Tag Archives: Hundred Years War

What I learned at Kalamazoo 2015

The weeks after Kalamazoo have been an unrelenting (but very rewarding) blaze of travel, movement, and reorganization. However, with the relative peace and quiet of summer upon us, I’ve finally put some thoughts together on that four-day period that I have always regarded as more of an academic retreat than a hassle or a burden. At least after I’ve given my paper…

Speaking of giving papers, that reminds me of the recent debate over the value of conferences. But I’ll save those thoughts for the end of these ramblings.

I basically spent the entirety of Thursday, May 14, in Bernhard 158, which is where the De Re Militari sessions were located. Starting with Session 31 at 10:00 a.m., there were four great papers on a wide variety of medieval military history topics. Jason Linn presented an interesting argument that Atilla’s campaign of 452 did not end due to logistical failure; Eduardo Fabbro gave an analysis of the late Roman and Lombard armies. John Hosler’s paper on the “Siege” of Acre laid out the big themes, the significance, and the relevance of what will be his next book. Mike Livingston’s presentation on Crécy was a reflection on the inaccuracy of casualty lists and mortuary accounts produced from the battle, drawn from his and Kelly DeVries’ forthcoming study.  Essentially, Mike’s argument was that a lot of the mistakes that we find in the mortuary lists come from the fact that the battle was incredibly brutal and bloody, and it simply wasn’t possible to identify people with 100% accuracy.

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Medieval Battle as Memorial: Thoughts on War, LOTR, and Camille’s “Mirror in Parchment”

June 16; definitely time for a post. Since Kalamazoo, things have been pretty crazy. Commencement, a wedding, spring cleaning, dissertation, to name a few. At the end of the day, I just haven’t had the drive or attention span do much of anything with the blogs, either of them.  But, after what has been an especially intense week, I’ve finally got some breathing space, and hope to get back to posting more regularly.  There WILL be a K’zoo write-up, for sure.

The title of this post reflects a question about which I’ve long speculated: why battles (as opposed to wars and warfare generally) have dominated historical memory to the extent they have. Partly, I suppose, it’s a reflection of a patriarchal society, as ancient, medieval, early modern and many modern battles have been fought primarily by men, and the women who participated in them rarely had the opportunity to make their voices heard in the way battles were remembered and commemorated. But that still doesn’t quite get at why, of all human activity (even within the patriarchy), battle has received pride of place in memory and commemoration. Partly, perhaps, it has something to do with rituals of honor and masculinity, but  I see numerous problems in transferring microcosmic rites of masculinity to the macrocosm of the battlefield, not least the well-documented non-heroic aspects of many battles. In other words, if battle is a test or enactment of “masculinity”, it is so very different from most small-scale social enactments as to be a different beast entirely. So many different types of human behavior are comprehended in a battle, such an intense neuro-psychology is involved, and the external stimuli are so extreme, that in many respects I suspect battle stands apart from nearly any other human experience. And that, perhaps, is why “battle” still holds pride of place in collective historical memory and memorialization. Regardless of the overall “importance” of a battle on the larger course of human culture and society.

A couple months ago, I had a small epiphany on this subject, courtesy of J. R. R. Tolkien and Peter Jackson. I was ruminating on chapter 5 of the dissertation, trying to see my way clear to something semi-intelligible on where the average East Anglian knight and esquire would have placed his experiences of war, and more particularly what “chivalry” would have meant to him. Continue reading Medieval Battle as Memorial: Thoughts on War, LOTR, and Camille’s “Mirror in Parchment”

My Kalamazoo, coming this May

I suppose most folks are by now aware that the program to this year’s International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo, Michigan, is now available from the Congress web page.  This will be my last ‘Zoo as a grad student, and I hope to make the most of it. At the rate I’m going now, I’ll be in that stage where I’m between turning in the diss and defending it, so I’ll literally have “nothing to do” (yeah right, reality check…).   With that in mind, here’s a run down of what caught my eye in this year’s schedule, and a fair blue print of sessions to which I’ll be going (the ones in italics being my main priority).  Can’t wait for May…As Chaucer and Malory can tell you, May is when all the fun starts.

THURSDAY

Thursday at 10:00

Session 32 (mine).  Yup, I’m among those lucky ones ‘opening’ the conference.  Yipee.  My paper is “Crusade and Imperium in Staufer Germany, 1170-1200.”  Thanks, David, for letting me participate!

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