Tag Archives: Edward II

Medieval, Military, and History News of Interest…

As 2012 draws to a close, there are so many items to blog, and so little time…

To begin, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the passing of Norman Schwarzkopf, who was a larger-than-life figure from my childhood. And while there are many conflicting opinions regarding what his actual role and effectiveness was in planning and executing the campaign in 1990-1991, I think that, on balance, as the commander of a complex coalition one couldn’t have asked for much more from a general. With that in mind, here’s an WP article on his passing, a round-up of reactions to him, a thoughtful article about the larger legacy of the Gulf War to untreated veterans (read this!), and a very short PBS obituary. RIP, General.

Here’s a roundup of some links and stories that have caught my eye in the last month or so–enjoy!

Happy New Year!

Random news you can use: Iraqi WMDs, Caravaggio, American Digger, Edward II…

I haven’t done a “random news” post in a while, so here’s a round up some items that have caught my eye in the last few days.  Some are links originally posted by friends on Facebook, others are more random.

First–I grew up reading H. E. Marshall’s An Island Story and An Empire Story, and was pleasantly surprised to run across this version she did of Guy of Warwick (I gave a paper on aspects of the story over the weekend, so I have the tale very much on the brain).  Great fun, and worth reading.  See the TEAMS edition of the Stanzaic Guy of Warwick for more information on the tale itself and a good edition of the text by a leading scholar on the subject.

In more serious vein, apparently the chap responsible for concocting the story about WMDs in Iraq is coming out and “telling all.”  Or just did, the other night, on national British TV.  Sort-of boggles the mind, really, but on the other hand I guess this kind of…crap…has been going on for ages.  Not much else to say, really.

Random historical news: Renaissance painter Caravaggio was murdered by the Knights of St. John, according to a new study by Professor Vincenzo Pacelli of the University of Naples.  Not everyone is buying the theory, but it’s pretty intriguing, and rests on some suggestive evidence.  A couple weeks ago, Michael White posted a rumination the origins of Parliament in The Guardian.  Rather a nifty summary, and I appreciated especially the way he emphasized how easily English political institutions could have developed differently.  Oh, and did you know that Handel wrote an opera on Richard the Lionheart?  Performed in 1727; apparently it has to be seen to be believed, and it WAS seen–front and center in the London Handel Festival. I don’t think I’ll be rushing to get the DVD any time soon…

Continue reading Random news you can use: Iraqi WMDs, Caravaggio, American Digger, Edward II…

Frederick II’s Arabic Crusader Inscription and other medieval news

Saw this news item from my friends at Medievalists.net, and oh boy this is exciting!!  We’re all familiar (or should be) with Emperor Frederick II’s reputation as a multi-lingual man of affairs (though Heng’s description of him as a “Mozarabic emperor” is verrrry…hyperbolic, let’s say).   As a person and a ruler, he elicited wildly varying reactions during his own time, and these have continued to our own times.  Ibn Al-Jawzi thought him a shallow, clever materialist, and physically not a very imposing specimen–“had he been a slave, he would not have been worth two hundred dihram.”  Certainly not his grandfather’s martial image, that’s for sure.  The defining modern study of Frederick, Kantorowicz’s massive volume, portrayed him as an urbane visionary centuries ahead of his time–the “great man” whose dreams were frustrated by fate and malevolent forces.  David Abulafia’s revisionist biography tries so hard to portray Frederick as typical of his times that you start to wonder how he caused such a stir at all–in other words, if he was that typical of a medieval ruler, how did all that trouble with the Papacy, the Italian cities, and even his own German kingdom come about?   The best  biography to date is Wolfgang Sturner’s brilliant 2-volume study, Friedrich II, but unfortunately for many of you (including my students) it’s only in German, so until I translate it you’ll have to wait.

Ah, the exciting news item!   Continue reading Frederick II’s Arabic Crusader Inscription and other medieval news

Kalamazoo 2011 Round-up: The Year of Manzikurt, Madden, and Mandeville, Part 1.

The title kind of sums up my somewhat vague impressions of the ‘Zoo this year: John Haldon’s De Re Militari address on the logistics of Manzikurt, 1071, the SSCLE dinner hosted by Tom Madden on Friday, and three very interesting papers on Mandeville on Sunday morning.   Now, some of you might think that this vagueness was induced by the over-consumption of the beverages available at Kalamazoo, but you would be very wrong.  In fact, I was ill nearly the whole time.

