Violence and Feud in the Middle Ages

History 103B.002

Fall 2017
2303 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
M 2-4
Class Number: 

The Middle Ages has the reputation of being a period of unusual violence tamed only by the legal institutions of the developing state, but the reputation is undeserved, at least if one thinks of violence as the unrestrained use of physical force by individuals. Violence was common in the middle ages, but it was not unrestrained. It was limited, calculated, and essential to maintaining social order. For that very reason, it is all the more interesting. Examining test cases from the entire span of the middle ages, this seminar will explore a number of arenas of habitual, even normalized violence, including feuds, urban riots, and private war. It will also ask why — again in contrast to common beliefs — the developing "state" never managed to eradicate such violence but on the contrary, seemed to require and even promote them.