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Andrew Fox




Location: S.F. Bay Area
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PostPosted: Fri 31 Jul, 2009 10:04 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I wonder if the civilian guys in that artwork might actually be more symbolic than meant to represent peasants gearing up for a battle. Note in the close-up the guy on the far right in the half armor is armed with an artist's palette and mahlstick (a stick that allows you to rest steady your arm while painting without getting it in the wet paint), and the man to his left is carrying what looks like a carpenter's square and a piece of paper (architectural plans?) in his other hand. Then there's a miner with his pick, too.

My guess is it's representing the trades supporting whatever military action this portrays. That explains the people "armed" with shears and tongs and other strange stuff. It's a really fascinating work, though. Thanks for posting it.
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Christopher Lee




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PostPosted: Fri 31 Jul, 2009 10:57 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Andrew Fox wrote:
I wonder if the civilian guys in that artwork might actually be more symbolic than meant to represent peasants gearing up for a battle. Note in the close-up the guy on the far right in the half armor is armed with an artist's palette and mahlstick (a stick that allows you to rest steady your arm while painting without getting it in the wet paint), and the man to his left is carrying what looks like a carpenter's square and a piece of paper (architectural plans?) in his other hand. Then there's a miner with his pick, too.

My guess is it's representing the trades supporting whatever military action this portrays. That explains the people "armed" with shears and tongs and other strange stuff. It's a really fascinating work, though. Thanks for posting it.


Hmm, you might very well have an excellent point about the illustration; i really should have looked at it a little more carefully before posting it. Interesting that the painter gets the half armour rather than the architect?

Another image or two; holbein's image of death and the peddler; who is equiped with a sword; Holbein's image of death and the Count showing the nobleman running from death diguised as a peasant (flail on the ground) and Lützelburger's "Kämpfende Bauern" showing peasants equiped with various farm tools but also swords/messer's, axes, a boar spear and a halberd; an image from the german peasant revolts showing peasants armed with axes, spears and swords.



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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Sat 01 Aug, 2009 12:08 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

I am wondering if those "armed" peasants are in fact a labor force marching with the army to give the appearance of strength?

M.

EDIT: D'oh, that will teach me to lave a thread open and come back two hours later Happy

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 3:11 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

James Head wrote:
We also know that English infantry prefered the hewing power of a Billhook on a pole over the defensive thrusting power of pikes and spears.


Why "defensive?" The most successful users of pikes and spears tended to be people who used them offensively, like the Swiss pikemen with their headlong charges or the Scots at Stirling Bridge. Defensive spear/pike formations generally performed poorly if not supported by other troops with strong offensive capabilities (like Flemish godendag-wielders or Andalusian cavalry).
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 3:15 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Elling Polden wrote:
The English, beeing quick learners, used the same tactics against the French, but utilizing dismounted men at arms, as they actually had suficient number of these, using the milita as non-melee archers.


I wouldn't call the English archers "militia" or "non-melee." For one thing, the archers who went to the Continent were the cream of the crop, a large proportion of whom were volunteers recruited through military indentures and the like. The "militia" archers proper--those raised under the Commissions of Array--tended to be left back home for territorial defense, and in some cases (such as in the clashes with Franco-Spanish naval raiders) they appeared to have performed rather less well than their professional cousins in the armies sent to France. And of course we have plenty of accounts (Agincourt being the most striking of them) of the archers fighting hand-to-hand in support of the men-at-arms. It's worth noting that the Italian chronicler (Villani?) who saw English mercenaries in Italy remarked not only upon the archers' bows but also upon their swords and bucklers.
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 4:07 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Lee wrote:
Also, remember that city militias were made up of lower classes


I wouldn't say so. Urban militias recruited from among rich merchants and skilled artisans--not the crude laborers who made up the true lower classes of medieval European cities.


Quote:
and that the soldiery of the professional mercenary armies were likely drawn from the landless and tradesless underclasses who joined up hoping for plunder or at least a wage.


I wouldn't say so either; in fact, if we look at the composition of medieval mercenary bands, the most striking elements tend to be the landless or dispossessed members of the upper classes who received a disproportionately high representation in such bands. Even the "common" components were largely made up of elites (English longbowmen, etc.) or at least the middling sort (ex-militia billmen and pavisiers, etc.) of soldiers.


Quote:
The swiss mercenaries were drawn from the lower classes and were some of the most formidible fighters of the late medieval, early renaissance period.


