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

By Richard W. Kaeuper | Go to book overview

3
Chivalry, the State, and Public Order

The subtle bias of modern views creates a danger of misinterpreting the medieval problem of order. In the modern world many people tend to associate in some loose formula public order, the control of violent crime, strict action against criminals by police and judges. In our world, in contrast to the medieval world, violence is often seen as by and large a phenomenon of the people in the bottom layers of society; violence thus appears as a regrettable concomitant of poverty, lack of opportunity, or the downward spiral of drug addiction. Such crime as is found, and found abundantly, in the upper ranges of modern society seems to many not to pose a direct threat to public order; tax evasion, bribery, business fraud, while regrettable, do not disturb the citizen in his day-to-day life beyond the furrowing of a brow as he reads his newspaper.

Thus, the attempt, often made with considerable labour, to transport our modern sociological and criminological concerns and methodology back across the medieval centuries, while it has produced some results of great interest, cannot be the master key to the problem of public order.1 Exactly how much any particular length of computer printout can tell us about any particular category of crime may be debated, but we must not confuse the sum total of these printouts with even the raw material from which an analysis of public order could be redefined.

If we think of medieval public order simply in terms of crime (currently of great interest to historians) or of periodic rebellion

1 See the discussions of Bronislaw Geremek, Les Marginaux parisiens·, eh. 1. Victor Bailey states the problem concisely in his bibliographical essay, ‘Crime, Criminal Justice, and Authority in England’, 36: ‘The essential dilemma is whether the criminal indictments…should be taken as a measure of the changes which occurred in criminal behaviour over time, or as an indicator of the contours of the system of criminal justice.’ B. W. McLane usefully distinguishes patterns of crime and patterns of prosecution in Lincolnshire in ‘The Royal Courts’, 79–103.

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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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