This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The main thrust of this book is that age formed an essential part of a person's identity in late medieval Europe. It discusses theories of ageing in a range of medieval literature, demonstrating the tendency to group people together on the basis of age and to employ terms to denote childhood, adolescence, youth, adulthood and old age. It is the case that medieval society may have understood these terms to refer to different chronological ages or reflect different qualities from those understood by modern society. The book also considers the changing opportunities and possibilities for people as they progressed through life. A number of studies have drawn attention to divergences between northern and southern Europe in terms of marriage patterns, family formation, opportunities for women and attitudes towards death and its rituals.
This introduction presents some of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book is an examination of the themes and approaches employed by historians in their discussions of the medieval English peasant, and most particularly in the period from the end of the eleventh to the beginning of the sixteenth century. It offers an overview and assessment of the development of work on medieval peasants since the close of the nineteenth century. Much of the early twentieth-century discussion of the medieval economy was located within and was explained by institutional structures. The book presents a sketch of the key historiographical phases in this area of research and writing. This sketch is also supported by a discussion of a range of possible causes of changes and developments in writing on the medieval English peasantry. The book considers historical reflection upon the term 'peasant' and its appropriateness.
When Simon Walker began researching the retinue of John of Gaunt in 1980, 'bastard feudalism' had been the subject of debate for thirty-five years. He examines Yorkshire under Richard II and Henry IV, looking at the role of the four elements in the commissions: magnates, assize judges, justices of the quorum (local legal practitioners) and local gentry. Two principal conclusions emerged about political culture below the level of the literate political class: first, its ambivalence revealed a measure of sophistication and subtlety; and secondly, it broadly connected with the issues of high politics. Walker used case studies to build up a picture of collective mentalities among different social grades and vocational worlds. It was a challenging approach, for it meant working against the grain of the central sources, displaying sensitivity to other incidental evidence, and using conjecture and imagination with the utmost discipline.
Janet nelson was born in 1942 and grew up in Blackpool, Lancashire. After graduation she proceeded directly to postgraduate research under Professor Walter Ullmann, completing a PhD in 1967. Her thesis title was 'Rituals of Royal Inauguration in Early Medieval Europe. The research gave her an understanding of the political resonance of the liturgy in the early Middle Ages and a thorough grounding in that intellectually rigorous scholarship which is the hallmark of her work. Janet Nelson's concern with how ideology, ritual and political thought might be combined in practical action, and with how individuals made choices according to needs and opportunities, led her to work on the reign of Charles the Bald, a figure rather in need of historical rehabilitation. The result was a model of political history that set the pace for a series of studies that rethought the history of the later Carolingians.
When Richard II, disguised as a priest, arrived at Conway castle in August 1399 the army he had brought back from Ireland had dwindled to a band of about fifteen companions. Among those who accompanied him were three commoners: Sir Stephen Scrope, under-chamberlain of the household; William Ferriby, the king's notary; and an esquire of the household, Janico Dartasso. Janico's own identity as a Basque, a people without a territory, and his early experience of Navarre, where a fluid ethnic mix of servants gathered around the French-born ruler of a multiple kingdom, inclined him towards a looser pattern of lordship. He sought to maintain the integrity of his lands on the western edge of English rule by expedients that used to the full his cosmopolitan contacts and experience: frequent trips to the English mainland; military service in France; commercial ventures to Aquitaine; a projected marriage into the Scottish aristocracy.