But not the lowest of the low; arguably, just like the English archers, the Swiss who could afford to equip and provision themselves for mercenary service abroad were a socially and militarily higher sort than the general run of their homeland militias.
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Christopher Lee




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 5:40 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

[
Quote:
and that the soldiery of the professional mercenary armies were likely drawn from the landless and tradesless underclasses who joined up hoping for plunder or at least a wage.


Quote:
I wouldn't say so either; in fact, if we look at the composition of medieval mercenary bands, the most striking elements tend to be the landless or dispossessed members of the upper classes who received a disproportionately high representation in such bands. Even the "common" components were largely made up of elites (English longbowmen, etc.) or at least the middling sort (ex-militia billmen and pavisiers, etc.) of soldiers.


Well, while the written word is not always totally reliable your opinion is at odds with a few books on the Landsknechts; the one i have to hand at this moment is the osprey landsknechts (#58): "In spite of the selection process, which depended on whether a recruit brought his own weapons or not, the regiment must have been a motley crew of journeymen, peasants and students all inspired by the chance of adventure and, of course pay and loot, and the sons of wealthy patricians, there for the sake of family honour".
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M. Eversberg II




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 5:49 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Wouldn't drawing from skilled tradesmen create an economic problem, especially if they were killed and could not return? Or were the number of people drawn from these English tradesmen comparatively insignificant?

One would think drafting numerous unskilled laborers and giving them a trade (death) would be a good thing. Then again, they likely have some kind of attatude or morale problem to boot.

M.

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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 6:30 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Lee wrote:
Well, while the written word is not always totally reliable your opinion is at odds with a few books on the Landsknechts; the one i have to hand at this moment is the osprey landsknechts (#58): "In spite of the selection process, which depended on whether a recruit brought his own weapons or not, the regiment must have been a motley crew of journeymen, peasants and students all inspired by the chance of adventure and, of course pay and loot, and the sons of wealthy patricians, there for the sake of family honour".


Landsknechts were a very late medieval phenomenon at best, and more properly belong to the Renaissance. And yes, they did represent a symptom of changing values regarding the relationship between social stratification and the right/obligation to bear arms. So we can't use them to justify the idea that earlier medieval soldiers were the scum of the earth--rather, I'd say that the medieval soldiers/mercenaries/very-heavily-armed-robbers/whatever were more like "the worst of the best."


Last edited by Lafayette C Curtis on Wed 05 Aug, 2009 6:39 am; edited 2 times in total
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 6:37 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

M. Eversberg II wrote:
Wouldn't drawing from skilled tradesmen create an economic problem, especially if they were killed and could not return? Or were the number of people drawn from these English tradesmen comparatively insignificant?


That was certainly an issue, but apparently it was seen as a lesser danger compared to putting weapons in the hands of a volatile, discontented underclass. Remember that militia ordinances throughout the Middle Ages stipulated that men possessing so much property had to own (and bring to muster) this or that particular set of weapons and armor? Remember, too, that the poorest classes (below a certain minimum property class that still had fairly high requirements) were often not mentioned at all? The logic behind this was that if you owned enough property, then you'd have a stake not only in defending that property but also in defending the social system that allowed you to get and keep that property in the first place. Extending the arms-bearing franchise to the poor would have been counterproductive to the sociological purpose of the militia system.


Quote:
One would think drafting numerous unskilled laborers and giving them a trade (death) would be a good thing. Then again, they likely have some kind of attatude or morale problem to boot.


And the morale problem isn't just about them breaking and running--it's more about them turning their weapons against their masters. No property = nothing to defend = nothing to lose by rebelling against the status quo.
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Christopher Lee




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PostPosted: Wed 05 Aug, 2009 5:02 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:
M. Eversberg II wrote:
Wouldn't drawing from skilled tradesmen create an economic problem, especially if they were killed and could not return? Or were the number of people drawn from these English tradesmen comparatively insignificant?


Quote:
That was certainly an issue, but apparently it was seen as a lesser danger compared to putting weapons in the hands of a volatile, discontented underclass. Remember that militia ordinances throughout the Middle Ages stipulated that men possessing so much property had to own (and bring to muster) this or that particular set of weapons and armor? Remember, too, that the poorest classes (below a certain minimum property class that still had fairly high requirements) were often not mentioned at all? The logic behind this was that if you owned enough property, then you'd have a stake not only in defending that property but also in defending the social system that allowed you to get and keep that property in the first place. Extending the arms-bearing franchise to the poor would have been counterproductive to the sociological purpose of the militia system.



