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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

War records of 250,000 medieval soldiers go online

The service records of medieval soldiers have been made available in a new online database.

The website contains 250,000 service records of soldiers who fought in the Hundred Years War between 1369 and 1453.

It includes the names of archers who served with Henry V at Agincourt, meaning you could see if any of your relatives helped rout the French in the famous 1415 battle.

The Medieval Soldier Database contains full profiles of individual soldiers, with muster roll evidence allowing researchers to piece together details of soldiers’ lives.

Dr Adrian Bell of the University of Reading, who undertook the research project with Professor Anne Curry of the University of Southampton, said: ‘The service records survive because the English exchequer had a very modern obsession with wanting to be sure that the government’s money was being spent as intended.

‘Therefore we have the remarkable survival of indentures for service detailing the forces to be raised, muster rolls showing this service and naming every soldier from duke to archer.

"There are accounts from the captains demonstrating how the money had been spent, and entries showing when the exchequer made the requested payments.’

The database, which shows which campaigns soldiers fought in, and other details including what they were paid, how often they were off work sick, who rode the furthest and who was knighted.

The youngest soldier on the records is Thomas, Lord Despencer, whose career began when he was 12 years old in 1385.

Thomas Gloucestre, who fought at Agincourt, is also included on the database, and his career can be traced over 43 years and includes campaigns in Prussia and Jerusalem.

The records also show that social mobility was possible, as in the case of Robert de Fishlake, who enlisted at the age of 16 in 1378 and progressed from being an archer to a man-at-arms.

The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Use the database free at