French Peasants in the Hundred Years War
The Hundred Years War was fought on French soil. What effects did this have on the lives of the rural French communities?
There is a memorable scene in Emile Zola's La Terre in which a Bonapartist propaganda leaflet entitled The Misfortunes and Triumph of Jacques Bonhomme is read to a hushed audience of peasants assembled on a winter's evening in the Fouan's cow-shed. The leaflet highlights the contrast between the peasants' condition in the post-revolutionary era and that which preceded it, with the Middle Ages coming in for a particularly heavy blast: when feudal wars were responsible for the burning of their cottages, the destruction of their crops, and their own capture as part of the loot, and when companies of freebooters left nothing but wasteland and death in their wake. 'These were centuries of blood, centuries during which our flatlands, as they were called, resounded with one single, massive cry of pain, of raped women, battered children and hanged men.' 'Though towns might hold out, thanks to their walls, the villages were swept away in this mad hurricane of massacre which blew from one end of the century to the next.'
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