What a bummer.  I thought it was allergies, starting the day before Megan and I left, and it turned into a relentless, debilitating…something, I don’t really know what it was, through which I still managed two morning workouts, as well as sessions, dinners, my own presentation, and numerous conversations of which I remember quite a bit.  And the dance–actually, the dance was fun, and my cure.  Note: next time you’re under the weather, drink a lot of red wine for the tannins, and then do a dance marathon.

Speaking of weather, can’t medievalists get just a BIT of love, for crying out loud???  Two days of sweltering heat and humidity, followed by a roller-coaster drop in temperatures, near-freezing rain, and high winds.  The drive to and from was one of the worst in my five years of going there…Not to mention all that wonderful construction in Ohio.

As for the conference itself.  Meg and I arrived around 6 p.m. on Wednesday, met up with our brave fellow-travelers Chris, Peter, Sam, Seb, and Seb’s friend Courtney, and had the obligatory dinner at Bilbo’s.  Good grub, and not too pricey. Met up with our friend Ryan, whom we hadn’t seen for some time; saw Bernard Bachrach arrive as we were leaving. Considering the topic of his paper the next day, it’s…reassuring…to think of Dr. Bachrach going to a place called “Bilbo’s” for a bite to eat. You’ll understand in the next paragraph or two.  Afterward, I stayed up for a while working on my paper. Yes, yes, it wasn’t done yet. So sue me.  I wasn’t alone, I assure you!!!

Thursday: I started off hearing my friend PeterSposato‘s talk entitled “Debating Knightly Courage: Martial Bravery and Prudence (Mesure) in the Depictions of Mercenaries during the Florentine-Visconti War (1390–1392)”–yeah, that’s a mouthful. I’ve razzed him about that in the past. Apparently it went over very well, as he got a lot of interested questions afterward–I left after his paper, as I was trying to make it over to Bernhard 208 to catch Bernard Bachrach’s paper “Was the Song of Roland a Military Satire?”  I’ve always been interested in Italian chivalry and historiography, as it shows up as nearly-empty spot in my bibliographic surveys of chivalry. The reason for that is largely due to a long-standing and interlocking series of scholarly attitudes on the non-importance of “chivalry” per se in Italy, and is a trend that Peter is devoting a lot of energy combating. Thus the thrust of his paper–that the chivalric discussions we see elsewhere in Europe were happening in Italy as well.  Excellent as always.

As for the De Re Militari session, well, that got moved around a bit, as one person couldn’t make it at all, and David Bachrach was lost in a plane somewhere between Cincinnatti, Detroit, and one other city. So I missed Bernard Bachrach’s paper, since he wound up going first, and had to gather the gist of it from the Q&A session, and from the summary posted by Peter and Sandra on Medievalists.net. In many points, I think Dr. Bachrach is right–knights at the time would have recognized all the mistakes Roland was making; but that’s what Oliver is for, after all. The interesting point, I would think, is that they love Roland anyway–he’s still the hero. That says something about knightly mentality. Now, his other idea, that the Anglo-Norman version was written as a mocking response to the French adulation of their hero, is interesting, but I’m not sure how the different manuscript versions portray Roland.  John France voiced the opinion, and I almost-quote, “Romance and Chanson de geste bears as much relation to warfare as CSI does to police work.” I guess there’s an element of truth in that, though it’s been shown that Willehalm, for example, is pretty savvy  in it’s portrayal of battlefield tactics. BUT, anyway, it was interesting, as it returns to that vexed question, ‘how would these chaps have interpreted chivalric literature?’

A couple other great papers as well–Rob Howell gave another fascinating paper on 1oth-century Shropshire and the defense issues facing Aethelflaed and Aethelred in Mercia. He’s a really bright chap, and is managing to challenge  a lot of earlier assumptions about strategy, mobilization, manpower, and general policy by carefully comparing the size of forts with the patterns of devastation and analysis of what exactly the Mercian rulers were protecting. His conclusion in this case is that, if you look carefully, you can see that Aethelflaed had decided to sacrifice western Shropshire, which was to exposed to be defended from Welsh raids, and concentrate instead on protecting the communications routes to Cheshire and the economic heartland of Shropshire.   And, lastly, Kelly DeVries gave his paper in this session, and discussed a rare sarcophagus he’d come across in Istanbul. It was a husband-wife sarcophagus, and on the side it depicted the wife’s household items, and the husband’s arms and armor–something very rare in the Late Antique period, which is when Kelly thinks this probably was made, i.e., not Byzantine, as the museum notice said. But more information on the depiction, the inscription, and the implications of the type of armor and weapons portrayed, remain elusive.

