Saturday, September 20, 2014

Craig Taylor's "Chivalry and the Ideals of Knighthood in France..." -- a short review

I have finally finished this book, and feel I owe Craig Taylor a review, especially since it is a good one.

I began this book with the feeling that Taylor was making a lot of pretty obvious points, nothing that I hadn't heard before. Then I shook myself and said that of course this material was obvious to me; if it wasn't, then my reading on the subject of chivalry over the last 15 years was seriously defective.

As the book progressed, it became filled with material that was not so obvious. Taylor carefully analyzes the different perspectives on chivalry that existed during the Hundred Years War, describing the tensions between various points of view held by various observers of wartime France. This approach is very congenial to me; I find that in the short-term at least social or historical debates do not come to a neat conclusion; tensions between various participants continue to affect social debates for a long time, because they reflect important aspects of the structure of society.

Although this is a good review it will remain short one. I will just list some of the chapter titles to indicate where Taylor thinks the important debates were located.

Prowess and loyalty
Mercy (part I):  soldiers
Mercy (part II): civilians and noncombatants
Wisdom and prudence

If you have a serious interest in medieval chivalry, you will not want to miss what Taylor has to say on these subjects. At the very least it will clarify some important issues for you.

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