Society and Homicide in Thirteenth-Century England

Society and Homicide in Thirteenth-Century England

Society and Homicide in Thirteenth-Century England

Society and Homicide in Thirteenth-Century England

Excerpt

Homicide is a social relationship. For a killing to take place, at least two people must interact, if only for a single moment. To onlookers, and to those who later attempt to reconstruct the circumstances surrounding a slaying, a murder may at first seem to be a senseless, irrational event, the product of unfathomable psychological processes. Yet even the most bizarre and apparently unmotivated murder is not without social meaning. Like every other form of human behavior, murder is patterned by the prevailing relationships--affective, economic, political-- that exist within a society. Each society therefore has its own specific patterns of violent behavior, patterns that are as characteristic of it and as unique to it as the way in which its members secure their food, raise their children, and choose their leaders.

The study of the patterns of violence and murder in a given society dramatically reveals the web of interrelationships that unite its members, and the tensions and conflicts that these relationships engender. A study of homicide is therefore of value to anyone interested in the dynamics of social interaction. It is of even greater interest and value for a medieval historian. Despite the excellent work done on the social history of medieval Europe in this century, the image of medieval society it has presented to us is full of lacunae. Much is known of the structure of society--

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