Quote:
One would think drafting numerous unskilled laborers and giving them a trade (death) would be a good thing. Then again, they likely have some kind of attatude or morale problem to boot.


And the morale problem isn't just about them breaking and running--it's more about them turning their weapons against their masters. No property = nothing to defend = nothing to lose by rebelling against the status quo.


As i mentioned above, i'm sceptical of the view that peasants were the "scum of the earth" and would break and run at the first sign of a fight or if given a weapon would murder their "masters".

It seems as though there is/was an unquestioning belief that "peasants" were the lowest form of life and that they were possessed of neither morals, courage or integrity. This is a view that was current during the medieval period, yes, but this was the view that was held by the elites and nobility, who of course viewed themselves as the best of everthing in all respects, the most moral, etc. However, given that the elites (In france the knights/nobility represented 2% of the population) were the ones that wrote history it would be ill advised to accept their point of view as the only allowable one. So, following that theme, unless you were a knight or urban middle class you were regarded as scum and the lowest of the low. These are somewhat similar attitudes to the 19thC ideas used to justify racism and slavery and the idea that anyone who wasn't a white anglo-saxon male was lacking in some crucial way. Lets face it, if we were hurled back into the medieval period, statistically we would be either rural peasants or urban peasants or tradesmen (regardless of any adolescent fantasies we may have about being a knight). None of us would like to think that we are the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth, but socially, in terms of a lack of nobility/knighthood, if we currently rent our house/flat and don't own our own property, etc there is no doubt that we would be regarded as such.

Also, i think that there is a certain lack of clarity regarding the topic; "a peasant and his weapons"; nowhere have we pinned down exactly what this term "peasant" means and it seems that there is a lot of ambiguity in the term. Are we referring to the agrarian peasantry, free yeomen, landless serfs, urban labourers, skilled artisans, etc? In terms of the top 2% of nobility, it is likely that in terms of their attitudes they lumped the broad mass of the lower classes together? So, which social group are we actually talking about?
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Mikael Ranelius




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2009 4:23 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Lee wrote:


As i mentioned above, i'm sceptical of the view that peasants were the "scum of the earth" and would break and run at the first sign of a fight or if given a weapon would murder their "masters".

It seems as though there is/was an unquestioning belief that "peasants" were the lowest form of life and that they were possessed of neither morals, courage or integrity. This is a view that was current during the medieval period, yes, but this was the view that was held by the elites and nobility, who of course viewed themselves as the best of everthing in all respects, the most moral, etc. However, given that the elites (In france the knights/nobility represented 2% of the population) were the ones that wrote history it would be ill advised to accept their point of view as the only allowable one. So, following that theme, unless you were a knight or urban middle class you were regarded as scum and the lowest of the low. These are somewhat similar attitudes to the 19thC ideas used to justify racism and slavery and the idea that anyone who wasn't a white anglo-saxon male was lacking in some crucial way. Lets face it, if we were hurled back into the medieval period, statistically we would be either rural peasants or urban peasants or tradesmen (regardless of any adolescent fantasies we may have about being a knight). None of us would like to think that we are the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth, but socially, in terms of a lack of nobility/knighthood, if we currently rent our house/flat and don't own our own property, etc there is no doubt that we would be regarded as such.

Also, i think that there is a certain lack of clarity regarding the topic; "a peasant and his weapons"; nowhere have we pinned down exactly what this term "peasant" means and it seems that there is a lot of ambiguity in the term. Are we referring to the agrarian peasantry, free yeomen, landless serfs, urban labourers, skilled artisans, etc? In terms of the top 2% of nobility, it is likely that in terms of their attitudes they lumped the broad mass of the lower classes together? So, which social group are we actually talking about?


The unnerving thing is that this lofty aristocratic contempt of the lower classes is still being cherished by some contemporary reenactors who seems to have taken their role or persona as a dashing brave noble knight a bit too seriously.
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Gabriele A. Pini




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2009 5:57 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

What type of peasant? This is a good question.

I have an example: my grandfather descended from the Valtellina at the start of the previous century, and he found a very different social culture that the one from where he was born...

I know first 20th century its not the same as 12th or 13th century, but humor me: it's only to know how different can be two people at only two days of journey afar.

In Valtellina, especially in the high passes, the property was highly fragmented, with a lot of field property of two, three of even four people, everyone with the right to have tot number of cattle. Everyone was "lord" of his house, with the right to buy and sell as he choose.

