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W. R. Reynolds




Location: Ramona, CA
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PostPosted: Thu 16 Nov, 2006 9:39 pm    Post subject: medieval post traumatic stress disorder         Reply with quote

Nowadays when our military men come back from wars they sometimes suffer from what has become known as “post traumatic stress disorder”. What happened in the middle ages to the survivors of battle? How did they cope with the aftermath of what amounted to close up and personal butchery (evidence at Wisby and Towton et al) of other human beings? Or was the mindset of the medieval man such that it was an expected way of life? Does anyone know of research that has been published on the subject or of extant writings that may allude to what happened mentally to these men, coming home after such an experience? I would be more interested in what went on in the mind of the common soldier as I believe the nobility (warrior class) would have had a different outlook due to the various interpretations of the Code of Chivalry, than someone that got caught up in a muster or commission of array, or possibly a tenant owing service to his lord.
Bill

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Sam Barris




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PostPosted: Thu 16 Nov, 2006 10:18 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Check out the books Achilles in Vietnam and Odysseus in America. Both are excellent studies about the universality of combat trauma throughout all ages of warfare.
Pax,
Sam Barris

"Any nation that draws too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools." —Thucydides
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 12:32 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Check this reply to the same topic at armourarchive

http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB2/viewto...highlight=
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Daniel J. Willis




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 4:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Can't point you to anything specific just yet, but the following link (accessed through the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine) provides a list of online resources concerning medieval medicine and psychology, though you might also want to try looking through the psychology section more generally for anything relating to combat trauma.

http://www.intute.ac.uk/healthandlifesciences...?id=114310

You could also try searching through the Library's catalogue for written works (other than those already suggested), if something's been written on the subject they're almost certain to have a copy, though finding copies elsewhere may be more problematic.

http://library.wellcome.ac.uk/


Bruno, law and politics in the pre-enlightenment era weren't nearly as simplistic as you suggested in your post.

Whilst things were far from equal, and the vast majority (just as in today's society) simply accepted the way things were, in many cases even unfree peasants had legal rights, and as Susan Reynolds noted in her 2001 book "Fiefs and vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted," complex legal systems (principally regarding land ownership) were far more prevalent than the stereotypical feudal setup.

People at all levels did in fact question "feudal" obligations, and hence laws were passed both to enforce servitude of the lower classes, and to maintain the kings position over the Nobility (who themselves sought to limit, through law, the kings power - think Magna Carta).

(This book is available online if you can get access through a library or university:
http://ets.umdl.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx...3.0001.001)

Additionally, the 14th century saw many peasant uprisings across Western Europe, i also know of a local example from the late 13th century where the people rioted in protest against the Bishop of Winchester's treatment of the local Prior.


It's all too easy when talking about people living in the past, particularly with issues such as psychological trauma, medicine or indeed politics, just to say that they didn't feel the same things we do because they were "used to it " or "more religious than us". Generally speaking, human beings are human beings regardless of which century they live in.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 6:14 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel J. Willis wrote:
Can't point you to anything specific just yet, but the following link (accessed through the Wellcome Library for the History of Medicine) provides a list of online resources concerning medieval medicine and psychology, though you might also want to try looking through the psychology section more generally for anything relating to combat trauma.

http://www.intute.ac.uk/healthandlifesciences...?id=114310

You could also try searching through the Library's catalogue for written works (other than those already suggested), if something's been written on the subject they're almost certain to have a copy, though finding copies elsewhere may be more problematic.

http://library.wellcome.ac.uk/


Bruno, law and politics in the pre-enlightenment era weren't nearly as simplistic as you suggested in your post.

Whilst things were far from equal, and the vast majority (just as in today's society) simply accepted the way things were, in many cases even unfree peasants had legal rights, and as Susan Reynolds noted in her 2001 book "Fiefs and vassals: the medieval evidence reinterpreted," complex legal systems (principally regarding land ownership) were far more prevalent than the stereotypical feudal setup.

