What impact did the Hundred Years' War have on Western Europe?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Hundred Years' War, which lasted from 1337-1453, was a fight between England and France over who would become the King of France after the death of Charles IV in 1328. Both the British, under Edward III, and the French, who chose Philip VI, laid claim to the throne. While France had a much larger population, the English had a strong central government and were willing to back Edward in his quest to control France. Edward invaded France in 1345, and the British were at first successful at battles such as the Battle of Poitiers in 1356.

Over time, the English were unable to maintain fighting because of the expense of the war, which resulted in civil disruptions such as the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. The British fought again under Henry V, and his marriage to Katherine, a French princess, resulted in peace around 1415 that was again broken when he died in 1422. Eventually, the French were victorious.

One of the results of the war was that the French began to develop a sense of nationalism. They eventually united behind their king and became a nation state rather than a collection of feudal territories. The French developed a feeing of pride embodied by Joan of Arc, a French peasant girl who gained control of the French Army, inspired by what she described as visions from God, until she was captured and burned by the English. Another result of the war was that England gave up trying to capture continental Europe and instead became a naval power, with its supremacy built on control of the seas. Finally, the war showed the futility of feudal warfare, and countries turned to professional armies instead of relying on knights.