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For Honour and Fame: Chivalry in England, 1066-1500 Paperback – 7 Jun 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Pimlico (7 Jun. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845951891
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845951894
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.2 x 23.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 677,010 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"Nigel Saul takes a relatively benign view of medieval noblemen. He rejects the once-fashionable notion that war was all about money and land, and that chivalry was just tinsel. And, although he sees a steep decline in standards in the last medieval century, he thinks that chivalric values did have a real influence in civilising the conduct of war... Saul can make the most unpromising material speak to us with a directness that can surprise even those who are already familiar with it. This is a rich book that does ample justice to its complex theme" (The Times)

"Clear sighted history" (Guardian)

"Professor Saul's achievement is to provide for the first time a holistic overview of English chivalric culture in its historical perspective. This is a fine book, whose richness of texture defies a brief review, but which will undoubtedly become a classic" (BBC History Magazine)

"The book is full of solid, engrossing history…[it] serves, too, as a primer in medieval history, and the political and martial achievements of this country's rulers from William to Henry VII… Saul is a clear-eyed historian, not one to be taken in by popular legend" (Nicholas Lezard Guardian)

"Chivalry has often been something of a footnote in other volumes concerning the Middle Ages but here Saul proves that it is a worthy topic in and of itself" (Bookgeeks)

Book Description

An exciting and vivid examination of what the world of medieval chivalry was really like, and the role it played in the history of medieval England

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By bookelephant on 25 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So we all think we know a bit about chivalry don't we? But if anyone asks you what it was, well, that's not so easy. Myself I was quite clear about it as a predominantly fourteenth century construct which kept people occupied during Edward III's excessively long reign - "honi soit qui mal y pense" and all that. Now I know better.
What Nigel Saul has done brilliantly in this book is a twofold job. Firstly he traces the genesis of the concept of chivalry back to the "might is right" chevallerie of the Normans, through its development while knights turned into an administrative as well as a fighting class under that great fighter/adminstrator Edward I and into the full flowering of the concept (with bells on) in the fourteenth century - and explains how some of these developments were brought about by political or economic imperatives.
Secondly however he takes the various bits and bobs that one associates with chivalry - yes, the fighting (particularly tournaments and crusading), but also the literature (the Arthurian industry in particular is fascinating), women, fortification, religion etc and explores what they meant within the world of chivalry - and how this changes at different periods.
Particularly fascinating is the way one can see, through Saul's exemplary scholarship and beautifully clear writing, how those spin merchants Richard I, Edward I and Edward III harnessed the concept to their needs - and gave it strength by their own use of it. Richard needed crusaders - so chivalry is an order whose role is to defend Christendom. Edward I needed more knights and better adminstration both - he glamorises and remythologises knighthood and ties his knoghts both to fighting and to parliamentary roles and pay.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cooper on 25 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
It was Edmund Burke, in his `Reflections on the Revolution in France' of 1790, who wrote that `the age of chivalry is gone'; but even he may have spoken too soon, for there was a revival of interest in it in the nineteenth century (see Tennyson's `Idylls of the King'), and the family of every British soldier killed in the First World War received a commemorative plaque, recording that their loved one had died `For Freedom and for Honour'.

Professor Saul's history of chivalry in England may be read as a companion to Maurice Keen's `Chivalry', to which Saul pays fulsome tribute. It is a very comprehensive treatment of the subject, less detailed than Keen's work in relation to chivalric culture, but fuller when it comes to the effect of chivalry on society. It is also, of course, much more up to date, containing the fruit of copious recent research on many topics. For example, it discusses the theory that castles were as much the product of changes in artistic and architectural taste, as they were of the need for defence.

Chivalry was originally concerned with horses, as the word suggests; and the author begins by reminding us that it was imported into England after 1066, since the Normans fought on horseback, while the Anglo-Saxons fought on foot. In the twelfth century, the activities of the individual knights were central, and Saul tells how William Marshal became an elder statesman, though he had started life as a poor knight and tournament champion. It is rather as if a professional wrestler were to become Prime Minister nowadays.

It was in the twelfth century that Geoffrey of Monmouth's `History of the Kings of Britain' first appeared, and the legend of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table was born.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pelagius on 2 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a nuanced account of the rise and changing nature of chivalry, albeit only in England, as advised in the sub-title. Along the way, much Medieval English history is re-told from this single perspective. Saul has a sure grasp of detail, notably church monuments and literary texts, which he uses to telling effect. Chivalry changed enormously during the 450 years covered, gradually becoming 'nationalised' as a means of bolstering royal and aristocratic legitimacy, largely losing touch with its military origins by the sixteenth century. Some key and fascinating public discourses were bound up with chivalry, not least whether 'nobility' was essentially a matter of character or of bloodline inheritance.

The definition of what is really meant by 'chivalry' is sometimes elusive, since it was shifting all the time. Saul points to at least one 'positive' influence of chivalry in the early period, which was clemency to defeated enemies, though this seems to have been frequently ignored. His focus is very much on English men, and there is very little on the surely crucial European (largely French) origin and context of chivalry. Likewise, there is relatively little on how women would have perceived or been influenced by chivalry, though Saul does make clear that the vast majority of noble women fully bought into the ethic, even though it formalised a lesser role for them. It would have been interesting to read more about the closely related world of courtly love and the development of 'courtesy' as a long-lasting child of chivalry.
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