People at all levels did in fact question "feudal" obligations, and hence laws were passed both to enforce servitude of the lower classes, and to maintain the kings position over the Nobility (who themselves sought to limit, through law, the kings power - think Magna Carta).

(This book is available online if you can get access through a library or university:
http://ets.umdl.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx...3.0001.001)

Additionally, the 14th century saw many peasant uprisings across Western Europe, i also know of a local example from the late 13th century where the people rioted in protest against the Bishop of Winchester's treatment of the local Prior.


It's all too easy when talking about people living in the past, particularly with issues such as psychological trauma, medicine or indeed politics, just to say that they didn't feel the same things we do because they were "used to it " or "more religious than us". Generally speaking, human beings are human beings regardless of which century they live in.


It is not a question of being simplistinc, it is a question of pointing out what the difference is between a post enlightenment democratic society and a pre-enlightenment one.

I don't think a thread on an internet website could host the level of granularity you are speaking of.

Tocqueville states that only the XVIII centiry saw real success of a revolt against the feudal order, that stretched across Europe.

Obviously all the middle age saw rebellions of any kind, many being religious, but the general social construct remained intact, there were laws for every class of society, and there were few people daring to try think in terms that we deem modern.

I also do not think that one could argue on the fact that in the middle age there were no hints of any kind of psychological studes in the modern sense.

People in distress would not go to see a doctor.

There were not psychiatrists or freudian analists.

Even until a few yers ago in our country people would still go to the local priest for psychological advice.

My grand-grandpa had what would be today descrivìbed as mild PTSD episodes due to trench bayonet warfare in WW1.

It was common for many other people I have known who were veterans.

Nightmares and so on, regularly they would have such nightmares reenacting their assault experiences.

The only assistance they had was religious.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 6:27 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

take for example the history of the Sanctuary of the Grazie of Mantua where the famous armor were found.

The sanctuary was quite the place that hosted thousands of ex voto offerings of generations of mantuan soldiers, who in the cruelest moment of battle would pray the Grazie's Virgin: when returned safe, they would deposit their weapons there as a thanking sign.

The sanctuary's walls were literally filled with weapons up to a certain height, according to local chronicles.

So it happened commonly for sick people, who would recur to prayer and vows during sickness and return to their favourite sanctuary with a silver mockup of their healed body part or with a painting as ex voto (out of a vow , literally) gift to be left on the walls.
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Keith Nelson




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 6:34 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bruno Giordan wrote:
Check this reply to the same topic at armourarchive

http://forums.armourarchive.org/phpBB2/viewto...highlight=


Just a bet, but I think that the W.R. Reynolds posting here is the same WildWilliam posting on armour archive. The text of the original post is verbatim, after all.

Keith
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Daniel J. Willis




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 6:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

There's an interesting article on ptsd in medieval times here: http://www.aetheling.com/docs/Persistence.html. The authors seem to suggest that (though it obviously wasn't known at the time) ptsd was extremely widespread throughout society, with trauma caused battle being just one small part of the overall equation.



Bruno Giordan wrote:
It is not a question of being simplistinc, it is a question of pointing out what the difference is between a post enlightenment democratic society and a pre-enlightenment one.


I would argue that the differences are greatly exaggerated, not least because of the enlightenment itself, though as you noted that would be far too complex a discussion to conduct in an online forum, and not really appropriate for one dealing with arms and armour, so i'll leave it at that.

Bruno Giordan wrote:
Tocqueville states that only the XVIII centiry saw real success of a revolt against the feudal order, that stretched across Europe.


I wasn't suggesting that they had any sort of "success," just that they had a political consciousness and opinions of what was and wasn't 'just' in the same way that we do today.

