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The Knight and Chivalry: Revised edition Paperback – 23 Feb 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Boydell Press; New ed of 3 Revised ed edition (23 Feb. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0851156630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0851156637
  • Product Dimensions: 24.4 x 17.3 x 2.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 940,975 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Richard  Barber  began his career as a writer in 1961 with the publication of Arthur of Albion, a general introduction to the Arthurian legends. He followed this with Henry Plantagenet, a biography of Henry II, and then the first survey of medieval chivalry for many years, The Knight and Chivalry, for which he was given a Somerset Maugham award in 1971. Medieval history and literature have remained his speciality, although he has also written guidebooks (Companion Guide to Gascony and the Dordogne) and has edited John Aubrey's Brief Lives and other seventeenth century authors. He has also translated and edited medieval sources such as the Bestiary , The Pastons and Life and Campaigns of the Black Prince. He wrote a full scale biography of the latter in 1978, Edward Prince of Wales and Aquitaine. The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe appeared eight years later. In 1989 he collaborated with Juliet Barker on the first comprehensive history of medieval jousting, Tournaments: Jousts, Chivalry and Pageants in the Middle Ages. This was followed by a series of anthologies, of the myths and legends of the British Isles and of the Arthurian legends, which he edited for the Folio Society. In 2004, his book on The Holy Grail: Imagination and Belief was widely praised: Michiko Kakutani in The New York Times wrote: 'Fascinating ... Barber demonstrates a gift for lucid, lively prose and an ability to make highly complex development both immediate and accessible'. His most recent book is Edward III and the Triumph of England, an attempt to get as close to the extraordinary events surrounding the English victory at Crécy and the foundation of the Company of the Garter.
Since 1963, he has also worked as a publisher, first at Macmillan and at George Bell & Sons, where he oversaw the publication of the first volumes of Robert Latham's great edition of The Diary of Samuel Pepys. In 1969 he and a group of friends founded The Boydell Press, and in 1972 helped Professor Derek Brewer to start D.S.Brewer Ltd, in order to publish books in medieval studies which were beig neglected by the university presses. The two firms merged later to become Boydell & Brewer Ltd, and over the years a number of imprints, all founded by academics for similar reasons in the 1970s, were added to the list: Tamesis Books in Spanish studies, Camden House in German studies, and most recently James Currey in African Studies. In 1993 a music list was started in association with the Britten-Pears Library at Aldeburgh.
In 1989, Boydell & Brewer Ltd, in association with the University of Rochester, started the University of Rochester Press in upstate New York. This has specialised in music studies from the Eastman School as well as historical series; the combined Boydell and Rochester lists in music are probably the most important in the English speaking world.
Richard Barber is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Historical Society, and an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association. He is currently Honorary Visiting Professor in the department of history at the University of York.
He lives in Suffolk, between the river Deben and the sea. He and his wife Helen sailed there for many years, and also cruised extensively in the Baltic and Mediterranean, until her death in 2013. Helen, whom he met at Macmillan, played a major part in the development of the publishing business, while bringing up their two children.

Product Description


(Revised version of the award-winning 1970 edition...takes into account much of the serious scholarship published during the industrious quarter-century since.) Splendidly presented... The book's great strength lies not only in its treatment of tournaments but also of literature; it also assuredly handles the interaction between chivalry and church and state... an excellent, comprehensive summary of medieval chivalry. Warmly recommended. HISTORY TODAY (SEAN MCGLYNN) (Extensively revised to take account of the abundant research on chivalry, some of it Richard Barber's own, since the book first appeared.) It combines scholarship of content with the handsomeness of a coffee-table book. MEDIUM AEVUM


A combination of scholarship with quite exemplary thoroughness.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Although a lot of the book focused on romanticism and literature, it provided a very indepth look at Knighthood and chivalry. Unfortunately, Barber doesn't link the too topics very well. Also, there is little debate involved when discussing the origins of chivalry.

