Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-vmftn Total loading time: 0.809 Render date: 2023-02-01T07:26:52.365Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

Part III - Social, Interpersonal and Collective Violence

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 March 2020

Matthew S. Gordon
University of Miami
Richard W. Kaeuper
University of Rochester, New York
Harriet Zurndorfer
Universiteit Leiden
Get access


Image of the first page of this content. For PDF version, please use the ‘Save PDF’ preceeding this image.'
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Bibliographical Essay

Very little has been written in English on medieval Japanese banditry, or akutō. In fact, there are only a handful of articles on this topic. The first one to be published was Harrington, Lorraine F., ‘Social Control and the Significance of Akutō’, in Mass, Jeffrey P. (ed.), Court and Bakufu in Japan: Essays in Kamakura History (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1982), pp. 221–50. She rightly argues that bandit narratives in the Kamakura period were not necessarily indicative of predatory groups in the provinces but rather reflected legal discourses. This point was later taken up and elaborated upon by Morten Oxenboell in two articles, Images of Akutō’, Monumenta Nipponica 60.2 (2005), 235–62, and The Vicissitudes of a Medieval Japanese Warrior’, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Third Series 17.1 (2007), 4354. In a third article, Mineaiki and Discourses on Social Unrest in Medieval Japan’, Japan Forum 18.1 (2006), 121, he made a critical analysis of one of the most vivid accounts of banditry in the period, the chronicle Mineaiki. Recently, Philip Garrett has made a detailed study of how the large temple complex on Kōyasan wielded judicial authority as estate proprietor and dealt with crime in the territory under its control, in his article Crime on the Estates: Justice and Politics in the Kōyasan Domain’, Journal of Japanese Studies 41.1 (2015), 79112.

Although there is no monograph-length discussion of banditry, there are excellent works on rural conflicts and violence, although most of them focus on the period following the Kamakura period as the country descended into the civil wars of the fourteenth century. Foremost among these is Keirstead, Thomas, The Geography of Power in Medieval Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), a detailed investigation of the conflict opportunities available to peasant communities in the late fourteenth century. Shapinsky, Peter’s Lords of the Sea: Pirates, Violence, and Commerce in Late Medieval Japan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2014) provides a fascinating account of the tactics and political role of rural, sea-going warriors in the Japanese Inland Sea in the sixteenth century.

A much larger body of scholarship exists on the violence of elite groups of warriors and the history of warfare in the medieval period. Although the following works deal only in passing with rural communities and peasant conflicts and violence, they are crucial for an understanding of warfare and violence in the period under consideration here. Farris, William Wayne, Heavenly Warriors: The Evolution of Japan’s Military, 500–1300 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993) outlines the development of Japanese warfare from the imperial conscript system of the prehistoric and classical period to the development of a warrior class by the early medieval period. Friday, Karl’s two books, Hired Swords: The Rise of Private Warrior Power in Early Japan (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992) and Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan (New York: Routledge, 2004), both focus on the rise of the samurai class and how their expertise as violent specialists propelled them from rural landholders and managers into de facto rulers of the realm during the early medieval period (c. eleventh to thirteenth centuries). Chronologically following on from the works of Farris and Friday, Thomas Conlan has given a detailed picture of the organisation of warfare and the mobilisation of fighting men during the wars of the fourteenth century in his monograph State of War: The Violent Order of Fourteenth-Century Japan (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003). Finally, through two monographs, The Gates of Power: Monks, Courtiers, and Warriors in Premodern Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2000) and The Teeth and Claws of the Buddha: Monastic Warriors and Sōhei in Japanese History (Honolulu:University of Hawai‘i Press, 2007), Mikael Adolphson has traced the military role of monastic institutions in the early medieval period.

