This chapter explores the ways in which historians have engaged with the peasantry chiefly as tenants, and especially in terms of the relationship between lord and peasant-tenants. This concentration on lord-tenant relations has sometimes narrowed the historical focus to dwell upon sub-sets of the peasantry. An original intention of historical discussion of rent was to chart the development of serfdom, with a view to exploring the origins of servility in medieval England. Rodney Hilton suggests that evidence for class-consciousness amongst the medieval peasantry can be detected in their resistance and their claims against their lords. Hilton in particular, and Robert Brenner as a later contributor, were both engaged in what has been referred to as the 'transition debate', a longstanding discussion of the processes that explain change in the European economy and which sought to identify a primacy of causes for that change.
Evidence suggests that Mandeville's Travels was written between 1351 (the date of completion of Jean Le Long's translations) and March 1357 (the date of the signing of the treaty between England and France after the battle of Poitiers). This chapter presents a summary of the evidence concerning the dissemination and readership of Mandeville's Travels in England before the appearance of Pynson's print c. 1496. Mandeville's Travels, written while hostilities still plagued the countryside, was sent to Paris, the major book-producing centre of Europe, possibly by the author anonymously very early on, and by c 1360 was part of the staple of the Parisian stationers. Three other Latin manuscripts of Travels are recorded in the book- lists of the Cluniac priory of Monks Bretton, Yorkshire, the Premonstratensian house at Titchfield, Hampshire, and the Augustinian abbey at Leicester. The chapter shows that Travels was known and read by gentry and clergy alike.
In the search for Sir John Mandeville that occupies Giles Milton's The Riddle and the Knight (1996), Milton identifies a range of connections and differences between the 'religions of the book' (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) with the intention of indicating Christian legitimacy in opposition to misguided Islam and demonised Judaism. Regardless of the nature of Mandeville's reflections, there is no doubt that his presentation of Islam was hugely influential. Milton chooses not to refer to Mandeville's depiction of the Prophet Muhammad; this is the focus of this chapter. The chapter considers the source for a small part of The Travels. It is concerned with the uneven character of Mandeville's conception of Islam and Muhammad. The portrayal of Islam in Mandeville's Travels appears ambivalent - the emphasis upon religious common ground between Islam and Christianity does not demonise with the same polemic found in many contemporary texts.
This chapter presents two main objectives: to show that texts modelled upon the Mandevillian mode were not only published and read in early modern England, and they were fascinatingly excluded from the collections of travellers' tales. Balanced against those are two perhaps equally intriguing silences: about the motivations that spurred writers as well as publishers, and about whether or not readers could make distinctions between volumes of the kind categorised as 'Mandevillian' and those based upon actual travels. While early modern tellers of tales might be excused because they could not distinguish between camel meat and beef, no such qualification can be made for those recent and current critics, because attempts at separating travels from 'travel lies' simply highlight the questionable ideological mainstays that underpin their literary and critical foundations. People should celebrate the intellectual skills of the forgers of these texts that continue to have a Mandevillian afterlife.
The well- travelled tyrant and some of his unchecked baggage
Over the last ten years or so, a culture of war has returned to prominence in English- speaking societies, and war has broken out again as a favoured topic in the criticism of early modern English drama. This chapter recalls that the discourse of early modern (if not modern) warfare almost invariably turns on a religious axis at bottom, the rhetoric of crusade on the paradoxical premise that the exercise of power over life and death is human practice but divine prerogative. The Catholic 'tyrants' and Tamburlaine's hegemony that extends to the feminine sphere in and through Zenocrate, are discussed. The chapter proposes that perhaps the most culturally prominent instance of a combined metaphysical and military narrative, the biblical encounter between the Jewish heroine Judith and the Assyrian general Holofernes, hovers in the background of Marlowe's Tamburlaine plays.
This book is intended as both a history of judicial developments in the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and as a contribution to the intellectual
history of the period. The dates 1215 and 1381 mark significant turning points
in English history. The product of legal culture and experiences, 'legal
consciousness' can be seen both as an active element shaping people's
values, beliefs and aspirations and also as a passive agent providing a reserve
of knowledge, memory and reflective thought, influencing not simply the
development of the law and legal system, but also political attitudes. Focusing
on the different contexts of law and legal relations, the book aims to shift the
traditional conceptual boundaries of 'law', portraying both the
law's inherent diversity and its multi-dimensional character. By offering a
re-conceptualisation of the role of the law in medieval England, the book aims
to engage the reader in new ways of thinking about the political events
occurring during these centuries. It considers the long-term effects of civil
lawyer, Master John Appleby's encounter with forces questioning royal
government and provides a new explanation for the dangerous state of affairs
faced by the boy-king during the Peasants' Revolt over a century and a half
later. The book puts forward the view that the years subsequent to the signing
of Magna Carta yielded a new (and shifting) perspective, both in terms of
prevailing concepts of 'law' and 'justice' and with regard
to political life in general.
This chapter outlines some of the major medieval discourses about sexual difference which inform Chaucer's depiction of women in the Canterbury Tales, in particular, the tendency of medieval writers to polarise their views of women, condemning them to the pit or elevating them to the pedestal. It asks whether any of these views can be equated with Chaucer's own position by examining the Wife of Bath's rejection of the pedestal. It explores the alternative to both the pit and the pedestal offered in the 'Tale of Melibee' and the 'Parson's Tale'. It is possible and legitimate for modern critics to argue that Chaucer intended peple to interpret the Wife as a corroboration of misogynist attitudes. It would be wrong to portray medieval views of women as universally or straight forwardly misogynist or to see the idealisation of women as the only medieval alternative to such misogyny.
Critics who consider the social meaning of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales fall into two main schools: those who present his social thought as an expression of the dominant spirit or ideology of his day and those who see Chaucer as possessing a more heterodox voice. This chapter attempts to put the case for each of these views, examining them in terms of Mikhail Bakhtin's distinction between the conservative monologic work and the more subversive, dialogic text, before an assessment of their relative merits. It is possible to reconcile the apparently contradictory 'monologic' and 'dialogic' interpretations of the Canterbury Tales. If the Canterbury Tales left itself open to being read as a dialogic work by modern critics, it could be argued that, given medieval notions of the purposes of literature, such a reading was far removed from that of Chaucer himself and hardly available to readers in Chaucer's own day.
As an index of taste and privilege, music may be seen as a vehicle to express ideas of territory, status and hegemony to society at large. This chapter discusses the issue of where and when gentry members may have gone beyond the role of providing resources for musical provision and crossed over to become performers of musical works themselves. Music in fifteenth-century England appears to have been essentially a contingent aspect of daily life for the majority of members of the gentry, and much of its 'meaning' is dependent upon being fleshed out by context. The music education of Thomas Marchall may reflect older patterns of household service or it may tie in with an educational trend identified separately by both Nicholas Orme and Moran Cruz. The routes to music education for the gentry at least in fifteenth-century England appear, however, rather more traditional.
This part introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The part considers the ways in which the historical study of the medieval English peasantry has, after its first stirrings, tended to be confined within three broad themes. These main themes have become associated with a more all-encompassing discussion of change in the medieval economy. So, historians have tended to see the economy as driven by one of or a combination of the following 'supermodels': population movement and its determining factors, the demands and constraints of the seigneurial economy and of resistance to the same, and the development of commerce and the market. The part suggests that a population-driven model, associated especially with the writing of M.M. Postan, was highly influential in the third quarter of the twentieth century but lost significant ground to a more 'commercial model' during the 1980s.