The Jewish society that lived amongst the Christian population in medieval Europe presents a puzzle and a challenge to any historian. This book presents a study on the relationship between men and women within the Jewish society that lived among the Christian population for a period of some 350 years. The study concentrates on Germany, northern France and England from the middle of the tenth century until the middle of the second half of the fourteenth century - by which time the Christian population has had enough of the Jewish communities living among them and expels them from almost all the places they were living in. The picture portrayed by Mishnaic and talmudic literature was that basically women lived under the authority of someone else (their fathers or husbands), therefore, their status was different from that of men. Four paradigms were the outcome of research blending questions raised within the spheres of gender research and feminist theory with the research methodology of social history. These were Rashi and the 'family paradigm'; the negative male paradigm; the Hasidic paradigm; and the community paradigm. The highest level of Jewish religious expression is the performance of the mitzvot - the divine Commandments. Women were not required to perform all the Commandments, yet their desire to perform and fully experience the mitzvot extended to almost all areas of halakhah. The book also describes how the sages attempted to dictate to women the manner of their observance of mitzvot set aside for women alone.
In societies which constructed social relationships so predominantly in kin terms, it was inevitable that the processes of peace-keeping, dispute resolution and the maintenance of social order should be grounded in a measure in the community of kinsmen. Kinsmen and neighbours might often be the same, as the details of the boundary evidence in deed collections sometimes make clear. In the world of agnatic lineages that meant that many neighbours were a fortiori not kinsmen. But neighbours they remained, and cooperation between neighbours was an economic necessity, not a theoretical aspiration, for the vast majority of medieval communities, those of the western British Isles included. The western British Isles, and Wales in particular, provide ample evidence to support Susan Reynolds's general claim of 'the strength and character of the medieval drive to association'.
This chapter explores the appropriateness of distinguishing sharply between lay (or secular and temporal) and clerical (or ecclesiastical) as it attempts to comprehend the ideas and activities of the people of medieval and early modern Europe. With historians of sixteenth-century France and Victorian England emphasising the dangers of drawing neat distinctions between lay and ecclesiastical and between the sacred and the secular, it considers the possibility that historians of the Middle Ages should also eschew such divisions. In examining this issue the chapter first considers Susan Reynolds's own approach to lay activity and ideas, and turns to Joseph R. Strayer's hypotheses concerning the laicisation of society and government in the Middle Ages. It also offers the author's own appraisal of the relationship between lay and ecclesiastical, church and state, and secular and sacred, focusing on the reign of Philip the Fair.
An inquiry into the decline of pilgrimages and crusading
Charles T. Wood
This chapter starts with an inquiry into the role played by language in the declining fortunes of pilgrimages and crusades. To begin with 'A Pilgrimage for Religion's Sake' is to start with a tale in which religious ideals are expressed in a language that may help readers better to understand the incipient decline of pilgrimages as a form of lay solidarity. It is true that Erasmus was a man who sought to reform current religious practice by subjecting it to satirical review, the laughter-inducing specifics of which were intended to encourage other Christians to mend their ways. And within this context relics had obvious potential in so far as almost every religious foundation owned not a few of them, some of which could, in the hands of the right author, be made to appear ridiculous.
This book is dedicated to Susan Reynolds and celebrates the work of a scholar whose views have been central to reappraisals of the position of the laity in the Middle Ages. The themes and concerns include a medieval world in which the activity and attitudes of the laity are not obscured by ideas expressed more systematically in theoretical treatises by ecclesiastics; a world in which lay collective action and thought take centre stage. Reynolds has written her own Middle Ages, especially in her innovative book Kingdoms and Communities whose influence can be seen in so many of the essays. Collectivities, solidarities and collective action are everywhere in these essays, as Reynolds has shown us to expect them to be. Collective action was carried out often in pursuit of social peace, but it existed precisely because there was discord. Of the narratives and interpretative frameworks with which Reynolds's work has been concerned, the book has least to say directly on the debate over feudalism. The book engages many of the themes of Reynolds's work and pursues some of the issues which are prominent in re-examinations of the medieval world and in studies of the medieval laity. It discusses secular aristocratic attitudes towards judicial combat within the broader setting of fictional 'treason trials' of the later twelfth century. Although kinship did not start out as an explicit and overt theme of the book, it emerges as a leitmotiv, perhaps in part because when feudalism is removed, kinship is thrown into sharper relief.