So, I’m still collating information. This is turning out to be a bigger project than I originally imagined, and I’m probably going to have to get a couple of extra books in order to do this proper justice. I’m still debating about a third book, but I think the journal articles by the author are sufficient in themselves.
Still, I want to put out my basic observations:
- Catalan and Leonese towns were vital parts of the Reconquest from the 11th through to the mid-13th centuries, but had been playing a role since the 9th ( POWERS, JAMES F. “THE ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT OF MUNICIPAL MILITARY SERVICE IN THE LEONESE AND CASTILIAN RECONQUEST, 800–1250.” Traditio, vol. 26, 1970, pp. 91–111. www.jstor.org/stable/27830895.)
- The towns and cities in Transoxania during the 9th and 10th centuries were the primary choice for filling out armies and the rural peasants were only called out during extreme emergencies (Treadwell, Luke ‘Urban militias in the eastern Islamic world (3rd-4th centuries AH/9th-10th centuries CE’, in Late Antiquity: Eastern perspectives, eds. Silverstein and Bernheimer, Gibb Memorial Trust, 2012, 128–144. https://www.academia.edu/28443030/Urban_militias_in_the_eastern_Islamic_world_3rd-4th_centuries_AH_9th-10th_centuries_CE_in_Late_Antiquity_Eastern_perspectives_eds._Silverstein_and_Bernheimer_Gibb_Memorial_Trust_2012_128-144)
- In the 4th and 5th centuries AD there are several cases of city militias defeating “rural” (I prefer “tribal”, and will discuss the important distinction in more depth in my full response) armies, and garrisons recruited from within the towns and cities quickly became town militias in the 8th and 9th centuries. (MAKRYPOULIAS, CHRISTO, Civilians as Combatants in Byzantium, in: Byzantine War Ideology Between Roman Imperial Concept and Christian Religion, eds. J. Koder — I. Stouraitis (Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse, Denkschriften 452). Vienna 2012. https://www.academia.edu/11831454/Civilians_as_Combatants_in_Byzantium_in_Byzantine_War_Ideology_Between_Roman_Imperial_Concept_and_Christian_Religion_eds._J._Koder_-_I._Stouraitis_%C3%96sterreichische_Akademie_der_Wissenschaften_Philosophisch-historische_Klasse_Denkschriften_452_._Vienna_2012)
- Areas where rural revolts were most common and most successful in the Low Countries during the 13th/early 14th century had very high rates of free land ownership and the commons were quite often quite well off. The local lords also tended to have very little power or influence when the revolts occurred. This is important to note, because it means that they’re operating outside of feudal norms. (Van Bavel, Bas, “ Rural revolts and structural change in the Low Countries, thirteenth-early fourteenth centuries”. https://www.academia.edu/1010726/Rural_revolts_and_structural_change_in_the_Low_Countries_thirteenth-early_fourteenth_centuries)
- Edward II made extensive use (or, at least, attempted to) of the larger towns to provide a core of well armoured footsoldiers and crossbowmen, occasionally preferring them to county levies. ( Powicke, M. R. “Edward II and Military Obligation.” Speculum, vol. 31, no. 1, 1956, pp. 92–119. www.jstor.org/stable/2850077.)
- A total of 11000 foot soldiers were required of the counties by Edward III in preparation for his Crecy campaign, and the towns 2000 men (I’ve rounded both to the nearest thousand). With a rural population of 4.56 million and an urban population of 240 000 (5% urbanisation rate), the counties had to provide 0.2% of their population, and the towns 0.8%. Of course, the Welsh counties had a disproportionate portion of the overall force (7000 levied from them vs 3900 from the rest of England), but a good part of this is probably due to their relative security. (Ayton, Andrew, “The English Army of Crecy”, The Battle of Crecy, 1346, Boydell Press, 2005 p181)
- The Byzantine farmer-soldiers were, for cavalry and marines, considerably wealthier than most farmers, and the infantry most likely slightly wealthier than the average farmer, and there was some difficulty in keeping the soldiers from selling their equipment and becoming proper farmers. (TREADGOLD, WARREN T. “The Military Lands and the Imperial Estates in the Middle Byzantine Empire.” Harvard Ukrainian Studies, vol. 7, 1983, pp. 619–631. www.jstor.org/stable/41036121.)
- Your “rural peasants strong, townsmen weak” explanation for the majority of recruits being drawn from the rural populace ignores the fact that not only is this where the majority of the population lives, but it’s also where most of the wealth is initially located. It was their extensive rural estates that allowed medieval lords to keep their retinues as purely fighting men and to supply them with arms and armour.
- My argument has never been that “footsoldiers didn’t matter” but that “non-professional footsoldiers” didn’t play any significant roll in battles for a very long time. Also: note to self. Looking into Viking cavalry and the role it played, as well as the likely composition of viking armies.