Much of this may have been related to religion in the same way that (to me at least) you seem to suggest "democracy" controls peoples understanding in the present-time. I would argue that such things are more fundamental to the human psyche, and that the influence of religion and politics (whilst undoubtedly significant) shouldn't be over-emphasized. (Apologies to everyone if we are getting a bit off-topic).

Bruno Giordan wrote:
I also do not think that one could argue that in the middle age there were hints of any kind of psychological studes in the modern sense.


I didn't suggest that there was. There is a general misconception however (not necessarily one that i think you would be guilty of) that anything medical in medieval times was simply attributed to god or religion, which was not the case.

Bruno Giordan wrote:

There were not psychiatrists or freudian analists.
...
The only assistance they had was religious.


I would agree, sorry if i gave a different impression.
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Daniel J. Willis




Location: Hampshire, England
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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 7:09 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Bruno Giordan wrote:

The sanctuary was quite the place that hosted thousands of ex voto offerings of generations of mantuan soldiers, who in the cruelest moment of battle would pray the Grazie's Virgin: when returned safe, they would deposit their weapons there as a thanking sign.

The sanctuary's walls were literally filled with weapons up to a certain height, according to local chronicles.


To clarify, i wasn't suggesting that religion didn't play an important part in the coping mechanisms people developed to deal with the situation. I was focusing more on a different part of the original post, namely the possible suggestion that the mindset of the medieval person was such that they were unaffected by battle trauma.

Sorry, I should have made this clearer.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 7:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Medieval people might not be as sensitive to seeing death and violence and probably didn't feel much guilt after killing in selfdefence: A lot of the " trauma " today is caused by P.C. guilt about a death ! Any death, even the bad guy: It's often expected of police officers to show that killing ( justified killing that is ) has really affected them and that they are O.K. because it bothers them. ( Just from reading a lot of Massad Ayoub articles over the years: He sort of disputes the idea that all survivors of vlolent encounters must go though some for of serious post traumatic stress. )

People are different and it may be perfectly normal to be traumatize after having to use violence: Some are more sensitive or introspective and may wonder if they could have done something different.

On the other hand the reaction of being really really happy to have won and survived can be a high instead of a spiralling into some melancholy or depression. ( It just makes sense to hide it from the more sensitive should who will judge you as being a monster if you don't have any post-traumatic stress. Most humans are more resilient than they know or the species would never have survived the stone age. )

One thing though is that killings that offend one's sense of right and wrong would cause guilt and even more if one had a true Medieval Christian moral sense: A knight coming back from the Crusades who saw and participated in slaughter of civilians might be subject to feeling very bad about it I think.

Priest might be a comfort and some might go on a pilgrimage to wash away sins.

Some might find the quiet atmosphere of a monastery healing as a visitor or by becoming a monk.

Sort of reminds me of the T.V. series " Cadfael " were the main character witnesses massacres in the Holy Land and in part this soured him about leading the military life of a Knight. Fiction but good fiction with a grain of truth I believe.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadfael

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George Hill




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 8:33 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I have no direct information, but it's worth noting that what is now called PTSD (OR PTSS) has had several names just in the last hundred years. Today you have Post traumatic stress syndrome/disorder, in WW2 it was battle fatigue, and in WW1 it was "Shell shock."

Prior to that they might have just called it 'madness' of one kind or another. Madness wasn't exactly uncommon, due to the large number of unidentified poisons in common use. In some periods, Mercury was used as a medicine for many years, but today we know it degrades neural synapses. In the 1800s hatters went mad quite frequently from the industrial use of Mercury.

Madness not being particularly uncommon, and from what were to them unidentifiable sources, we might not find too much speculation about it (in period) in easily recognizable formats.

To abandon your shield is the basest of crimes. - --Tacitus on Germania
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Steve Fabert





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 8:53 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

We have little evidence of the subjective life of ordinary soldiers prior to the 19th Century, primarily because so few of them were literate. Without a sampling of personal letters to base inferences on, it is hard to draw conclusions about the inner life of the medieval soldier.