Bibliographical Essay

Violence as a separate topic has been carefully excluded from discussions of state power and society in Middle Period Chinese history (750–1550). This is due to two intersecting and reinforcing interests within historical studies, the desire to take as a given the ‘natural’ cohesion of the Chinese state and Chinese society, and the sometimes active hostility of researchers to confront directly the uses of violence in Chinese culture. Chinese scholars are more prone to the former bias and Western scholars to the latter. Most Chinese scholars assume the continuity and coincidence of the Chinese state with Chinese culture and the Chinese people, which obviates the need for violence to maintain that coherence. Western scholars until recently have posed the unified Chinese state and its ‘natural’ and eternal existence against the contentious and violent Western geo-political environment. Most discussions of state violence are confined to military history, which has only recently received much attention.

Chinese history is usually broken up by dynasty, stressing the centrality of the political unit. The early part of China’s Middle Period begins in the middle of the Tang (618–907), with the An Lushan Rebellion (755–63) studied so thoroughly by Pulleyblank, E. G., The Background of the Rebellion of An Lu-Shan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1955) and The An Lu-Shan Rebellion and the Origins of Chronic Militarism in Late T’ang China’, in Perry, John Curtis and Smith, Bardwell L. (eds.), Essays on T’ang Society: The Interplay of Social, Political and Economic Forces (Leiden: Brill, 1976). More generally, Graff, David, Medieval Chinese Warfare, 300–900 (New York: Routledge, 2001) is indispensable for the military aspects of this period, and Skaff, Jonathan, Sui-Tang China and Its Turko-Mongol Neighbors: Culture, Power and Connections, 580–800 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) is critical for understanding the ethnic interconnections between ‘China’ and the steppe people.

For the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907–60), Richard Davis has written two biographies, From Warhorses to Ploughshares: The Later Tang Reign of Emperor Mingzong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015) and Fire and Ice: Li Cunxu and the Founding of the Later Tang (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016), that emphasise the ethnic distinctions in the place and uses of violence in northern China. His student Wang, Hongjie’s Power and Politics in Tenth-Century China (Amherst: Cambria, 2011) is also useful as a local study of the Shu regime in Sichuan.

A general overview of the period from the end of the Tang dynasty through 1550 is Lorge, Peter, War, Politics and Society in Early Modern China, 900–1795 (New York: Routledge, 2005). The important study by Alyagon, Elad, ‘Soldier Mutinies and Resistance during the Northern Song’, in Ebrey, Patricia and Smith, Paul (eds.), State Power in China, 900–1325 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016), is critical for understanding the use of force against soldiers to keep them obedient.

For the Ming dynasty there are two relevant books by Robinson, David, Bandits, Eunuchs and the Song of Heaven (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001) and Martial Spectacles of the Ming Court (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013). Swope, Kenneth’s A Dragon’s Head and a Serpent’s Tail (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2010) shows not only the clash of different military approaches between states, those of China, Korea and Japan, but also the differences between northern and southern Chinese troops.

Bibliographical Essay

Relevant source material can be found in almost every European documentary collection and archival repository. For the early Middle Ages, the various ‘barbarian’ law codes have often been used to discern cultural norms and set beside documents like chronicles, letter collections and saints’ lives that may reflect social practice. For the Carolingian period, surviving administrative documentation is much more copious, and, like that of their Merovingian and Visigothic predecessors, has been mostly edited by the Monumenta Germaniae Historica (MGH). For the central Middle Ages, more literary evidence enriches the source base, and we begin to have more judicial sources. For the last medieval centuries, evidence for seigneurial violence can be found in documents ranging from civil lawsuits to personal letters to poetry to the minutes of municipal assemblies.

The anthropologist Gluckman, Max’s article ‘The Peace in the Feud’, Past & Present 8 (1955), 114, was fundamental in influencing medieval historians to view elite violence as culturally contingent and possibly socially constructive. Drawing on Gluckman, J. M. Wallace-Hadrill’s ‘The Bloodfeud of the Franks’, Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 41.3 (1958–9), 459–87, inspired studies of medieval elite violence in later centuries. More recently, Miller, William Ian’s Bloodtaking and Peacemaking: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990) has provided an influential model for medieval historians thinking about feuds in other contexts.

