Tag Archives: Hundred Years War

What I learned at Kalamazoo 2015

middle_ages_4a95fe6209ac5The 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.

Continue reading What I learned at Kalamazoo 2015

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 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!

Continue reading My Kalamazoo, coming this May

Old notes from the Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2011

One of the smaller projects I have in the works is an article on Frederick Barbarossa’s generalship, a version of which I gave at Leeds Medieval Congress this past summer.  In working on it again yesterday, I came across my notes from some of the Leeds sessions I attended–incomplete notes, but they might be of interest to folks researching the crusades or medieval military history, as a lot of these papers represent the latest innovative work from dynamic scholars, both younger and established.  I apologize in advance for the choppiness and uneven coverage, as well as for any errors of interpretation of which I’m sure there are a few. And regarding the armor and weapons papers, much is lost since those presentations relied heavily on great visual aids.  See the archived congress pages for more information about the sessions themselves.

Here’s a list of the papers my notes cover:

–Danielle Park, “Diplomats and Diplomatics: New Directions in the Use of Charter Evidence – The Concept and Consequences of the Crusades in the Charters of Crusade Regents”

–James Naus, “Crusade and Legitimacy: The Ideology and Imagery of Reconquest in France”

–Ian Wilson; “Cowardice, Chivalry, and the Crusades”

–Andrew Spencer, “‘Apres moi, le deluge’: The Lancastrian Affinity after Earl Thomas”

–David Simpkin, “Retinues under Stress: The Impact of War Mortalities on Military Networks during the Later Middle Ages”

–Lucy Rhymer, “‘We, my blessed Lord Gloucester’s servants, may now come out of hiding’: The Fate of Duke Humphrey’s Posthumous Retinue”

–Claire Featherstonhaugh, “The Government Activities of the Earls, c. 1330-1360”

–Kathleen Neal, “Reason and Right: Letters of Request to Chancery in 13th-Century England”

–Gwillim Dodd, “Form and Substance: Letters to King Edward II, 1307-1327”

–Nick Dupras, “Busy Hammers: The Construction of Armour in Late Medieval Europe”

–Jenny Day, “‘Maen Wyn, do not leave your knife behind!’: The Fall and Rise of Knives and Bows in Medieval Welsh Poetry”

–Arbitration and Reputation: Informal Dispute Resolution and ‘Out of Court’ Settlements in Medieval Law – A Round Table Discussion

–Thom Richardson, “Armourer’s Tools”

–Kelly DeVries, “What Armour Was Worn by Second Crusaders?: Evidence from the Baptismal Font of the Church of San Frediano, Lucca”

–SarahLouise Howells, “Affluence and Aesthetics: An Investigation into the French Armoured Gisant”

Continue reading Old notes from the Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2011

Thoughts on English military affairs, prosopography, dissertation-writing

[So much for November 1…]

Part…whatever…of “How the Blog Suffers When Serious Work is Happening.”   SO much piling up and so many interesting things happening, but how on earth to get to it all.  I envy scholars such as Jeffrey J. Cohen and his associates at In the Middle, who manage to balance a lot more than I do and still turn out fascinating posts on a regular basis…   It’s long past due that I write posts that do more than give the ubiquitous calls-for-papers, especially, as the work has progressed to the point where my thoughts are clearer on some of the topics at hand.

First, a short recap of recent happenings, just in case you were curious.  October was one exhausting month…I got back from the Texas Medieval Association conference at Baylor just past midnight on the 3rd, and promptly went off to teach at 8 that same morning. The conference itself was a really great experience–lots of great new people met, and new ideas heard, presented, and discussed, especially in the field of crusade studies.  AND then finally got my truck repaired–great feeling (it was one of those oil leaks that keeps you feeding the truck a few quarts of oil every week. Which gets very expensive).  Then had to ramp up my training schedule again, as it was announced that previous week that there would most likely be testing in 14 days or so, and training always suffers when the work gets intense.  Fortunately, while I’m no longer 21 or so, I’m in quite good shape, and getting back “into the groove” isn’t that much of a struggle any more. I can  run a 5k whenever I feel like it, train for hours every week (I average about 10 hours of training–both martial arts and conditioning–per week), and deliver a reverse punch or a roundhouse kick with a reasonable amount of confidence.    And in due course I did pass my exam, despite being very nervous, exhausted, and suffering mildly strained ligaments in both shoulders (don’t ask).  Finally, it’s job season again, and all those application deadlines, at the which I thought a few weeks ago “I have time,” well, they’re fast approaching.  It just doesn’t end.

But I wouldn’t be doing anything else.  And that, so I’ve been told, is a good sign, a small indicator that perhaps I am cut out for this after all…

ANYWAY, so much for the personal update. On to professional items… Continue reading Thoughts on English military affairs, prosopography, dissertation-writing

Back in the US, and a Brief News Round Up–Medieval and Otherwise

Greetings from the United States!!  It’s been unexpectedly difficult to keep up with blog posting in these last few weeks, as I went through that phase I suppose most American researchers in the UK experience, in which you suddenly realize, “Holy Cow, I only have X-number of days left!”  I was on the move constantly in my last few weeks overseas, and eventful ones they were!!  I finished going through the C76 files, took a look at some of the Roman Rolls (which weren’t as substantial as I had hoped), looked at the records of distraint to knighthood (at Andrew Ayton’s suggestion), and dug deep into the military records for Edward II’s reign–especially the 1322 and 1324-5 campaigns.  Wow. Lots of good stuff, including hundreds more names for my Norfolk/Suffolk personnel index.  I also went out to Norfolk for a few days, where I did some work in the Norfolk Record Office, and met John Alban, whose work on the medieval English “home front” I greatly admire, and have found really useful.  Talking with him also helped me continue to think through my dissertation, and realize further what exactly I’m doing!  I saw a lot of Norfolk churches as well, and gathered visual material for my Kalamazoo paper and chapter 5–especially the effigies of Kerdeston and Ingham, as well as the brasses of Stapleton and several other notable military commanders. It was a fascinating experience to see the landscape in which these folks operated, for even though much has changed since then, much has also remained the same.