Here in Como, however, the situation was very different: the land and the houses were property of the local lords, big farmers or even priests, and the people worked the with a contract called "mezzadria" (at the end of the year worker and landlord divided between them the fruits).

The valtellinesi were hated at the time: they arrived here and actually buy their homes and farms: they were not farmer, they were landlord! At the end of the year, they don't have to divide the fruits with anyone, and they could sell and move over when they want....

And this at only 100 km of distance: you can see how the definition of "peasant" can be different.


Humor sidenote:
in the 16th century a missioner of the "Controriforma" from Milan, send in Teglio, Valtellina, so said to his superiors:
"I speak to them with good hearth, and they ear me always. Christ will do the rest, moreover because I couldn't intend them, and they me...."
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Christopher Lee




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2009 5:05 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Quote:
The unnerving thing is that this lofty aristocratic contempt of the lower classes is still being cherished by some contemporary reenactors who seems to have taken their role or persona as a dashing brave noble knight a bit too seriously.


While we are in danger of ambling off topic somewhat, i find that i must agree wholeheartedly. I apologise in advance for the digression.

I have encountered some truly objectionable reenactors who seemed to take their persona's far too seriously. They would strut around, acting all "lordly" and arrogant, being pompous and pretentious without the self awareness to realise that they were actually a parody of a "weekend warrior". It seemed sometimes to be a compensation for a total lack of power or influence in their day to day lives; many of the most pompous ones i've encountered were chronically unemployed or lacked any ability to influence their lives in any meaningful way. So, come the weekend, they would don their armour, pick up their sword, call themselves Sir Bernhardt Von Bopfingenbatcrap, or similar and strut around with an arrogant sneer plastered across their face. I want to be clear, i am not referring to the SCA, rather i am referring to certain groups that regard themselves as the font of all historical accuracy, the height of "living history", posessed of the one true fighting system and who sneer at the SCA any opportunity they get. There are also the "alpha males" strutting around, beating the hell out of the newbies in training sessions "to toughen them up" and to assert their own dominance. Meanwhile the group would be run along the lines of a bikie gang with the alpha's bumping chests, etc. everytime a single girl joined the group. The group that i'm thinking of, the "alpha's" also mostly had a limited idea of the actual history of the time period they were meant to be reenacting, just how it related to their persona, their armour, their clothes and what weapons they could use to hit people with. There are many groups and many individuals who are nothing like this, but i must just have been "lucky" to encounter the examples i mention.

I will never forget the occassion about 6 years ago when i decided that i wanted to train in a western martial art; i approached the head of a 14thC reenactment group whom i had known for many years and asked if he knew of anyone who taught WMA's; he suggested that i join his group and i said that i didn't want to do reenactment of the time period but instead wanted to learn the fighting techniques of the time period, whereupon he said, sneeringly, "Oh, so you lack the discipline to do it properly then?" Thank you for your time, goodbye. The ultimate irony was that i later found out that the 14thC Hundred Years War group's fighting system was based upon Marozzo!

There could be an entire thread devoted to what is wrong with the attitudes of some reenactors.

But returning to the topic (slightly) i wonder if some people allow themselves to be influenced by a persona they adopt in regards to the "peasantry"? As i mentioned in my previous post, ironically anyone who rents their home, or is paying off their house, who works for another, who isn't independently wealthy; lets face it, we are the modern equivalent of peasants; we may have flat screen tv's and i-phones but this is not "nobility" and calling one's self a "knight" on the weekend is one thing but to adopt the elitist mentality that went with the title is quite another.
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Jean Thibodeau




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2009 7:26 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Well, I guess depending on period and geography and culture a peasant can be very low or not so low in the social structure.

The poor " serf/slave " barely left enough to eat by overbearing ioverlords probably existed outside of " Hollywood Robin Hood movies " but the rich peasant owning a lot of land and almost a Lord without the titles of Nobility was the other end of the spectrum. ( Eventually, buying/marying into the Nobility or the Nobility dabbling in commerce ).

With urbanization a growing middle class of merchants and tradesmen probably came originally from the peasant class and the simple triumviate of Peasant/Priest/Warrior got more complicated with the addition of a merchant middle class.

Getting back to the original subject armed peasants or simply armed non-nobles or non-professional soldiers varied from disorganized improvised rural revolts to selfdefense militias in the countryside or in cities with the armaments also going from whatever was at hand to basic spear/axe/shield, with or without helmets, progressing to equipment rivalling the Knightly professionals.

