4.5 100 Years War: Conclusion

In 1453, following England's defeat the English abandoned any further thoughts of conquering more territory on the continent. Instead, England changed its tactics. They began to place a greater emphasis on establishing their naval supremacy; and by creating a strong navy they eventually accomplished the following:

1). England has not been successfully invaded since 1453. The Spanish tried in the 16th Century, the French under Napoleon tried in the 18th Century but failed; and Hitler's Nazi Germany was prevented from doing so in the 1940s.

2). England used its navy to eventually build the largest empire in the history of world.


There were great advances in military technology and science during the Hundred Years' War. In particular, ranged weapons like the long bow, cannon and rifle, etc. significantly reduced the military value of the feudal knight. Knights of course existed for many years following France's defeat of England; but the glory days of the heavily-armored mounted knight was defintely a thing of the past.

Also, kings moved away from the idea of feudal armies (with vassals fulfilling military service) and instead embraced the idea of establishing professional standing armies. Standing armies, unlike a feudal army, are permanent armies like what countries have today. Soldiers in a standing army are paid a wage and loyal only to the government (not to a lord). Standing armies meant kings no longer had to rely on feudal loyalties to protect their kingdom; moreover, since kings possessed all of the military power he himself became the sole and only power in his kingdom. The centralization of power around the king was the final death blow to feudalism. Kings came to be called absolute monarchs (their power being absolute and unquestionable).

Eventually kingdoms disappeared replaced by the more modern idea of the nation state. In the early days of the nation state, kings didn't share any decision-making power. Instead, they ruled as absolute monarchs and possessed all authority; however, kings didn't always rule well. Sometimes they were selfish and treated their kingdoms as personal playthings. For instance, King Louis XIV of France heavily taxed his people in order to pay for his personal palace at Versailles. Moreover, kings often forced their subjects into fighting unpopular, expensive and un-necessary wars.

Although feudalism virtually disappeared in Western Europe by the 16th Century, the nobility continued to exist. The nobles played an important role in England in a special assembly called Parliament. The nobles forced the king to accept certain limitations to his power in 1689; they forced the English king to accept limits to his power by signing into the law the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights outlined the need for the king to consult with Parliament whenever he wanted to raise taxes or declare war. If a king wanted to rule, he had to have the confidence of the members of Parliament. Eventually, Parliament incorporated people belonging to England's middle-class. Parliament was broken into two houses (the Senate and the House of Commons); the Senate was dominated by the nobility while the House of Commons was occupied by members of England's middle and lower classes. In this new relationship, the king ruled but wasn't sovereign; instead, the constitution was sovereign and the rule of law was the basis of authority in England.

Parliaments today are assemblies where politicians debate government policy. The ultimate purpose of a parliament is to create and debate new laws. New laws are needed because society changes over time. Only wealthy people belonged to Parliament when it was first created by William the Conqueror. However, in the 21st century anyone can be a member of this assembly in England if they are elected during an election.

Constitutions are documents effectively limting the monarch's power (like the Magna Carta). These documents accomplish this by taking some of the king's power and investing that power into the document itself. The creation of constitutions (or the rule of law) was an important step in the development of democracy; this is because for democracy to exist decision-making must be shared among all the people; power cannot be monopolized by any single ruler or group. Also, legal standards and legal decisions must follow clear guidelines and rules. You cannot just make the law up as you go along. This is another reason why constitutions are so important: the roles and responsibilities of governments and the people are outlined for all to see. Everyone knows what's legal and illegal; there is no guesswork. For authority to be legitimate laws must be agreed upon by everyone affected; also, the people affected by laws must be involved in the creation of new laws. When people are involved in the decision-making process (as in a democracy) they accept the laws and decisions of their government as legitimate.