Those allergic to even the slightest touch of braggadocio should stop reading now.
Last night and this morning I reread something I wrote a while back that I think is really very good, in its conception, its analysis, and in its expression as an effective piece of writing.
It wasn't "Democracy's Place in World History," which I wrote back in 1991 with Phil Paine; I hope that article did some good in the world, and I think it did. No, not that.
It wasn't my first book, the Fifth-century Chroniclers, a solid piece of work on how contemporaries understood what we think of as the fall of the Roman Empire. I got some good compliments on that, and I know it's one of those specialized studies that has a long scholarly half-life, maybe a century or so.
What gave me such satisfaction?
It was the chapter called "Will a Frenchman fight?" In my book Deeds of Arms. In what could almost stand as an article by itself, I tackled what for me is perhaps the most important passage in Froissart, the one which discusses the deeds of arms done at Vannes in 1381. Some of you will remember them – French and English champions fighting on foot, climaxing with an Englishman thrusting his lance into an off–target area of his opponent and disgracing himself. To understand what was going on in this passage, I had to read all of Froissart's Chronicles (and much more) to see the big picture, what Froissart and his audience thought was chivalric and what they did not. I had to be able to explain not just these deeds of arms, but many more depicted by Froissart and other way medieval writers.
And I think I succeeded. It's a good feeling.
Some readers may know that I am the editor of the Deeds of Arms series that Freelance Academy Press is putting out. (Volume 1, Royal jousts at the end of the 14th century is already in print. ) I hope in ayear or so to make a book called Will a Frenchman fight? available in that series. It won't be a duplicate of the analytical chapter I have just been talking about: instead, it will be a collection of the original accounts of those famous deeds of arms and the campaign through France that they were part of, introduced by yours truly.
In the meantime, the volume on the Combat of the Thirty should be out very soon, including a full modern translation of the best account, plus much more. Stay tuned.