Periods of extended warfare clearly caused widespread adjustment disorders among the troops. The inability of the soldiers of the Hundred Years' War to demobilize and return to civilian life is well documented. France was overrun by bands of unemployed soldiers who could not or would not return to peaceful lives during the suspension of hostilities midway through the war. I suspect that the Wars of the Roses that followed the Hundred Years' War may also have been fueled in signficant part by the social instability that can be traced back to the psychological trauma experienced by so many veterans of the preceding war in France.

I leave it up to medical specialists to decide whether to label the antisocial behaviors that result from long periods of warfare as signs of PTSD or just a general loss of civilized habits. But widespread warfare clearly did result in socially unstable behavior that is typical of personality disorders long before the mass industrial warfare of the 20th Century.
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 10:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Modern society has a very pronounced need to define things; this includes giving a diagnosis to all kinds of deviant behavior.
Things that where earlier just counted as parts of life, or someone's personality, are now given labeled as a spesific kind of "disease" or "condition". People used to die of old age; now they die of cancer, heart failure, stroke, or new and interesting diseases noone ever heard of.

Basically, it would be a well know fact that war messes you up; its just the way things are.

"this [fight] looks curious, almost like a game. See, they are looking around them before they fall, to find a dry spot to fall on, or they are falling on their shields. Can you see blood on their cloths and weapons? No. This must be trickery."
-Reidar Sendeman, from King Sverre's Saga, 1201
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 3:21 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Daniel J. Willis wrote:
There's an interesting article on ptsd in medieval times here: http://www.aetheling.com/docs/Persistence.html. The authors seem to suggest that (though it obviously wasn't known at the time) ptsd was extremely widespread throughout society, with trauma caused battle being just one small part of the overall equation.



Bruno Giordan wrote:
It is not a question of being simplistinc, it is a question of pointing out what the difference is between a post enlightenment democratic society and a pre-enlightenment one.


I would argue that the differences are greatly exaggerated, not least because of the enlightenment itself, though as you noted that would be far too complex a discussion to conduct in an online forum, and not really appropriate for one dealing with arms and armour, so i'll leave it at that.

Bruno Giordan wrote:
Tocqueville states that only the XVIII centiry saw real success of a revolt against the feudal order, that stretched across Europe.


I wasn't suggesting that they had any sort of "success," just that they had a political consciousness and opinions of what was and wasn't 'just' in the same way that we do today.

Much of this may have been related to religion in the same way that (to me at least) you seem to suggest "democracy" controls peoples understanding in the present-time. I would argue that such things are more fundamental to the human psyche, and that the influence of religion and politics (whilst undoubtedly significant) shouldn't be over-emphasized. (Apologies to everyone if we are getting a bit off-topic).

Bruno Giordan wrote:
I also do not think that one could argue that in the middle age there were hints of any kind of psychological studes in the modern sense.


I didn't suggest that there was. There is a general misconception however (not necessarily one that i think you would be guilty of) that anything medical in medieval times was simply attributed to god or religion, which was not the case.

Bruno Giordan wrote:

There were not psychiatrists or freudian analists.
...
The only assistance they had was religious.


I would agree, sorry if i gave a different impression.


I wasn't thinking that you could believe in a middle age with modern doctos, sure, I had the impression that our thread starter wasn't getting just the basic historical differences between modern society and feudality.

As you noted history is not written in black and white and there can be surprising anticipations of modern ideas, after all in roman times high society dames of the imperial epriod could have lifting ... and certain medieval heresies were prefiguring somehow socialism or other very modern concepts, even if they were uprooted rather quickly.
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 3:25 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Jean Thibodeau wrote:
Medieval people might not be as sensitive to seeing death and violence and probably didn't feel much guilt after killing in selfdefence: A lot of the " trauma " today is caused by P.C. guilt about a death ! Any death, even the bad guy: It's often expected of police officers to show that killing ( justified killing that is ) has really affected them and that they are O.K. because it bothers them. ( Just from reading a lot of Massad Ayoub articles over the years: He sort of disputes the idea that all survivors of vlolent encounters must go though some for of serious post traumatic stress. )

People are different and it may be perfectly normal to be traumatize after having to use violence: Some are more sensitive or introspective and may wonder if they could have done something different.

