kidnapping, raping, murdering and betraying their way through the Italian City States with a vengeance. The most successful or them was "Sir" John Hawkwood, son of an Essex Yeoman whose meteoric rise as a Mercenary in the labyrinthine world of Italian politics led him to wealth, castles, royal in-laws, a state funeral in Florence and a big assed fresco in the Duomo that can be [...]

    6. Absolutey fascinating account, not only about the life of the man, but also his times. I liked the writing style as well as the myriad details of life in the fourteenth century. Did not want to put it down. It stripped the glamour from the popular tales of chivalry and painted a stark portrait of the impracticalities of riding into battle encased in heavy metal armour. No mere recitation of dry facts and dates. "Lying face down in the mud encased in seventy pounds of armour was a disadvantageous [...]

    7. A fantastic book, completely engrossing. Using Hawkwood as her vehicle, the author invites you into the merciless world of 14th C. Italian politics, dealing the intrigues, personalities and scandals of the day with vivid storytelling. The book could easily have descended into a repetitive confusion (Hawkwood's life, as with his client states, was one of endless battling, extortion, ransoming, changes of allegiance, then more battling, more ransoming). Thankfully though, with her eye for the inte [...]

    8. Interesting because the connection to Chaucer, but not really the biography it claims on the back cover. Also it seems to lose steam.

    9. Wow. This is an intense history of the English mercenary John Hawkwood, who pillaged his way up and down the Italian peninsula in the 14th century. The violence was frankly shocking at times - the massacre at Cesena was something I'd never heard about, and was dumbfounded by the gratuitous cruelty. The depiction of the sad state of the medieval church (before, during, and after the Schism) was also - well, depressing and fascinating in a sickening way, with definite echoes in the modern power el [...]

    10. If there had been proper footnotes, this would have been a better book. The book is more about late fourteenth century Italy than it is about Hawkwood and mercenaries. What's there is very interesting, but the diversions from Hawkwood's story make it hard to follow. It's also very easy to lose interest in some of the asides.

    11. There is no doubt that John Hawkwood - later Sir John - was a significant figure in 14th Century France and, especially, Italy. His role was as the leader of an unlawful band of mercenaries, in variable numbers but often in thousands, who sold themselves to the highest bidder in a volatile country of warring Communes. Changes of side were frequent and cynical. The package came complete with all services: not just battles and sieges but pillage, rape and destruction. The sums paid were huge and m [...]

    12. Thorough and very engaging bio of condottiere Sir John Hawkwood, the subject of Uccello's monumental Duomo painting and, if Terry Jones is right, the model for Chaucer's Knight. I read it to learn more about someone in whom I became interested while reading A Distant Mirror and, indeed, identical in form and contiguous in subject matter, the entire book is sort of an appendix to Tuchman's monumental popular history. Saunders isn't coy about acknowledging the debt.My interest in the 14th century [...]

    13. I feel that this book was far too focused on presenting the image of the Mercenary Captain John Hawkwood as one of the big players in Italian Politics in the third quarter of the 14th C, while the Italians themselves are presented as mere pawns of the mercenaries (though the author seems to want to gloss over most of them except Hawkwood). It tends to gloss over many other aspects of the political landscape and takes pains to emphasize tenuous political connections between parties (Catherine of [...]

    14. Wow; it's pretty grim living in the 15th Century, perhaps particularly in pre-unification Italy when every city-state is forming and then breaking alliances with every other city-state, and hiring mercenaries to do their slaughtering for them. That is, until the said mercenaries turn the tables on their employers and are hired by the enemy who is able to pay them a bit more than you do Meanwhile, each time, it is the civilian population who suffers the most as the way each little war begins is b [...]

    15. You think 13th century Italy: famine, the plague, nothing much going on, right? Wrong!! Try the birth of the mercenary. Havoc and pillage!This book is the story of John Hawkwood, an Englishman, who went to Europe to devestate, rape, and ravage . . . for pay. And, when one set of employers couldn't afford him any longer, their enemies hired him. This is also a fascinating look at the inability of the Italian city-states to pull together against a greater evil (in this case the mercenaries) becaus [...]

    16. Interesting approach to the life of the legendary condottiero John Hawkwood, presenting him as a figure flitting in and out of the larger story of 14th Century Italy, with its myriad intrigues, wars and general miseries. The author writes with flair, deploying colourful metaphors to paint images of a horrible time in history.The book reminded me of Barbara Tuchman's A Distant Mirror. Saunders herself makes reference to it (and several other books, I think), to make sure the comparison escapes no [...]

    17. When you tell people you've just read a history of Italy in the 14th century and it was fascinating, you can see from their face they find this difficult to believe. But Stonor has the all too rare ability and the research to make this period come alive vividly, as well as the skill to use Hawkwood as the narrative thread to hold it all together and not have the book just become a collection of information. Fascinating story of a period I hadn't known so much about, and illuminates a number of p [...]

