The many deaths of John Grene, Gentleman.

King’s bench records are full of oddities and light on details. I have no idea if the very thorough killing of John Grene, in July 1457 will lead to anything useful for my thesis but it has some promise. If only I could explain why he keeps showing up with new murderers, that would be great.

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[Re-blogged] Beating Plowshares Into Boars

This is the sort of thinking I like to see with this material. Thank you Mr Tobler for thinking about Lechüchner as a writer with an audiance, not just a swordsman.

The Freelancer

by Christian ToblerImage

Alphabet - At the Pennsic War event this year, I taught a suite of four classes treating the use of the German longsword, dagger, sword and buckler, and, finally – messer. During that final class, someone asked me why the cleric/fencing author Johannes Lecküchner, in his mammoth treatise on the messer, had at once repeated so much of his predecessor Liechtenauer’s verse for the longsword, but had changed the names of most of the signature strokes with the sword, and for all of the guards.

“Perhaps he [Lecküchner] wanted it clear that the techniques varied a bit when performed with the messer and so named them differently”, I answered with little conviction.

I’ve given that stock answer for several years now, with progressively less confidence each time. After all, there’s a major flaw with that reasoning: the messer version of the Zornhau (Wrath Stroke) is done a bit differently…

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…like a tamping rod through the head

I would like to re-blog this interesting post about the many posthumous portraits of that most celebrated survivor of penetrating cranial trauma: Phineas Gage. But it’s rather ‘mature’ in its content of graphic simulated trauma, and while I have a strong stomach for this sort of thing, thanks to my particular academic interests, I can’t assume the same of my readers. So, for the brave, follow the link above.

For the very brave, try and find J. L. Stone, M. H. S. Rifal, and R. A. Moody, ‘An Unusual Case of Penetrating Head Injury with Excellent Recovery’, Surgical Neurology, 15 (1980), pp. 369–71 for an almost identical modern analogue (but with one significant difference which I will not spoil for the intrepid readers with access to medical journal databases).

… but knows some touch of pity

la.[Anne] Villanne, thou knowst no law of God nor man:
no beast so fierce, but knowst some touche of pittie.
Glo.[Richard] But I know none, and therefore am no beast.
1

Richard’s attempt at a self-defence against Anne’s insult is at the same time a backhanded condemnation of human nature which, unique amongst all beasts, is capable of a total lack of pity. Richard also shows a heroic lack of tact since this whole exchange happens in the midst of Anne’s solemn procession with dead husband in train. Richard’s sweeping self-incrimination is all part of his strategy to woo Anne, newly widowed by his own plans. This is the genius of The Bard, in building such a monstrosity, in a few lines.

Now that recent archaeological revelations allow us to see the real Richard III, in bones if not in flesh, it’s still likely that Shakespeare’s version will remain the popular one. While I can’t muster the sort of enthusiasm this story gets from the History Blog, I confess some morbid fascination all the same. I did not have the energy to articulate that interest in the previous post (which was cleverly titled to fit with this one, something lost in the page design). If I can’t display the same enthusiasum, I can at least nurture some frustration.

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The Revolution will not be released in paper-back

Today’s frustrating reading experience comes from David Eltis, The Military Revolution in Sixteenth-Century Europe (London: I. B. Taurus, 1995). On it’s face, this is an argument in favour of back-dating the start of the “Military Revolution” thesis, argued in the first instance by Michael Roberts in 1955, as occurring in the early 17th century. Eltis may be correct in identifying the most significant changes in the practice of warfare back a century or so, but you feel like that’s almost a happy accident. Eltis gets where he was going despite himself.

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Scholars, swordsmen, and sources – a research diversion

As an act of discipline I have forced myself to make time to finish a blog entry, any blog entry. Readers can enjoy the fruits of that penitent labour in the form of this short discourse on Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa (1486 – 1535) and whether or not he was a member of one of the confraternities of swordsmen that appeared in German states in the 15th and 16th centuries. It’s a short discussion because there is little evidence that he was such a member and that the suggestion holds very little water.

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Like looking for a needle in a stack of slightly different needles

The preliminary session catalogue for the 48th International Congress of Medieval Studies is out. The Congress, hosted for more than 48 years at the charmingly institutional grounds of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo Michigan is affectionately called The Zoo by most, and K-soo be PBS. There are over 800 papers spread over 4 days. Free footnote curiosities for the readers who correctly identify my humble (and potentially problematic) contribution!*

*Some restrictions apply. Contestants who know the super-secret identity of PBS are ineligible. Footnotes may not actually fascinate or edify. For entertainment purposes only. Do not take intravenously. Prizes are non-transferable. Void in Uruguay.

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Curse you W. H. Rylands!

Suddenly it’s the 4th of January and I have but one wee blog entry to offer. That poor start to the year is not for lack of effort. I have two entries slowing germinating in draft form but they are not yet ripe. One topic has consumed more time than expected and that is the subject of this little offering.

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An armed society is an ironic society

Robert A Heinlein, a science-fiction author that I have only a passing familiarity with, was either a melodramatic hack or a social critic of such Swiftian subtlety that he is mistaken for an ultra-conservative crank. He may be a mix of both. In 1942 he gave us the quotable axiom that “an armed society is a polite society.”1 That phrase has been dragged out regularly in the most recent ritual pantomime of social and legal debate about gun violence in the United States.

I would be neglecting my pedagogical responsibility as a student of violence if I did not try and comment with some informed opinion on this issue. While I am unqualified to discuss the peculiar American relationship with guns and their pseudo-sacred rights to personal arms, ill-defined in their founding documents, I can make an argument about the utility of arms and their relevance in maintaining social order and protecting the vulnerable as it applies to the American context. Fair warning, however, that this may get contentious.

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