A recent overview with much attention given to lords and aristocrats is Brown, Warren, Violence in Medieval Europe (Harlow: Pearson, 2011). There are any number of good essay collections on seigneurial violence or ‘feud’, see for example Brown, Warren and Górecki, Piotr (eds.), Conflict in Medieval Europe: Changing Perspectives on Society and Culture (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003); Netterstrøm, Jeppe Büchert and Poulsen, Bjørn (eds.), Feud in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 2007); Tuten, Belle and Billado, Tracy (eds.), Feud, Violence and Practice: Essays in Medieval Studies in Honor of Stephen D. White (Aldershot: Ashgate 2010).

On early medieval elite violence, see essays in Halsall, Guy (ed.), Violence and Society in the Early Medieval West (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1998). For violence, status and gender, see Gradowicz-Pancer, Nira, ‘De-gendering Female Violence: Merovingian Female Honour as an “Exchange of Violence”’, Early Medieval Europe 11.1 (2002), 118. For the Carolingian aristocracy, see Nelson, Janet L.’s work, including essays collected in The Frankish World, 750–900 (London: Hambledon Press, 1996). Wormald, Patrick, Legal Culture in the Early Medieval West: Law as Text, Image, and Experience (London: Hambledon Press, 1999) remains the best treatment of the Anglo-Saxon and early Norman contexts, though compare Hyams, Paul R., Rancor and Reconciliation in Medieval England (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003), which follows the English story through to the fourteenth century.

For violence and lordship after the millennium, the ‘feudal revolution’ debate remains unresolved: Bisson, Thomas N., ‘The “feudal revolution”’, Past & Present 142 (1994), 642 and the ensuing debate, with contributions by Barthélemy, Dominique, White, Stephen, Reuter, Timothy and Wickham, Chris and a reply by Bisson in Past & Present 152 (1996), 196223 and 155 (1997), 177–225. More recently, see Charles West, Reframing the Feudal Revolution: Political and Social Transformation between Marne and Moselle, c. 800 to 1100 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). For the Peace of God, Head, Thomas and Landes, Richard (eds.), The Peace of God: Social Violence and Religious Response in France around the Year 1000 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1992) remains a good introduction. On central medieval Germany, see Reuter, Timothy’s work collected in Nelson, Janet L. (ed.), Medieval Polities and Modern Mentalities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). On France, there is a trio of classic articles: Cheyette, Frederic, ‘Suum cuique tribuere’, French Historical Studies 6.3 (1976), 287–99; White, Stephen, ‘Feuding and Peace-Making in the Touraine around the Year 1100’, Traditio 42 (1986), 195263; Geary, Patrick, ‘Living with Conflicts in Stateless France: A Typology of Conflict Management Mechanism, 1050–1200’, in his Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), pp. 125–60.

For the later Middle Ages, Kaeuper, Richard, War, Justice and Public Order: England and France in the Later Middle Ages (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988) lucidly discusses interrelated developments in law, military methods and socio-aesthetic mores. Kaminsky, Howard, ‘The Noble Feud in the Later Middle Ages’, Past & Present 177 (2002), 5583, has been agenda-setting. On the legal revolution, legitimate authority and just cause, see Russell, Frederick, The Just War in the Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975). The classic study on martial norms and practice is Keen, Maurice, The Laws of War in the Late Middle Ages (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1965).