For the 1:30 session, I attended #88, the next De Re panel, which consisted in a series of interesting presentations by Steve Walton, Valerie Eads, Benjamin Michaudel, and Mark Geldof.

  • Steve was discussing a series of iconographic displays of armor in a series of Spanish churches and monasteries, the central feature of which seems to have been some kind of mail covering across the face–whether an aventail, or some kind of balaclava. But there were numerous other features as well, and while one could trace the development and complexity of armor over time–which seems to be the case–the real question is, how does it arrive at these sites iconographically?  Steve’s assessment was that these depictions seem to move across the military border, from west to east if I’m remembering correctly, culminating most spectacularly at the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos.
  • Valerie Eads’ paper dealt with the old chestnut of whether or not there was a systematic “Appenine Defense System” among Matilda’s castles in Tuscany, and the interesting thing she discovered was that most of these castles do not communicate through line of sight. That’s rather unusual, one would think, but some castles can’t see each other, and others that can see each other are frequently blinded by thick fog. This would explain some of the details of Henry IV’s route to Canossa, as he was able to slip past patrols and circumvent castle garrisons with comparative ease. But, there’s a lot more technical work to be done.
  • Benjamin Michaudel’s paper compared Ayyubid and Mamluk siege techniques, with one case from 1188 and the other from…1289, I think. Saladin wound up taking Burzagh Castle through a diversion, which allowed a small party to scale the opposite wall unseen; the bombardment apparently wasn’t effective. The Mamluk assault on the Hospitallers’ headquarters at Marqab, on the other hand, saw an extensive artillery duel, with trebuchets on both sides engaging with each other, until the Hospitallers’ machines were destroyed. BUT, that wasn’t the point–the mines were the real attack, and that’s what brought the wall down. Not exactly what we tend to focus on in crusader-era siege warfare…
  • Lastly, Mark Geldof gave a fascinating paper on a Middle English fight text, BL Additional 39564. Unlike the German and Italian treatises, surviving English fight texts often don’t involve an opponent–they list a series of cuts and strikes, and only occasionally delve into situational tactics. This manuscript uses “parataxical” structure, in that one move follows the next move without a break, and I remember a paper from last year which suggested that we have a window here into how one would actually practice these martial arts when alone–something akin to kata, in essence. Mark pointed to similarities between the forms used here and contemporary dance instruction forms, and the potential these parallel texts have for helping us unlock terms which, taken by themselves in the fight texts, would remain obscure.

The afternoon concluded with the De Re Militari Annual Lecture, delivered by the revered John Haldon, titled “Medieval Logistics and Byzantium: The Case of Manzikurt (1071).”  I hadn’t realized that he was dealing with the digital Manizkurt logistics project cosponsored by Princeton and the University of Birmingham, which I’d known about but had lost track of over the years–though his edited volume on medieval logistics has taken up more-or-less permanent residence on my shelf. Anyway, it was a fascinating talk, centered around the simple question, “How did medieval folks plan and organize logistics?”  The Manizkurt campaign makes for a great research opportunity because we generally know the route, and we know various other circumstances, such as that troops were ordered to gather two months of supplies at Eizurum (I can’t quite read my own writing for the Greek name), and that the Byzantine army was increasingly relying on pack animals, especially in terrain where trails tended to be stepped, not level. The computer model, then, has take a huge number of calculations into account, beginning with the feed requirements for one mule, and one soldier, and expanding from there essentially–so that a force of 1000 cavalry would require about 2250 mules to campaign for 24 days.  Ultimately, a 60,000-man army, which is the top end of what the emperor might have had with him, would require at least 25,000 mules. This would quite literally empty out the entire region of transport animals, and raises further questions of method and execution.  The illustration of the computational formulas was rather mind-blowing and somewhat overwhelming, and the computer power necessary to handle these formulas is one reason that Princeton University is involved.  Essentially, you have to run test after test, adjusting the parameters of the model to discover different outcomes–and when you get an outcome that matches what we know happened, note that down carefully. Intense…

So, there it is for Thursday…I attended the White Hart Society round table for the Yale Biographies of Edward II and Edward III, which was excellent as I recall, but at that point I was starting to feel really lousy, and not looking forward to another three days of conference. Since Mark Ormrod’s Edward III bio isn’t out yet, the session wound up focusing on Seymour Phillips’ Edward II, which was fascinating fascinating. The discussion centered on how Dr. Phillips handled the pitfalls and stereotypes that Edward II entails, whether it be Mortimer, Isabella, Gaveston, Edward’s supposed survival after the poker incident, etc. Phillips himself devoted a considerable amount of space at the session to exploding various theories of Edward II’s supposed survival as a wandering monk, and who the various pretenders actually were–especially the chap apprehended in Germany in…1338, I think?   Anyway, interesting panel.

