|Hundred Flowers campaign (1956–1957). A brief renaissance of dissent within China, launched by Mao Zedong and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in part as a way of assessing the meaning for intellectuals and significance for China of Khrushchev’s attack on Stalin in the secret speech, but also as a means of stirring erstwhile revolutionaries who were fast becoming staid bureaucrats, and lastly as a cynical trap to expose those critical of Mao and the party line. (It should be noted that there is some doubt about that later motivation, but also that Mao himself later proclaimed it had moved him to act.) Its slogan was: “Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a thousand schools of thought contend.” Nothing could have been further from Mao’s real intentions or from his temperament as dictator. As long as criticism focused on lower cadres, Mao was content; but when it turned public attention to mistakes of his own leadership (May 1–June 7, 1957), he bristled and acted. Mao joined the CCP hard-liners in calling for an “anti-rightist” campaign. The brief opening to constructive criticism had exposed his “enemies,” and he now ruthlessly uprooted the “hundred flowers” of dissent, which had sprung up in the form of “Democracy Wall” posters, courageous pamphlets, and ersatz newspapers and tossed their authors on China’s prison camp dung heap like so many unwanted weeds. Half a million or more were purged. Loyal ignoramuses from the countryside then took their places. Far from feeling shame over this betrayal, Mao later boasted of his vaunted revolutionary ruthlessness.|
|Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453). The running conflict between Plantagenet England and Capetian France, whose main issue was a contest for control of Normandy. It was underlain by, and also greatly aggravated, the suffering and dislocation of the population and economy of much of Western Europe that attended the Black Death. Its immediate casus belli, on the other hand, were territorial quarrels, English desire to monopolize the Flanders trade, and French intrigues with the Scottish court. In 1339 the Norman King of England, Edward III, crossed the channel with a mercenary army (largely paid for by the Hansa) to prosecute his claim to the French crown. The French avoided battle, and England’s army and allies dwindled. Spectacular English successes were later won against superior numbers with a revolutionary new weapon, the longbow, as at Crécy (1346), where 1,500 French nobles fell compared with 100 English dead. Edward then besieged and took Calais the next year. A major English victory came at Poitiers (1356), where the French king (John the Good) was taken hostage and held for a king’s ransom—and until he signed a favorable peace in 1360. Norman government did not sit well with most French nobles in Gascony, and war soon resumed. By the mid-1370s the French had won back much lost in the forced peace of 1360. All was nearly lost again at Agincourt (1415), where the flower of French chivalry, some 5,000 knights, were killed—1,000 were slaughtered after they surrendered. The French were compelled to recognize the English King, Henry V, as heir to the throne and surrender large provinces to Henry and his Burgundian allies. The French appeared finally defeated. |
Yet, the war ended some 40 years later with England’s near complete expulsion from its historic, Norman holdings on the continent because the French overcame the English longbow with wonder weapons of their own: firearms. French mortars and other artillery bashed down the great Norman castles, and arquebusiers kept English longbow troops at bay on the field of battle. Burgundy changed sides in 1435. The French continued to advance, finally capturing Bordeaux in 1453 and driving the English-Norman army across the Channel, leaving England’s kings in possession of only Calais (to 1558) on the continent. That extraordinary victory was memorialized, and romanticized, in the story of Jeanne D’Arc (c. 1412–1431), the “Maid of Orléans,” who helped raise the English siege of Orléans in 1429 and saw the Dauphin crowned as Charles VII of France. She certainly contributed to the French victory, but it was a feat of arms owing more to a new technology purchased with improved finances and state organization, sustained by royal determination and by a proto form of what centuries later would be called nationalism—which Jeanne D’Arc both tapped and inspired. France’s victory set the stage for the next great dynastic contest in Europe, between Valois and Habsburg. And by destroying the power of the nobility, French and Anglo-Norman, it set France and England on the road to creating national, centralized monarchies many decades ahead of the other powers of Europe. See alsogunpowder revolution;Jacquerie; prohibited weapons; revolution in military affairs.