For specific national treatments, on Germany it is hard to choose between the perspectives of Algazi, Gadi, Herrengewalt und Gewalt der Herren im späten Mittelalter: Herrschaft, Gegenseitigkeit und Sprachgebrauch (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 1996) and Reinle, Christine, Bauernfehden: Studien zur Fehdeführung Nichtadliger im spätmittelalterlichen römisch-deutschen Reich, besonders in den bayerischen Herzogtümern (Stuttgart: Steiner, 2003). For France, the only sustained treatment is Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, Violence and the State in Languedoc, 1250–1400 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). Useful for the relationship between French noble behaviour and royal justice is the work of Gauvard, Claude, some of which is collected in Violence et ordre public au Moyen Âge (Paris: Picard, 2005). The historiography of English seigneurial violence is closely bound up with highly technical legal history. See Milsom, S. F. C., The Legal Framework of English Feudalism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976) on land disputes and Waugh, Scott L., The Lordship of England: Royal Wardships and Marriages in English Society and Politics, 1217–1327 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988). On baronial rebellions, Valente, Claire, The Theory and Practice of Revolt in Medieval England (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003) is excellent, and comparatively see Weiler, Björn, Kingship, Rebellion and Political Culture: England and Germany, c. 1215–c.1250 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). McFarlane, K. B., The Nobility of Later Medieval England: The Ford Lectures for 1953 and Related Studies (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973) seminally re-assessed ‘bastard feudalism’. Harriss, Gerald, Shaping the Nation: England, 1360–1461 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) is a major contribution in that tradition.

Bibliographical Essay

For an overview of military developments in this period the classic study on the period, with the emphasis on the narrative of battle, is Oman, C., A History of the the Art of War in the Sixteenth Century (London: AMS,1937), but this should be should be juxtaposed with Corvisier, A., Armies and Societies in Europe, 1494–1789 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979), Hale, J. R., War and Society in Renaissance Europe 1450–1520 (London: Fontana, 1985) and his collected essays, Renaissance War Studies (London: Hambledon Press,1983). Other works include Black, J., European Warfare, 1494–1660 (London: Routledge, 2002). Emphasis on the social context of warfare is to be found in Tallet, J. F., War and Society in Early Modern Europe (London: Routledge, 1992) and Jones, C., ‘New Military History for Old? War and Society in Early Modern Europe’, European Studies Review 12 (1982), 97108. The role of private enterprise in state military action is analysed in Parrott, David, The Business of War: Military Enterprise and Military Revolution in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012), an important revision, though generally the debate on the military revolution is not dealt with in this chapter.

Studies of artillery, firearms and fortification include Duffy, C., Siege Warfare: The Fortress in the Early Modern World (London: Routledge, 1979); Pepper, S. and Adams, A., Firearms and Fortifications: Military Architecture and Siege Warfare in Sixteenth Century Siena (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); Faucherre, Nicolas, Places fortes: bastion du pouvoir (Paris: Rempart, 2000); Faucherre, N., Martens, Pieter and Paucot, Hugues (eds.), La genèse du système bastionné en Europe, 1500–1560 (Navarrenx: Université d’Aix-Marseille, 2014); Buisseret, David, Ingénieurs et fortifications avant Vauban (Paris: Éditions CTHS, 2002). On artillery and weaponry: Guilmartin, J. F., Gunpowder and Galleys (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974); Hall, Bert S., Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997); D’Azincourt à Marignan: chevaliers et bombardes 1415–1515 (Paris: Musée de l’Armée, 2015); E. de Crouy-Chanel, ‘Le canon jusqu’au milieu du XVIe siècle: France, Bretagne, Pays-Bas bourguignons’, unpublished thèse de doctorat, Paris I, 2014.

Studies on the ideology of war in the period include Harari, Y. N., Renaissance Military Memoirs: War, History and Identity, 1450–1600 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2004); Johnson, J. T., Ideology, Reason and the Limitation of War: Religious and Secular Concepts, 1200–1740 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975); Mulryne, J. R. and Shewring, M. (eds.), War, Literature and the Arts in Sixteenth Century Europe (London: Macmillan, 1989); Potter, David, ‘Chivalry and Professionalism in the French Armies of the Renaissance’, in Trim, D. J. B. (ed.), The Chivalric Ethos and Military Professionalism (Leiden: Brill, 2002), pp. 149–82; also the works of J. R. Hale listed above.