You can easily give up your freedom. You have to fight hard to get it back!
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James R.Fox




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PostPosted: Thu 06 Aug, 2009 9:53 pm    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Sirs-to really answer the question, you have to spicify time and place. In many ares, depending on time and place the peasant was expected to have certain skills.England post-Edward I,Spain in the Reconquista,Scandanavia, and so on.Social rank was a matter of birth and wealth.
Ja68ms
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Lafayette C Curtis




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Aug, 2009 8:29 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Christopher Lee wrote:
It seems as though there is/was an unquestioning belief that "peasants" were the lowest form of life and that they were possessed of neither morals, courage or integrity. This is a view that was current during the medieval period, yes, but this was the view that was held by the elites and nobility, who of course viewed themselves as the best of everthing in all respects, the most moral, etc.


Oh well. Seems like I wasn't specific enough. Or maybe I wasn't general enough. Contempt for lower-down classes was not a view held only by the aristocracy, but by pretty much everyone in medieval European society who had anybody else to look down on.

Bringing it into the military sphere, this is why we see a sharp demarcation between skilled artisans and wealthy free farmers (who were allowed and required to own weaponry and to train with them) and the classes lower down the rung, such as ditch diggers and manure collectors and day laborers (who were neither allowed nor required to bear arms).


Quote:
However, given that the elites (In france the knights/nobility represented 2% of the population) were the ones that wrote history it would be ill advised to accept their point of view as the only allowable one.


So what? They were the people who mattered in politics and in war. And note that 2% of the population--if the figure is indeed true--is much larger than the size of most medieval armies. The military establishment of royal France after the promulgation of the Ordinances in the mid-15th century consisted of approximately 30,000 men if we add together all the Companies of the Grand Ordinance and the smaller bands of the Lesser Ordinance and the various garrisons and town militias and the francs-archers. With population estimates for the late 15th century varying from anywhere between 6 million to 24 million people in the equivalent of modern metropolitan France, we can easily see that the army only makes up half a percent or (much more likely) less of the total population, and the nobility alone would have been able to fill all that number if we assume that fighting-age men in good mental and physical condition made up about one-fourths of the noble population. Indeed, they might have actually tried. Somewhat later on (in the 1520s) a gentleman (no less than Blaise de Monluc himself!) was quite willing to join a company as an archer (actually a light lancer) because he either couldn't afford a full man-at-arms's equipment or couldn't find a man-at-arms's vacancy to fill.

Now that I think of it, even in the modern age, very few (if any) national military establishments today have standing components that are larger than 1.5% of the population of their host countries.


Quote:
So, following that theme, unless you were a knight or urban middle class you were regarded as scum and the lowest of the low. These are somewhat similar attitudes to the 19thC ideas used to justify racism and slavery and the idea that anyone who wasn't a white anglo-saxon male was lacking in some crucial way. Lets face it, if we were hurled back into the medieval period, statistically we would be either rural peasants or urban peasants or tradesmen (regardless of any adolescent fantasies we may have about being a knight). None of us would like to think that we are the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth, but socially, in terms of a lack of nobility/knighthood, if we currently rent our house/flat and don't own our own property, etc there is no doubt that we would be regarded as such.


Once again, I don't see why the highly classist and elitist view should be a problem when we're talking in the context of medieval military history. Obviously these people were the ones who made up and ran the armies of the period. Why shouldn't we try to see things from their viewpoint rather than attempt a misguided application of modern egalitarian/democratic viewpoints?

It would be silly to deny that our ancestors were bigots by our standards. But at the same time it would be just as silly to force our modern viewpoint to things that can only be properly considered if we are willing to detach our personal morality from the debate and try to see it from their viewpoint. For them (and I'm not just talking about the aristocracy here, but also propertied commoners like merchants, artisans, and yeomen), arming the unwashed masses was tantamount to sociopolitical suicide.

Well, OK, not just that kind of suicide. It was also suicide in the sense that bringing poorly-armed, untrained masses to war was an almost certain guarantee that you'd only lose a large number of men for no purpose. Outside the absolutely direst emergencies, we consistently see a minimum standard of equipment and training being applied to all sorts of medieval armies. The burghers' force at Courtrai, for example, was pretty short of gentle and noble combatants, but even so the majority of the men had swords (in addition to their pikes or clubs) and a large proportion were armored in mail hauberks.

