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

By Richard W. Kaeuper | Go to book overview

4
Vox Populi

At the start of the fourteenth century, though in somewhat different ways and degrees, royal government in England and France had become the authority finally responsible for the provision of justice and the supervision of public order. The king’s government not only pursued the most extensive and energetic warfare Europe had yet seen, it also affected the state of justice and order within the realm in complex and sometimes even contradictory ways. The crown did not simply repress internal disorder and provide alternatives to violence. By the sheer exercise of administrative power in demanding the service and wealth of subjects, especially for the inexorable demands of war, it provoked loud cries of resentment and bitter charges of injustice. Political resistance, vitriolic complaint, and major risings mark the fourteenth century and suggest important questions about responses to the action of the emerging state in England and France. Such issues are as difficult as they are important for they take us into the perilous realm of public opinion. ‘Little is known about anybody’s opinion for the larger part of recorded history’, as J. R. Strayer has noted, and when medieval historians in particular have tried to gauge popular opinion they have ‘had to deduce its existence, its weight and its direction from political perturbations, much like astronomers trying to prove the existence of a new heavenly body which they have not yet seen.’1 Squinting into the night sky may seem an appropriate image whenever a medievalist tries to take from his fragmentary sources a coherent reading of some layer of popular opinion on the emerging state. Not only are the sources painfully inadequate, the very abstraction, state, was scarcely conceived by men who saw, experienced, and wrote about only particular rulers, officials, and courts, and whose critical acumen ran more

1 Strayer, ‘The Historian’s Concept of Public Opinion’, 263.

-269-

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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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