    18. Whilst I cant say I am warming to Mr Hawkswood, who was an Essex man gone to the devil, I think Historian Frances Stonor Saunders has written a remarkable book - one of those books where you learn not one but five ( or more!) new facts per page -and I read a lot of history books these days! For those who have visited Florence Cathedral there is a fresco painting by no less an artist that Paulo Uccello of this "Diabolical Englishman" - Ioannes Acutus - recognised in Florence for having laid waste [...]

    19. Continuing my reading of the beginning of the renaissance, this book reports the changing allegiances of a so called crusader, really one of thousands mercenaries who had no war or living to pursue. His name was John Hawkwood. The time of his rampages in Italy coincide with the huge power of Milan, Joanna 1 of Naples, and great beginning art in Florence. The papacy started the policy of hired "guns", but was very week due to a split between Rome and Avignon, Italian and French control of the chu [...]

    20. This book couldn't decide what it wanted to be (or I couldn't decide what it was trying to be). Is it a biography of mercenary Sir John Hawkwood? A history of the use of mercenaries by the Italian City-States? A political history of Italy before unification? Now, any one of these could have been the main topic and yet included the others. But instead the book seemed to veer around. If it is a biography of Hawkwood, why so much about St. Catherine of Siena? If it is a history of mercenaries durin [...]

    21. This book is why I read history. A book ostensibly about the greatest Condittiere (mercenary) of the late middle ages and Englishman John Hawkwood in reality its an engaging book about the city states and papal wars of that time period. If you think life is bad reading this book makes you realize how good and peaceful the world has become. The casual depravity and slaughter mentioned in this book is stunning the horror and betrayals, politics and vendettas amazing. A read that will give you pers [...]

    22. As the title implies, this book is a biography of John Hawkwood, an englishman who following the Treaty of Brétigny, becomes a freebooter and sells the services of himself and his company of mercenaries to whatever Italian city-state offers more. It isn't only about Hawkwood the man, though, but so much more; Saunders also gives a portrait of the times he lived in. It is a brief and not very penetrating portrait, but a lot more balanced than than the popular image of the 'Dark Ages'. For as she [...]

    23. A fascinating look at the little known side of early Renaissance Italy. The 14th Century was a bad one for the Italians with wars between the city-states, a corrupt papacy, and mercenary armies overshadowing all. The book centers on an especially prominant, successful and duplicitous mercenary general -- one John Hawksworth of Essex, England -- who at one time was on the payroll of every major faction and turned coat as fast as the money could be counted out. Saunders makes one misstep: painting [...]

    24. A well-done biography of Sir John Hawkwood, a foot-loose commander from the English army in the Hundred Years War, who took his company of knights and soldiers to northern Italy to find employment. By doing so, Hawkwood became the first of the mercenary captains of Italy who so shaped the Italian renaissance, his well-disciplined company becoming the template for all the condottieri to follow. Though he sometimes fought for others, Hawkwood gained his fame as Florence's great general. Those of y [...]

    25. I love it, I love condottieri and the Italian Renaissance and the mindset of mercenaries, who lived in an age where religion was a given. Saunders gives a very readable narrative thread in this, weaving facts about Hawkwood with the history and feel of the time so it never feels stagnant.I very rarely read non-fiction, but this is truly a good book to get into if you like the subject. It never becomes too dry, which I feel is hard to do sometimes with such fact-heavy historical non-fiction.

    26. Just a quick note on this one; I may add more later. This was a good follow-up to Barbara Tuchman's book "A Distant Mirror." Saunders' book covers roughly the same period of time, focusing solely on Italy. In comparison, Tuchman's book examines events in France and England during this period. When read together, I got a richer sense of what was happening within Europe overall during the 14th century.

    27. An engaging and well-researched biography of an unscrupulous but successful mercenary captain in one of Europe's most violent periods, it transcends mere military history to give the reader a broader and more interesting picture of a fractured society midway between complete disintegration and dramatic cultural rebirth.

    28. An ok account of 14th century English mercenary captain and his campaigns in Italy. More interesting by merit of the subject matter than the presentation, which is wracked with filler. For all the amazing preservation of pay stubs and letters, the source material is fairly standard and the analysis does little to give us a true understanding of the man or reasons for his success.

    29. This is serious history. After reading I had a great desire to see the fresco of John Hawkwood in the duomo in Florence (Firenze). To read this book does require some context regarding European history in the late middle ages. It also provides a background to the Italy of today--a nation somewhat united of regions that six centuries ago were fighting bloody battles against each other.

    30. Fascinating account of an English mercernary who fought for the Pope and then for wealthy merchants when the Pope could no longer ante up. Some interesting insights into Medieval Italy and the Papacy as well as the nascent stages of what would become the English empire.

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