Choosing the themes of Medieval Warfare

Recently, there have been some questions regarding the as-of-yet unfixed themes of Volume IV. Previously, we often used a poll to decide the themes of future issues. In fact, we were slowly working our way up from only 1 voted theme for Volume I, up to 4 for Volume 3. However, during this process, it slowly became apparent that a poll isn’t always as suitable to fix the topics of all themes in a volume.

As many of you will know, we try to offer a diverse selection of themes, in order to make sure that there is something of interest for both the reader interested in each and every aspect of medieval warfare, as well as for those people who tend to focus on a certain period or aspect of the era, like, for example, the Vikings, Byzantine history or a certain type of soldier. This means that, when we have had a theme focusing on Viking attacks in England in the 9th century, we tend (though not strictly so) to avoid discussing Anglo-Saxon and Viking topics for several issues thereafter. This is rather difficult, however. Due to the nature of warfare and politics in the medieval world, there are many different topics to choose from, but also many topics which overlap with each other. To again use the Viking attacks in England as an example, this covers both England and the Vikings, but also the period of the 9th-10th century.  This means that any topic related to these aspects are all out of bounds for the following issues, which limits the selection of both theme and non-theme articles. In the end, we aim to provide a balanced selection of topics in each Volume. It is certainly possible that we will have a bit more Byzantine history than Spanish history for a while, but this will be compensated later on (of course, taken into account that certain periods and regions simply have more medieval military history to write about than others).

In addition, it is often the case that a certain year turns out to be a anniversary year for one battle or another. For example, 2013 was for the Battle of Muret (800 years ago), and, more famously, 2015 will be the year of Azincourt (then 600 years ago). In case you are wondering (and you are, don’t deny it), 2014 includes, amongst others, the Battle of Bannockburn (and Bouvines, but we’ve already had a theme about that, haven’t we). It would be rather impractical to make themes out of every major ‘battle anniversary’, but it would be a shame to ignore them all, especially some of the important ones, not least of all because it often fits in well with some book releases, museum exhibitions, major reenactment festivals, etc.

If we were to make a poll for every theme, we would have to make sure that each of the five poll-options for each theme possesses, on the one hand, certain characteristics (for example, for a certain issue: late medieval, central Europe, focus on infantry revival) and aren’t closely related to any of the themes (as well as certain large non-theme articles) we had before, but on the other hand, that each option is sufficiently different from the other and has enough potential information to fill 5-7 articles. To make matters more difficult, we have to make sure not to cram one volume full of popular themes (War of the Roses, Hundred Years War, Crusades, Vikings; and by extention have another volume full of less-popular themes), and on top of that, we have to take certain anniversaries into account as well. In other words, it would be almost impossible to make a poll for the theme of each issue, since that would disable us to provide sufficient balance and go hand in hand with anniversaries and certain special circumstances.

For Volume IV, I had already fixed the themes of the first two issues (MW IV.1: Alexander Nevsky and the rise of the Novgorod Republic; MW IV.2: Female warriors in the Middle Ages). Since, as mentioned above, 2014 is the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, and due to certain related events which are planned this year, I have made ‘The Wars of Scottish Independence’ (focusing, amongst others, on William Wallace, Robert the Bruce and, naturally, the Battle of Bannockburn) into the theme of MW IV.3.

The rest of the themes in this volume will be decided by poll, which should be available online within several weeks.

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