On the other hand the reaction of being really really happy to have won and survived can be a high instead of a spiralling into some melancholy or depression. ( It just makes sense to hide it from the more sensitive should who will judge you as being a monster if you don't have any post-traumatic stress. Most humans are more resilient than they know or the species would never have survived the stone age. )

One thing though is that killings that offend one's sense of right and wrong would cause guilt and even more if one had a true Medieval Christian moral sense: A knight coming back from the Crusades who saw and participated in slaughter of civilians might be subject to feeling very bad about it I think.

Priest might be a comfort and some might go on a pilgrimage to wash away sins.

Some might find the quiet atmosphere of a monastery healing as a visitor or by becoming a monk.

Sort of reminds me of the T.V. series " Cadfael " were the main character witnesses massacres in the Holy Land and in part this soured him about leading the military life of a Knight. Fiction but good fiction with a grain of truth I believe.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadfael


Well, think of Dante Alighieri, who found confort in deep felt christian poetry for military and political defeat, while being permanently in a sorrowful rambling through Italy as a political exile.

He took part to an important battle and saw the same kind of scenes we know from Wisby or Towton
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W. R. Reynolds




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PostPosted: Fri 17 Nov, 2006 10:12 pm    Post subject: medievl post traumatic stress disorder         Reply with quote

Thanks for all of your responses. I am constantly amazed at the diversity of knowledge to be found on this forum. Some of the links have provided some great information and yet more clues to follow, links within links. I particularly liked the Persistence document and Cadfael will provide some light reading if I can find copies of the books.

I have pretty much come to the conclusion (it was only a suspicion before) that religion and alcohol were the way to go when dealing with PTSD/madness? in the middle ages.

Bill

"No matter who wins the rat race.......they are still a rat."
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Bruno Giordan





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PostPosted: Sat 18 Nov, 2006 2:56 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Dante Alighieri, the poet, took part to the battle of Campaldino in 1289, as a feditore (assault knight, on of the first to attack the enemy, so they were the bravest).

See this fresco from the Municipality palace of San Gimignano (famed medieval town of Tuscany)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/it/2/27...o_1292.jpg
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Greyson Brown




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Nov, 2006 6:18 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

W. R. Reynolds wrote:
I have pretty much come to the conclusion (it was only a suspicion before) that religion and alcohol were the way to go when dealing with PTSD/madness? in the middle ages.


I was thinking about this a bit last night, and had basically the same thought; especially the alcohol. A lot of soldiers today deal with their problems (whether PTSD or just the general stresses of life) by drinking. Things that today might be attributed to PTSD could very easily have been attributed to "excess of strong drink" during the medieval period.

-Grey

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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Nov, 2006 8:08 am    Post subject: Re: medievl post traumatic stress disorder         Reply with quote

W. R. Reynolds wrote:
I particularly liked the Persistence document and Cadfael will provide some light reading if I can find copies of the books.


Cadfael was also made into a BBC T.V. series and is available on DVD. ( You can get them through Amazon and if you buy by going through the " myArmoury bookstore " to link to Amazon this site will get a benefit from it. )

Here is another Cadfael related site: http://www.steveconrad.co.uk/cadfael/tv.html
and here http://www.amazon.com/Cadfael-TV-Television-D...ode=549362

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W. R. Reynolds




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PostPosted: Sat 18 Nov, 2006 11:22 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Thanks Jean. I was aware of the DVD's. I have however a voracious appetite for the written word and this will help with the hunger pains.
Bill

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