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June 25, 2015
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v2.1 Reference

John Hawkwood

An English Mercenary in Fourteenth-Century Italy

Winner, 2008 Otto Gründler Book Prize, The Medieval Institute

Notorious for his cleverness and daring, John Hawkwood was the most feared mercenary in early Renaissance Italy. Born in England, Hawkwood began his career in France during the Hundred Years' War and crossed into Italy with the famed White Company in 1361. From that time until his death in 1394, Hawkwood fought throughout the peninsula as a captain of armies in times of war and as a commander of marauding bands during times of peace. He achieved international fame, and city-states constantly tried to outbid each other for his services, for which he received money, land, and, in the case of Florence, citizenship—a most unusual honor for an Englishman. When Hawkwood died, the Florentines buried him with great ceremony in their cathedral, an honor denied their greatest poet, Dante.

William Caferro's ambitious account of Hawkwood is both a biography and a study of warfare and statecraft. Caferro has mined more than twenty archives in Britain and Italy, creating an authoritative portrait of Hawkwood as an extraordinary military leader, if not always an admirable human being.

About the Author

William Caferro, the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt professor of history at Vanderbilt University, is the author of Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Siena and Contesting the Renaissance and the coauthor of The Spinelli of Florence: Fortunes of a Renaissance Merchant Family.


This is much more than a biography in the ordinary sense of the word... An excellent contribution to our understanding of both the mercenary phenomenon and the history of Italy in the late fourteenth century.

- Speculum

Engaging book... Caferro has made sense of the life of a mercenary captain, who during his career influenced diplomacy, altered finances, and changed lives in fourteenth-century Italy.

- Duane Osheim - Renaissance Quarterly

A model of clear writing and an authoritative treatment of the military and political situation in Italy from the 1360s.

- John E. Law - History

It is... so well written and provides such a gripping account of John Hawkwood and his milieu that it will surely gain a wide audience among general readers as well.

- David S. Bachrach - Historian

The depth of Caferro's archival research has established him as Hawkwood's preeminent biographer.

- Dane Swango - Comitatus

Meets a real need... well researched and clearly presented, an important work for everyone interested in fourteenth-century Italy and medieval war.

- John Larner - English Historical Review

Superb biography... Sterling piece of work.

- Niccolò Capponi - Journal of Military History

A useful read for anyone interested in Renaissance Italy, the evolution of the practice of war, and even the interrelationship of art and society.

- NYMAS Review


Caferro's archival research in England and throughout northern and central Italy has given us a firm historical picture of a mercenary who during his lifetime was already becoming the stuff of legend. Unlike King Arthur and Robin Hood, Hawkwood was a historical figure about whom there was a great deal that really could be discovered, and Caferro has done the discovering. This is a readable book that is broadly informative about warfare and its techniques immediately after the Hundred Years' War and an outstanding work of scholarship.

- William J. Connell, Seton Hall University
Johns Hopkins University Press
From 17

9781421418414 : john-hawkwood-caferro
Paperback / softback
480 Pages
$34.95 USD

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Mercenary Companies and the Decline of Siena

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