Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Saturday 7 October 2023

Military and financial resources of Europe in 1423

Medievalists.net has an article based on what appears to be a Venetian survey of the military and financial resources of the various European kingdoms and states, as well as some in the Near East, which dated from the 1420s. Probably for editorial reasons the current article opts for 1423; the early twentieth century edition it relies upon, and links to, is more cautious in merely assigning it to the 1420s.

The collection of such statistics ( and of course we all know the truth of “lies, damned lies and statistics” ) does look today like an anticipation of modern UN and OECD surveys and such like. Given its Venetian provenance it is probably as good an assessment as anyone could make at the time.

Concerned as it is with military resources and revenues with only glancing references in some cases to other factors in the life of the territories it refers to there is nothing in the report itself really to link to factors such as the English ascendancy in France, the crisis around Hussite Bohemia, the exacerbated tensions between the Teutonic Knights and Poland-Lithuania, the ever increasing threat posed by the Ottoman Turks in south-eastern Europe, the continuing tensions between the Italian states or the beginnings of Portuguese expansion into the Atlantic and Africa. Nonetheless what this survey does provide is an overview of the military and financial resources that lay behind those and so many other facets of fifteenth century life.

The Medievalists.net article, which has a link to its textual source, can be accessed at The Power of Medieval States – A Report from 1423

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