War, Justice, and Public Order: England and France in the Later Middle Ages

By Richard W. Kaeuper | Go to book overview

Preface

On 21 April 1908, Theodore Roosevelt’s guest of the day at a White House luncheon was James J. Walsh, whose recent book, The ThirteenthGreatest of Centuries, had intrigued the president and left him ‘somewhat converted’ to the thesis so unambiguously proclaimed in its title.1 Though initially rejected by six publishers, when printed by the Catholic Summer School Press in 1907, the book sold more than 70,000 copies. The idea of the thirteenth century as a glorious peak in the mountain range of medieval centuries was by no means an idiosyncrasy of Walsh, though his contention that this century towered over all others would have won less than general acceptance. But medieval historians before and after Walsh’s time, and especially the great Victorians, ill-disguised their warm admiration for the thirteenth century; they admired its cathedrals; they approved of its universities; they marvelled at its philosophical structures (though often with Protestant reservations); and they discovered in its politics the foundations of modern government, complete with the essential checks of representative institutions and the rule of law. As a preface to the Silver Jubilee edition of his book, issued in 1929, Walsh collected some of the paeans of praise sung by the Victorians, ending with the veritable benediction of Henry Adams, ‘The twelfth and thirteenth centuries were a period when men were at their strongest.’

The relevance of this historiographical tradition for any study with a focus primarily on the fourteenth century is obvious. From so great a height as the thirteenth century the way can only be down in the following age. Historians have, in fact, often viewed the fourteenth century as an age of decline, of waning, or breakdown, and have judged such slippage from the heights with an intensity ranging from nostalgic regret to outright condemnation. Reactions against such negative judgements have

1 Kirwin, ‘James J. Walsh—Medical Historian and Pathfinder’.

-vii-

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War, Justice, and Public Order: England and France in the Later Middle Ages
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Abbreviations xii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Enterprise of War 11
  • 2 - Royal Justice and Public Order 134
  • 3 - Chivalry, the State, and Public Order 184
  • 4 - Vox Populi 269
  • 5 - Conclusion 381
  • Bibliography 393
  • Index 425
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