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Henry V at Agincourt

For the anniversary of Henry V‘s victory over the French at Agincourt in 1415, a news release from historians at the University of Southampton has challenged the notion that the English were vastly outnumbered by the French.

According to this report from the Daily Mail, the familiar story that Henry’s 6,000 men faced 30,000 French soldiers and whupped them anyhow was a product of English propaganda. Blame William Shakespeare.

It wasn’t so unbalanced, historians say. Research has instead shown that the two sides were more evenly matched — there were perhaps 9,000 English up against maybe 12,000 French.

Just last year historians were claiming that “despite recent claims to the contrary, it seems the English were horribly outnumbered.” They were sticking to the story that the French had five times as many men as the English. They did, however, challenge the long held belief that it was English archers who made the difference. It was instead brutal hand-to-hand combat that carried the day for Henry’s men.

Anglophiles shouldn’t be disappointed, however. The victory was still a big win for Henry V, regardless of the details. And it made for a great stage play.

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