Despite this, it has been an interesting read and I would recommend it to anyone who was interested in the topic.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 2 reviews
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A World of Illusion 1 Sept. 2005
By Dr. Carl Edwin Lindgren - Published on
Format: Paperback
Richard Barber wrote his book, The Knight and Chivalry as a survey of numerous sources, both literary and historical, regarding the development of knights throughout their history. In this book, Barber does not propose a thesis, rather he states his purpose "was to provide an overview of knighthood and chivalry from the beginnings to the Renaissance..." (1)

Barber begins by making the statement that knights were more than just mounted warriors. By Barber's definition, a knight was a mounted warrior who had a special social status and who was part of a group mentality. Barber links a part of the knight's social status to the bond between knight and his leader. The advent of land grants, as part of the system of vassalage, not only tied the knight to the leader, it also provided a much needed income. Land ownership led to prosperous families, who were not necessarily noble, but who could afford the equipment necessary to mounted warriors. As rules about nobility relaxed, these landowners became lords over their fifes and dispensers of justice.

Based on biographies and literature of the time, Barber places the beginning of the concept of knights as a special group in the 1130s. He also finds references in the mid to late twelfth century to rules against knighting sons of peasants and sons of priests.

In addition, the concept of chivalry added to this distinction of knights as a separate group. Barber traces this chivalric attitude to both contemporary literature and earlier poems. He specifically makes reference to the French Chansons de geste, the Spanish Song of the Cid, and the German Song of the Nibelungs. The Chansons de geste describe the battles of Charlemagne. One example of early chivalric attitudes is Roland who faces death bravely and refuses to summon help. He claims, "If the king loves us it's for our valor's sake."(52) In The Neiblungenleid, references are made to killing from behind and throwing a javelin as cowardly acts. There are also examples of challenges being issued before duels. Barber points out that these are precursors to chivalric attitude to be found in literature. He also looks to chronicles of real war for examples of chivalric attitudes. In Orderic Vitalis' twelfth century description of the battle of Bremule, the knights, he says, "were clad in mail and spared each other on both sides, out of fear of God an fellowship in arms."(60)

Barber also traces the development of the knight as more than simple soldier to civil ambitions that brought them into contact with educated members of the royal court. It was at court they were exposed to contemporary literature. Barber believes this literature helped to shape the knights' concept of chivalry, and the court's concept of the knights.

Another factor Barber believes was central to the development of knights was the tournament. As these tournaments developed from the melee fought with few if any rules, to the elaborate productions of the early sixteenth century. These tournaments gave knights an opportunity to practice their skills under controlled circumstances. Tournaments also helped develop the concept of taking hostages as opposed to killing ones enemy.

Barber also considers knights and chivalry in relation to the Church. While the Church initially opposed war of any kind, Barber states that as the Church became more involved in the secular world, it became less hostile toward warriors. "Instead his energy was to be channeled into the maintenance of peace and the defense of the weaker members of society."(29) To this end, the Church began to encourage knighting as a means of gaining control. This culminated with Pope Urban II in 1095 when he called upon knights to join in a crusade to Jerusalem.

The book is organized topically and moves about chronologically within Barber's individual topics. Barber goes into a great deal of analysis of the various sources he draws upon to tell the story of knighthood and chivalry. To meet his goal, Barber has conducted extensive research into a large volume of period literature, biographies, chronicles and contemporary historical writings on the subject. While this book presents and excellent survey of chivalric literature and history, it is not always easy to read and may not appeal to the popular reader.

Michael E. Watson and Dr. Carl Edwin Lindgren
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
A must-have! 15 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This wonderful book should be on the syllabus of every course in medieval history. Richard Barber is one of the finest authors of popular history books who has ever tackled the complicated topic of the Middle Ages. His works are stellar, and this book is one of his best. In this text Barber examines the knight as he appeared in literature and compares that image to what the knight truly was in history. A masterful work!
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