Ok, that’s it for now.  I’ll deal with the rest of the conference in another post, but I have to get to other things today, such as dissertation, conference planning, and my July seminar paper.  Later!

Some Medieval News: Staffordshire Hoard, Anglo-Saxon Resources, etc.

Well, the Civil War will have to wait a bit; there’s some medieval news to cover instead.  And happy April Fools’ Day.  I’m not much of one for the stupid jokes that happen on this day–though I did get my several classes really well last year. Walked in, distributed paper and announced that we were having a pop quiz on the readings for the past week. The looks of panic and disgust on their faces were matched only by the relief and laughter when I said “April Fools.” I remember in particular this one kid, a very quiet, very smart fellow, who just sat there laughing silently, the kind of laughter people have sometimes when they find a joke deeply satisfying for some reason.

Anyway, that was fun. And in keeping with this tradition, I found a couple articles from The Onion that are worth posting. One of them is funny: Americans just have to get motivated and do it.  Man, do I ever. That story speaks to me.  This other one isn’t funny, and having studied war and genocide as I have it seems a grimly quirky but realistic parody: the ICC announces a new “3 Strikes” genocide policy.  See, I’m not much good at this April Fools thing…

Ah, Medieval News.  My friends at Medievalists.net recently linked to a report from last year on the Staffordshire Hoard field work. Great stuff.  And I was just looking at recent post from Richard Nokes’ “Unlocked Wordhoard,” and saw that there’s a new Anglo-Saxon and Old English resources page, based at the University of Oxford, called the Woruldhord Project. Type in “Beowulf,” for instance, and you get a variety of teaching aids and course materials.  The real strength of the project, though, seems to be its physical objects catalog, which you can search or browse by a variety of headings from the home page. It draws on a number of institutional repositories, and gives full information on individual artifacts. Nice.

Finally, I was looking at Hannah Kilpatrick’s excellent blog “Mony wylsum way,” and her last two entries deal with Roger d’Amory’s death (probably, as she argues, from wounds suffered at Boroughbridge), and Edward II’s judgment on him, which stayed the execution and let Roger die “in the course of things” as it were. Really fascinating stuff. And not simply for her obviously high level of technical linguistic skills. I really appreciate the analysis as well, as I’ve been having many similar moments in the last few weeks–moments where the document “comes alive,” and you get a sense of the emotion that lies underneath. That Edward II had to punish his old friend one may take for granted, but that he still had some sense of affection for Roger, and stayed the actual execution, is not to be expected–this was Edward II, after all, and he could turn on close friends with a vengeance.

I especially find this interesting, as I do Kathryn Warner’s Edward II blog, because I am becoming more and more convinced that Edward II’s reign is crucial to understanding Edward III’s.  And that’s not such a simple point as you might think–most, if not all, histories fall into easy but facile assumptions based on chronology: Edward is deposed in late 1326, so we move to a new period. Isabella and Mortimer rule until Edward III’s coup in 1330, so now we enter a another period–ok, we can leave much of the previous 20 years behind, and focus on Edward III and his wars and politics. Whether or not they intend to achieve this effect, that is what strikes me about many studies of Edward II and Edward III.