Anyway, I arrived in Rochester on Wednesday afternoon, and am doing my darnedest to avoid the jetlag. Staying up all night in Heathrow Terminal 3 probably helped…But I’ll crash soon. In the mean time, I’ve managed to stay remarkably productive, and even went to karate practice yesterday evening.  Was regretting that at first, but kinda pushed through the pain and exhaustion…Heh heh.  So, that’s what I’ve been up to. Below are various news items that might be of interest…

I saw a news article from University of Pennsylvania, via Medievalists.net, that Penn just received 280 medieval and renaissance manuscripts, and will be founding the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (named after the donors, of course). Congrats to U Penn!!!  This sounds really exciting.  More details can be found here.

Several new articles from Medievalists.net, who keep finding good things to post.  Andrew Jotischky assesses the state of scholarship on Franks and Muslims in the crusader states, discussing issues of assimilation, competition, identity, and so on.  Here’s an interesting dissertation on “The Impact of Popular ‘Medieval Film on the Public Understanding of the Middle Ages.”  And David Carpenter’s article on the Battle of Lincoln in 1217, from the Henry III Fine Rolls Project. I’m really glad they posted this, as the Fine Rolls Project is one of those that I hear about occasionally but can never seem to track down, and always forget about. The project website gives more information.  Also worth looking at is the Gascon Rolls Project, led by the venerable Malcolm Vale (who will be doing a presentation on the project at Kalamazoo in a few weeks’ time).  So much good stuff out there today…  And finally, an article looking at the mechanics of staging the Crucifixion in medieval English passion plays.  Definitely out of the ordinary…

I still haven’t had time to do a Civil War round-up, but the other day the TimesDisunion blog had a truly fascinating article on Lee’s decision to leave the army and join Virginia.  And it’s not what you’ve probably been brought up to think–his family was actually pro-Union, and he made the decision alone.  Doesn’t surprise me, really.  In lieu of further articles from Disunion, I’d suggest The Washington Post’s “Five Myths about why the South seceded,” which is pretty forthright…  The Post has done a number of “Five Myths” columns, worth checking out–among them on Abraham Lincoln, and myths about vegans.

Aaaand, here’s a page from the L.A. Review of Books, regarding yet another declaration regarding the “death of the book”–and giving some good background on the intellectual development of this declaration.  Personally, I would like to believe that the book has a few surprises up its sleeve.

Finally (and I apologize for how disorganized this post is), there’s an article from The Economist on recent attempts to extract mathematical rules regarding the behavior of war and conflict.  One of my old Rice friends, now at the London School of Economics, drew it to my attention, and I’m intrigued at any possibilities for application to my own research.

Ok, that’s about it for now. More posts soon.  Happy Easter, and Dominus vobiscum!!

Dissertation musings…medieval England, military revolutions, and RMA’s

That last stands for “revolution in military affairs,” which is not a “military revolution”–Cliff Rogers spells out the differences quite clearly in his article ” ‘Military revolutions’ and ‘revolutions in military affairs’: a historian’s perspective.” A military revolution has broad consequences for society in general–it’s what makes historians outside the military field interested. A revolution in military affairs is generally restricted in its impact to the field of military endeavor. That’s a short version, anyway. I wonder occasionally if that’s a bit teleological, since we’re defining terms by the perceived effects of imprecise phenomena.  But I guess you have to start somewhere…

The point of all this? Well, as I continue to work on chapters 1 and 4 (there is logic here, which I’m not going into right now), I’m starting to realize that my study is actually doing more than its already ambitious object of critiquing social/political narratives through the military narrative. [short version, how did Edward III’s reign look from the periphery, rather than the center?] It’s also positioning itself more and more as a case study in how, and to what extent, did 14th-century England experience a “revolution in military affairs,” as Dr. Rogers has written in another article, “As if a new sun had arisen”: England’s fourteenth-century RMA,” originally published in The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300-2050, ed. Knox and Murray. Many chroniclers and thoughtful men of letters have recorded their surprise at England’s great military fortune under Edward III, until we get to Walsingham’s rather fulsome praise, “it seemed to the English almost as if a new sun had arisen, because of…the glory of their victories.”

What was so apparent to contemporaries cannot be dismissed lightly. And I’m realizing more and more that by tracing a military community from this time of inferiority (not just in performance, but apparently also in weapons and armor) to its time of triumph, I’m in a great position to really examine the particulars of this “RMA.” After all, the same men who fought under Edward III fought under his father, to a very large degree. They were not without extensive experience in war, which they brought to Edward’s new campaigns in Scotland and France. Did they wind up changing their tactics, equipment, and outlook that completely?  Or were they as unsuccessful as contemporaries seem to think they were?  This takes us to another level of analysis for success or failure in these wars, as we have to somehow develop a methodology for assessing where to look for causation, and also to determine how different levels of war (tactical, operational, strategic) may have influenced each other, so that, say, Robert Morle’s success at Boroughbridge in 1322 was not influenced by better armor or tactics, while his success at Halidon Hill in 1333 was.  Or was it…

Anyway, just some random thoughts. I certainly didn’t expect to be addressing these issues when I started this project, but it just gets more and more interesting…