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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

In the early fourteenth century, Flanders was the industrial heart of Europe, based in large part upon its manufacture of cloth. To meet the demands for its products, the manufacturers of Flanders had to import English fleece. The English Crown in turn became dependent upon this source of foreign revenue. This set poorly with the French, for in the not too distant past the nobility of Flanders had been vassals to the French King. Much like Vladimir Putin’s machinations in the Ukraine, the French worked to undermine the English position, supporting the landed nobility in their efforts to rein in the manufactures—those with no nobility whose economic engine was loosening the feudal ties the landed nobility depended upon for their economic well-being. A civil war caused by two different economic systems, manufacturing versus the feudal land system, soon engulfed Flanders. Here is the center of gravity for understanding the Hundred Years’ War. Although England’s King Henry III relinquished his control of the French territories in 1259, there were still English settlers there. Dealing with them was a source of friction between France and England, giving England an excuse for intervention, much as the Tsar and Soviets used for the pretext of invasions to protect ethnic Russians elsewhere.

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