In studying fourteenth-century military and social history, however, I’m thinking more and more that the years 1314 to 1327 are crucial to understanding the society that went to war in the 1330s and 1340s.  This is my notorious “Chapter 1” (notorious to me, anyway), which I didn’t realize I was going to have to write at first. The personnel who go to war under Edward III in the 1330s were all ambitious young folks in the 1320s. The really interesting thing isn’t even so much Edward II’s deposition, as that in 1322, at the Battle of Boroughbridge, the earl of Norfolk and East Anglian barons stood with the king against Lancaster–five years later, Norfolk was among the first to welcome Isabella and Mortimer ashore, and Norfolk and Suffolk were plunged into a low-level civil and guerrilla war. You can see glimmers of these fractured social and patronage networks in the documents. For instance, hardly any East Anglian barons joined the army sent to Gascony in 1324-5–except Robert Ufford, the future earl of Suffolk. The gradual estrangement of Thomas Brotherton, earl of Norfolk and Marshal of England, from his brother Edward II, meant that the region was deprived of military, and one wonders even social, leadership. And all this has important consequences for how the region interacts with Edward III in the first 15 years of his reign–who gains preferment, who receives patronage, and who regards the crown as threat or opportunity. Not to mention the potential of this periodization to test particulars of my friend Dr. Clifford Rogers’ thesis concerning England’s 14th-century “revolution in military affairs”–one aspect of which is the improvement of English armor and weaponry from Bannockburn to Crécy.  Ah, but this stuff is fascinating…

The story is probably the same for other counties as well, but for reasons I won’t go into now, East Anglia is where my study is located.  Short form: if the period from 1314 to, say, 1340, is viewed as a unit, interesting patterns will emerge!

Ok, off to continue to work through the C76 Treaty Rolls.


Notes on Chapter 1, Warwick Castle, and War Crimes

It’s been an interesting 36 hours, for a number of reasons, some spectacularly good, others of a more hum-drum nature.  I changed my return date to the states, as the pound sterling was getting the better of me, and I didn’t wish to come back to utter poverty.  And to change the dates cost me only the standard fee and a service fee, which totaled less than a quarter of what I would have spent had I been staying for those extra three weeks. That’s what I call a win. And for the record, British Airways has THE nicest customer service folks around…

That makes the next three weeks more of a premium than I thought they would be, but nothing’s lost. In fact, many things are gained. I’m going through the C76 rolls, and closing gaps in my exchequer documents.  I owe the Richard III Society a huge vote of thanks for their assistance; this is going to be an immensely better dissertation now.

At the moment, however, I’m trying to work through Additional MS 7967 at the British Library, and I’m seeing my clear to chapter 1 more and more. Chapter 1 has a weird history, as when I started I didn’t realize I’d be covering Edward II’s reign, and therefore I didn’t have many documents pertaining. So I’ve left chapter 1 for later.  That’s changing now, and things are becoming very interesting indeed.  Military activity under Edward II is badly underrated, partly because we know how his reign ended, and partly because we think “Bannockburn” and shrug. Actually, there were many campaigns against the Scots after Bannockburn, and a couple Gascon campaigns.  This manuscript covers the 1324-5 Gascon campaign, under the earl of Kent, and there are a number of fascinating bits I’m gleaning from the text. Robert Ufford shows up, but none of the other E. Anglian barons do, which is interesting. Also, looking at the arrayed/conscripted troops, there are a number of interesting features; archers are all on foot, and preserve their county designations until they reach Portsmouth, at which point the different county levies are mixed and matched into new units under new commanders. The foot, on the other hand, is treated much more organically, and tends to fight by county. Their numbers steadily decrease as time goes on, and I’m not sure how much of this is due to campaign losses, or whether this has to do with men being returned to England in batches–the last entry for a given unit often has just the commander heading home.

Long and the short of it, I’m thinking that my formula of Boroughbridge 1322–Mortimer’s coup, 1326 is working well, in tracing the transformation of attitudes/military experience in the English polity. Now add Gascony, 1324-5, and the picture grows richer.

In other news…I thought a link to the Warwick Castle website would be cool. It looks like a three-ring circus, yes, but underneath all that is some really solid historical presentation.

Prominent medievalist and friend Craig Taylor posted this story from The New Yorker today, on atrocities in Afghanistan, and it’s certainly giving me something to ponder. The author of the article doesn’t mention the German Army on the Eastern Front, but the parallels, especially with the personal photography, are very strong in my opinion. Minus the Nazism, of course. Which I think makes the parallels that more interesting, and should prompt questions concerning the origins of atrocities and war crimes. For the record, I’ve always had some reservations about unblinkingly accepting Omer Bartov’s “ideological determinism” (my phrase…I think…).  Anyway, worth reading.

Well, that’s about it. I’m off to Normandy for the weekend, mostly for World War II stuff, but I’m going to badger my friend to let us see the Bayeux Tapestry…and some other medieval stuff, like St-Etienne in Caen. But Brecourt Manor looms large on our horizon.  Great stuff…