Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Medieval Cruelty: Changing Perceptions from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Medieval Cruelty: Changing Perceptions from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period

Article excerpt

Medieval Cruelty: Changing Perceptions from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period, by Daniel Baraz.

Cruelty, as a value judgment, is always relative and subjective. An act or word that seems cruel to some people today, may not be considered cruel by others; what is "cruel" in the West may not be "cruel" in the East; what the law says is cruel in the 21st century, was not cruel in the 12th, or, for that matter, even in the 19th. If nothing else, this chronological survey of references to cruelty in the literature from the first century to the 16th makes clear that the word admits of no precise definition, that there never was any single notion of cruelty, and that a history of the concept in any period is bound to be tentative and, to a certain extent, disappointing. This is not to say that Baraz, aside from a few stylistic errors, does not maintain a satisfactory scholarly standard. …

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