We could draw parallels with ancient Roman militia institutions, which were the explicit inspiration for many medieval militia organizations. They didn't take any men from the poorest of the poor, and above this they divided the classes of soldiers according to wealth and hence the ability to provide their own equipment. Obviously, many medieval rulers and city councils also took a stern warning from Gaius Marius's act of divorcing military service from property requirements and the sociopolitical topsy-turviness that the "reform" caused.
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Jared Smith




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PostPosted: Sun 09 Aug, 2009 9:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

Lafayette C Curtis wrote:

Once again, I don't see why the highly classist and elitist view should be a problem when we're talking in the context of medieval military history. Obviously these people were the ones who made up and ran the armies of the period. Why shouldn't we try to see things from their viewpoint rather than attempt a misguided application of modern egalitarian/democratic viewpoints?



This situation actually developed quite early for much of France and England. (Earlier than 15th century examples, or than most realize. I don't know Germany as well, but would say its Western regions were in a military class system by late 12th century.) Francis Gies and some other authors state for some specific but large regions that the majority of army "mercenaries/ men at arms/ contract soldiers" were actually descended from the "knightly class" by mid to late 12th century. Further, a large portion of courtly, clergy related, artisans, and other middle class positions/training were given to "knightly class" descendants during the transition from feudal levy to more modern army recruiting. David Crouch has an entire book devoted to the subject "The Birth of Nobility" which illustrates in detail how the military establishment led to the formation of a class system. He has a few good examples of the importance of heredity descent from the military as early as the 10th century.

Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence!
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Elling Polden




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PostPosted: Mon 10 Aug, 2009 6:52 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

The major shift in european society and warfare came with the gradual growth of the urban upper and middle class.

Where the early medevial reality is about concrete, material resources like agricultural land, trained menn and armour.
As a medevial king, you give nobles controll of parts of your land. In exchange, they provide everyting needed to maintan and defend the area. This includes building up a standing military force, which will fight for you when you call them.
Early and high medevial nobles would be bussy men indeed.

In the renaisance, military power go from being something you own (in terms of a feudal host) to something you buy or hire (in the form of mercenaries, or by providing arms for your own populance).
These new armies are paid for by the taxes of the urban elite, led by profesionall officers, and consist of landless labourers.

This meant that nobles now lost their function as the main military contributor. At the same time, they where replaced as administrators by byrocrats working directly for the king.
However, they retained their priviledges, prompting the growing discontent among the middle/upper classes that lead to the liberalist revolutions in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Our images of medevial nobles and knights are to some degree still coloured by this struggle. We tend to see nobles as the decadent fops of 18th Century france, and knights as pompous and ponderous Don Qujote-like characters.
In their day, however, they where lean, hungry, and dangerous.

"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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Bob Burgess




Location: Wiltshire UK
Joined: 30 May 2011

Posts: 21

PostPosted: Wed 01 Jun, 2011 9:38 am    Post subject:         Reply with quote

A bit late to add to this thread, but I have only recently joined the forum and I'm trawling through posts relating to my subject of interest, the humble billhook. If Britain pre Industrial Revolution is anything to go by, 95% of the population worked on the land, mainly in farming, but also in other areas such as forestry and coppice work. One thing all these trades had in common were edge tools, and nearly all used a billhook of some sort at some time. There were also a vast array of other edge tools that are little known about, and thus often mistaken as so-called weapons (the halberd that is really a coupe marc used for cider making, the falchion that is a thatcher's eaves knife and the battle axe that is a hache à marc, a regional variation on the coupe marc)

The bill hook can be short handled, a hand bill, or long handled, a hedging bill or slasher. All are capable of cutting through green wood of about 2" diameter, and would readily sever (or at the very least severly injure) an opponents arm... and a man who had spent three months of the year laying hedges would now how to use it, and more equally have developed the strength if sinew and muscle to do so..

In parts of Swiss Italy the carrying of arms by the peasantry was prohibited - the answer was to carry an elongated billhook, a tool of their everday life.... In Ruanda in the late 20th century the machete, a local variation of the billhook, was used for genocide and mutilation.... In peasant uprisings in Central America, the long handled tajamata, a local billhook, was carried by nearly every man.... In times of war you use what you are familiar with and what you have available...

Put the billhook head on a longer handle, add a spike at the end, and you have a bill, a formidible pole arm - and when the battle was over, and the survivors returned home, the local blacksmith could turn it back into a hedging bill - the Bible does not say 'turn your swords into plough-shares and your spears into pruning hooks' without some historical precedent to justify it....



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beidana.jpg
18th century biedane from the Piemonte of Italy

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A 20th century Swiss billhook - its forerunners were the the ancestors of the beidana

Edge tool collector and historian, with a special interest in the billhook...
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