Tournaments: Jousts, Chivalry and Pageants in the Middle Ages Paperback – 21 Feb 2013
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About the Author
Richard Barber is one of Britain's leading authorities on medieval history and the author of "The Penguin Guide to Medieval Europe" and "The Knight and Chivalry".
Professor of History, University of East Anglia, Norwich.
Juliet Barker is the distinguished biographer of Wordsworth and the Bronte sisters. She is also a noted medievalist and lives with her family in the UK.
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To support their arguments, the authors rely heavily on chronicles written during the medieval period. The authors place the emergence of tournaments as a distinct game at the end of the eleventh century in France. They also link it to the development of the use of a couched lance.(14) One important distinction made by the authors is the difference between the technical tournament, which was the melee and the hastilude, which was from the Latin meaning a game fought with spears. While the term "Tournament" has become a word meaning virtually any sport involving knights, and brings up visions of knight jousting, this was not the terminology of the medieval knight. According to the authors, around 1170, new romances began to replace such works as Chansons de gests. Such new romances began to place importance on courtly love and heroism. "Thus a kind of symbiosis developed between tournaments and courtly literature, each feeding on the other and thereby encouraging their mutual development."(21)
The authors examine the tournament as it manifested in several different countries. England and France for example differed greatly by the end of the twelfth century, with France prohibiting and England licensing tournaments. However, in 1316 Pope John XXII lifted bans on tournaments, which paved the way for legal tournaments in France. The authors also examine the circumstances under which a tournament might occur. Many were indeed held as sporting events; however, several were planned as an excuse to establish a revolt or to settle a personal grievance. Other tournaments occurred as part of a battle during a siege, where attackers and defenders challenged each other to combat, either personal or in groups.
The authors place the beginning of the German tournament around the mid-twelfth century. From Germany the authors provide an excellent example of romantic literature influencing tournaments when a German knight, Waltmann von Stenstete sought challenges from knights with his female companion as a part of the prize for his defeat. There is also Ulrich von Liechtenstein who pursues jousts, but whose narrative the authors claim is full of literary devices making it difficult to tell where fact and fancy begin and end. According to the authors, by the fourteenth century, Germany also had two different types of tournaments. There were regular events, often organized locally, and there were tournaments for special aristocratic or imperial occasions. (37) It was in Germany that societies dedicated to tournaments were established.
One development of the tournament described by the authors as significant was the pass d'armes, where a group or individual would defend an area against challengers. The authors also pay attention to the development of the tournament in grandeur. By the mid-fifteenth century, tournaments were often accompanied by great theater. More attention began to be paid the setting of the tournament, and was often constructed to meet the theme of the tournament.
The book is organized chronologically within chapters that are topical. The chapters cover the development of the tournament geographically, but also as a spectacle and special event as well as an examination of the dangers inherent in the tournament. The text is easily readable and accompanied by a variety of pictures from the medieval period, which help to give the reader a true sense of the situations described.
Michael E. Watson and Dr. Carl Edwin Lindgren
American Military University
As a 'better-than-most' book, it's only weakness is that with a mere 200+ pages it can only give a quick synthesis about the various topics it examines. For instance, the well written chapter on tournament armour could have been a bit longer (only 12 pages).
In all, the best book about tournaments so far. But still hoping for even a better book...
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