John Hawkwood: An English Mercenary in Fourteenth-Century Italy / Edition 1

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Overview

John Hawkwood was fourteenth-century Italy's most notorious and successful soldier. A man known for cleverness and daring, he was the most feared mercenary in Renaissance Italy. Born in England, Hawkood began his career in France during the Hundred Years' War and crossed into Italy with the famed White Company in 1361. From that time until his death in 1394, Hawkwood fought throughout the peninsula as a captain of armies in times of war and as a commander of marauding bands during times of peace. He achieved international fame, and his acquaintances included such prominent people as Geoffrey Chaucer, Catherine of Siena, Jean Froissart, and Francis Petrarch. City-states constantly tried to outbid each other for his services, for which he received money, land, and in the case of Florence, citizenship—a most unusual honor for an Englishman. When Hawkwood died, the Florentines buried him with great ceremony in their cathedral, an honor denied their greatest poet, Dante. His final resting place, however, is disputed.

Historian William Caferro's ambitious account of Hawkwood is both a biography and a study of warfare and statecraft. Caferro has mined more than twenty archives in England and Italy, creating an authoritative portrait of Hawkwood as an extraordinary military leader, if not always an admirable human being. Caferro's Hawkwood possessed a talent for dissimulation and craft both on the battlefield and at the negotiating table, and, ironically, managed to gain a reputation for "honesty" while beating his Italian hosts at their own game of duplicity and manipulation.

In addition to a thorough account of Hawkwood's life and career, Caferro's study offers a fundamental reassessment of the Italian military situation and of the mercenary system. Hawkwood's career is treated not in isolation but firmly within the context of Italian society, against the backdrop of unfolding crises: famine, plague, popular unrest, and religious schism. Indeed, Hawkwood's life and career offer a unique vantage point from which we can study the economic, social, and political impacts of war.

Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Renaissance Quarterly - Duane Osheim

Engaging book... Caferro has made sense of the life of a mercenary captain, who during his career influenced diplomacy, altered finances, and changed lives in fourteenth-century Italy.

History - John E. Law

A model of clear writing and an authoritative treatment of the military and political situation in Italy from the 1360s.

Historian - David S. Bachrach

It is... so well written and provides such a gripping account of John Hawkwood and his milieu that it will surely gain a wide audience among general readers as well.

Comitatus - Dane Swango

The depth of Caferro's archival research has established him as Hawkwood's preeminent biographer.

English Historical Review - John Larner

Meets a real need... well researched and clearly presented, an important work for everyone interested in fourteenth-century Italy and medieval war.

Journal of Military History - Niccolò Capponi

Superb biography... Sterling piece of work.

Speculum - John France

This is much more than a biography in the ordinary sense of the word... An excellent contribution to our understanding of both the mercenary phenomenon and the history of Italy in the late fourteenth century.

Renaissance Quarterly
Engaging book... Caferro has made sense of the life of a mercenary captain, who during his career influenced diplomacy, altered finances, and changed lives in fourteenth-century Italy.

— Duane Osheim

History
A model of clear writing and an authoritative treatment of the military and political situation in Italy from the 1360s.

— John E. Law

Historian
It is... so well written and provides such a gripping account of John Hawkwood and his milieu that it will surely gain a wide audience among general readers as well.

— David S. Bachrach

Comitatus
The depth of Caferro's archival research has established him as Hawkwood's preeminent biographer.

— Dane Swango

English Historical Review
Meets a real need... well researched and clearly presented, an important work for everyone interested in fourteenth-century Italy and medieval war.

— John Larner

Journal of Military History
Superb biography... Sterling piece of work.

— Niccolò Capponi

Speculum
This is much more than a biography in the ordinary sense of the word... An excellent contribution to our understanding of both the mercenary phenomenon and the history of Italy in the late fourteenth century.

— John France

NYMAS Review

A useful read for anyone interested in Renaissance Italy, the evolution of the practice of war, and even the interrelationship of art and society.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801883231
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/2006
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 480
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

William Caferro is an associate professor of history at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Siena (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).

Johns Hopkins University Press

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