Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Knight in History

The Knight in History
254 pages
Frances Gies

This week I read The Knight in History, written by France Gies. Typically she and her husband co-author novels, but not in this case. I was somewhat wary about this particular book because military history is not my interest, but Gies surprised me (very pleasantly so) by treating the knight in a broader social and political context. The book is divided into background chapters, intermixed with case-studies. The individual cases are from both English and French knighthood.

For background, Gies examines the transofrmation of Roman society into medieval society, charts the rise of feudalism and manorialism, examines the Crusades, and finally looks at the "long twilight of chilvary". Per persctive is that the knights were wealthy freemen who were charged by the Church to protect the peace, and that they developed into a class of their own that was connected to the lower nobility. The case-studies are generally military history, but do a fairly good job of connecting the historical narrative to reality.

As usual, the book is well-written and uses primary sources exhaustively, especially in the chapter on the troubadours. There's a lot to this book, and I reccommend it.

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