Vengeance in Medieval Europe: A Reader

Vengeance in Medieval Europe: A Reader

by Daniel Lord Smail, Kelly Lyn Gibson
     
 

How did medieval society deal with private justice, with grudges, and with violent emotions? This ground-breaking reader collects for the first time a number of unpublished or difficult-to-find texts that address violence and emotion in the Middle Ages.

The sources collected here illustrate the power and reach of the language of vengeance in medieval European

Overview

How did medieval society deal with private justice, with grudges, and with violent emotions? This ground-breaking reader collects for the first time a number of unpublished or difficult-to-find texts that address violence and emotion in the Middle Ages.

The sources collected here illustrate the power and reach of the language of vengeance in medieval European society. They span the early, high, and later middle ages, and capture a range of perspectives including legal sources, learned commentaries, narratives, and documents of practice. Though social elites necessarily figure prominently in all medieval sources, sources concerning relatively low-status individuals and sources pertaining to women are included. The sources range from saints' lives that illustrate the idea of vengeance to later medieval court records concerning vengeful practices. A secondary goal of the collection is to illustrate the prominence of mechanisms for peacemaking in medieval European society.

The introduction traces recent scholarly developments in the study of vengeance and discusses the significance of these concepts for medieval political and social history.

Editorial Reviews

Mediaevistik
The editors are to be applauded for their outstanding efforts to make so many relevant texts available. Overall, the entire period of the Middle Ages is well covered, and we can easily grasp the long tradition on vengeance going back to the Old Testament. This proves to be a very useful textbook that will allow new approaches in university seminars.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781442601345
Publisher:
University of Toronto Press, Higher Education Division
Publication date:
06/01/2009
Series:
Readings in Medieval Civilizations and Cultures Series , #13
Pages:
496
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Paul R. Hyams

The urge to avenge wrongs we think we have suffered is a human constant that is always tough to master. The ideas that helped the men and women of medieval Europe handle their neighbors without destroying their communities retain their relevance in a dangerous world. Vengeance is a very personal matter. Who has not had fleeting thoughts of divorcing his family or of flaying (literally) those who opposed him? To keep those thoughts inchoate, our medieval predecessors often resorted to violence but also crafted personal 'peace treaties.' Maybe we can learn from their own accounts, while we deepen understanding of their lives and culture. Smail and Gibson will delight readers struggling to penetrate medieval culture. We teachers extol to our students the joys and immediacy of primary sources. You should read your history raw, we say, forgetting how hard that is, how long it took us. Students will be thankful for the firm editorial guidance on what they need to know. Instructors will find themselves being introduced to texts they ought to have known themselves. Even the general reader can find instances of bizarre savagery and advice on life skills to shock us into reconsidering some of our modern stances. All will meet a splendidly intelligent selection of the writings that regulated tit-for-tat behavior, and which for the most part are complete and unabridged.

Paul R. Hyams, Cornell University

Susanna Throop

On the whole, this is the type of thorough and balanced sourcebook academics dream about.

Susanna Throop, The Medieval Review

Fredric L. Cheyette

This rich collection explores one of the most critical and complex aspects of medieval social relations: violence and peacemaking. It goes far beyond most 'readers' to provide large extracts of basic legal and religious texts, chronicles, saints' lives and, most remarkably, extracts from manuscript archival court documents of the Later Middle Ages. It will be an inexhaustible resource for teachers, students, and researchers not just in social and legal history, but in the history of medieval religion and literature. The history of vengeance will never be the same.

Fredric L. Cheyette, Amherst College

Meet the Author

Daniel Lord Smail is Professor of History at Harvard University. He is the co-editor with Thelma Fenster of Fama: The Politics of Talk and Reputation in Medieval Europe (Cornell University Press, 2003), The Consumption of Justice: Emotions, Publicity, and Legal Culture in Marseille, 1264-1423 (Cornell University Press, 2003), and Imaginary Cartographies: Possession and Identity in Late Medieval Marseille (Cornell University Press, 1999).

Kelly Gibson is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at Harvard University.

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