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Great Battles in History
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Great Battles in History

Author: Darryl Dee

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Welcome to Great Battles in History. This podcast explores some of the most famous and most important battles in world history from ancient times to the Second World War. Each episode dives deeply into a single battle, investigating its origins, the course of combat, and the outcomes. We will examine the contending forces, including some of history’s most celebrated armies, navies, and air forces. We will meet great captains like Hannibal Barca, Saladin, Napoleon, and Chester Nimitz. We will also delve into the experiences of the soldier at the sharp end: the Spartan hoplite at Thermopylae, the English longbowman at Agincourt, the mounted samurai at Nagashino, the Soviet tanker at Kursk. Battles are regarded as events that change the course of history; the most important have been described as decisive. We will come to question this idea, for, as we’ll see, while a handful of battles do qualify as momentous, epochal turning points, most others—including not a few widely considered decisive—changed very little if anything at all. Finally, battles are more than just exercises of pure strategy and tactics; they are artifacts— creations of the political, social, economic and cultural forces of their times. To investigate great battles is to open up history in its widest sense.
46 Episodes
Trailer for Episode Six, the Battle of Nagashio, coming soon.
On October 7, 1571, the fleets of the Christian Holy League and the Ottoman Empire clashed near Lepanto off the west coast of Greece. Lepanto was the largest battle on land or sea in Europe in the sixteenth century. During it, over 130,000 combatants had crewed some 500 oared warships. At the battle’s end, at least 35,000 Ottomans and 8,000 Christians had lost their lives. Lepanto was also the climax of a ferocious fifty-year-long struggle waged by the greatest naval powers of the day for dom...
Trailer for Episode Five, the Battle of Lepanto, coming in January 2022. The music is Havada Bulut Yok by Turku, Nomads of the Silk Road , licensed under an Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
The complete episode of Agincourt, including parts one to ten.
Agincourt was an overwhelming victory for Henry V and England. After it, the English went on to conquer Normandy. Then, in 1420, Henry forced the French to agree to the treaty of Troyes, which made him the heir to the French throne. But his premature death in 1422 turned the tide of the Hundred Years' War. The French recovered and pushed their enemies out of France. By 1453, only Calais remained in English hands. The Hundred Years ' War was over.
On October 24, 1415, the feast day of the twin saints Crispin and Crispinian, the English and French armies arrayed for battle on the muddy field of Agincourt. The action began when the English advanced and the longbowmen loosed a storm of arrows. When the fighting ended three hours later, the English had won an unexpected and total victory.
After landing in Normandy, Henry V and the English army besieged the key port of Harfleur. The city fell following a six-week siege. Henry then decided to carry out a swift dash across France to the English-held fortress-town of Calais. Along the way, the French sought to bring him to battle. On October 24, 1415, near the village of Agincourt, Henry found a massive French army blocking the route to Calais. The English army had no choice except to fight.
In 1413, Henry V succeeded to the throne of England. An able statesman and experienced warrior, he was determined to restore the English lands in France and press the Plantagenet claim to the French throne. Meanwhile, France had plunged into a devastating civil war between two noble factions, the Armagnacs and the Burgundians. Taking advantage of this crisis, Henry landed in Normandy with a powerful army in August 1415.
After the Battle of Poitiers, France's fortunes were at their lowest. In the 1360s, the new French king, Charles the Wise, led a remarkable recovery in political, financial and military strength. An English intervention in Spain then offered an opportunity to renew the Hundred Years' War. The French king and his Constable, the Breton knight Bertrand du Guesclin, carried out a spectacular reconquest that reduced English possessions in France to a remnant of Aquitaine.
After winning his spurs at the Battle of Crécy, the Black Prince emerged as the finest commander of the Hundred Years' War. In 1356, the outbreak of civil war in France encouraged King Edward III to mount another invasion. On September 9, at Poitiers, the Black Prince defeated the French and captured King John II of France. The French agreed to a peace treaty at Brétigny in 1360. The first phase of the Hundred Years' War ended in complete triumph for England.
During the first phase of the Hundred Years' War, King Edward III of England launched multiple invasions of France. However, King Philip VI of France managed to frustrate him by avoiding battle. Edward finally achieved a breakthrough in 1346. A large-scale, highly destructive raid--a chevauchée--forced Philip and the French to fight at the battle of Crécy.
The Hundred Years' War at first appeared to be an unequal contest. France was the largest, wealthiest and most populous kingdom in medieval Europe. By comparison, England appeared puny and weak. But during the first thirty years of the fourteenth century, a military revolution transformed the English armies into the most fearsome war machine in Christendom. A key aspect of this revolution was the rise to prominence of the yeoman archer armed with the longbow.
Hostilities between the two greatest kingdoms in medieval Europe, England and France, had three causes: the English kings' possession of vast lands in France, an English claim to the French throne, and French support for Scotland. In 1337, hostilities escalated into open war. Neither kingdom expected the conflict to last until 1453.
On October 25, 1415, the feast day of Saints Crispin and Crispinian, on a field near the village and castle of Agincourt, an English army under King Henry V defeated a much larger French host. Agincourt would be the last great English victory of the long series of conflicts that came to be called, collectively, the Hundred Years' War. Five years after it, Henry V would claim the throne of France itself. Agincourt is also, thanks to William Shakespeare, the medieval battle with the great...
When I published the original Complete Episode of Hattin, I made a mistake: I omitted Part Five from the episode. Here is the corrected version. The newly included part begins at 1:34:57. Profuse apologies, faithful listeners.
Trailer for Episode Four, the Battle of Agincourt, coming in June.The music is L'Homme Armé (The Armed Man), a fifteenth-century French chanson (public domain) and Red by Scott Buckley ( Creative Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported — CC BY 3.0 Music promoted by Audio Library
Hattin-The Complete Episode

Hattin-The Complete Episode


The complete episode of the Battle of Hattin, combining parts one to eight. If you are enjoying this podcast, please rate it wherever you are listening. And I would love to hear from you! If you have any questions, or comments, please write to
After Hattin, the Crusader States lay at Saladin’s mercy. The Muslim warlord swept into the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Cities and castles fell to his armies. On October 2, 1187, he entered Jerusalem. Yet Saladin was unable to seize all of the Franks' ports. The Third Crusade, led by the formidable King Richard the Lionheart of England, was able to enter the Middle East and save the Crusader States from complete conquest. In the century after Hattin, crusading reached its climax. The Crusades would...
After the death of the Leper King Baldwin IV in 1185, the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem fell into turmoil. Two years later, Saladin invaded with a massive army. To face him, Guy de Lusignan, newly crowned king of Jerusalem, mustered every man who could bear arms. On July 4, 1187, the two armies met beneath the Horns of Hattin. At the end of the day, the host of Jerusalem had been wiped out.
An-Nasir Salah ad-Din Yusuf ibn Ayyub—better known in the West as Saladin—would emerge as the greatest of all the Muslim warlords of the Crusades. He began his career as a Kurdish officer in the service of Nur al-Din. In 1169, he seized power in Egypt and overthrew the Fatimid Caliphate. Then, following the fortuitous death of Nur al-Din in 1174, he began the conquest of Syria. In time, he would construct an empire that extended from North Africa to Mesopotamia. He would also become the champ...
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