Studies of particular military systems that have been drawn on are: Tracy, J. D., Charles V Impresario of War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010); Parker, G., The Army of Flanders and the Spanish Road (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972); Mallett, M. E. and Hale, J. R., The Military Organisation of a Renaissance State: Venice c.1400 to 1617 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984); Redlich, F., The German Military Enterpriser, 2 vols. (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1964–5); Arfaioli, Maurizio, The Black Bands of Giovanni: Infantry and Diplomacy during the Italian Wars (1526–28) (Pisa: Pisa University Press, 2005). On France in particular, there are Potter, David’s Renaissance France at War: Armies, Culture and Society, c.1480–1560 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008), his Les Allemands et les armées françaises au XVIe siècle’, Francia 20.2 (1993), 1–20 and 21.2 (1994), 1–61, and his The International Mercenary Market in the 16th Century: Anglo-French Competition in Germany, 1543-50’, EHR 111 (1996), 2458; also Wood, James, The King’s Army: Warfare, Soldiers and Society during the Wars of Religion in France, 1562–1576 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). Numbers of combatants are discussed in Lot, F., Recherches sur les effectifs des armées françaises des guerres d’Italie aux guerres de religion, 1494–1562 (Paris: SEVPEN, 1962).

On specific campaigns: Abulafia, D. (ed.), The French Descent into Renaissance Italy, 1494–95 (Aldershot: Variorum, 1995), a collection of essays on related subjects; Le Fur, Didier, Marignan 1515 (Paris: Tempus, 2015); le Gall, Jean-Marie, L’honneur perdu de François Ier, Pavie, 1525 (Paris: Payot, 2015); Giono, J., The Battle of Pavia (London: Peter Owen, 1965); Vissière, L., Marchandisse, A. and Dumont, J. (eds.), 1513: L’année terrible. Le siège de Dijon (Dijon: Éditions Faton, 2013). On the comparison of battle accounts, Courteault, P., Blaise de Monluc historien: étude critique (Paris: Picard, 1907); and on the new battle history, Boltanski, Arianne, La bataille: du fait d’armes au combat idéologique xie–xixe siècle (Rennes: PUR, 2015).

For the effects of war discussed in the final section: Potter, David, War and Government in the French Provinces: Picardy 1470–1560 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), and his “Rigueur de justice”: Crime, Murder and the Law in Picardy, Fifteenth–Sixteenth Centuries’, French History 11.3 (1997), 265309; Isabelle, Paressys, Aux marges du royaume: violence, justice et société en Picardie sous François Ier (Paris: Sorbonne, 1998); Corvisier, A. and Jacquart, J. (eds.), Les malheurs de la guerre I: De la guerre à l’ancienne à la guerre réglée (Paris: CHTS, 1996); Dissaux, Jean-Marc (ed.), La guerre de 1537 en Artois and La guerre de 1542 en Artois (Artois: Association pour l’Histoire d’Artois, 2008, 2010).

Bibliographical Essay

Studies of non-military violence in the Byzantine empire have tended to focus on late antiquity and the early Middle Ages, e.g., Humfress, C., Orthodoxy and the Courts in Late Antiquity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007; Gaddis, M., There is No Crime for Those Who Have Christ: Religious Violence in the Christian Roman Empire (Berkeley:University of California Press, 2005); Sizgorich, T., Violence and Belief in Late Antiquity: Militant Devotion in Christianity and Islam (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009); Bell, P., Social Conflict in the Age of Justinian: Its Nature, Management, and Mediation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). Comparatively little research has been devoted to later periods. Yet the sources are rich.

A general introduction to Byzantium in the high Middle Ages is Angold, M., The Byzantine Empire, 1025–1204: A Political History (Harlow: Longman, 1984). For the reigns of individual Komnenian emperors, see Chalandon, F., Essai sur le règne d’Alexis Ier Comnène (1081–1118) and Jean II Comnène (1118–1143) et Manuel I Comnène (1143–1180) (Paris: Picard, 1900–12); Alexios I Komnenos, ed. Mullett, M. and Smythe, D. (Belfast: Belfast Byzantine Enterprises, 1996); and especially the magisterial Magdalino, P., The Empire of Manuel I Komnenos, 1143–1180 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993). The key work on the ecclesiastical and religious history of the eleventh and twelfth centuries is Angold, M., Church and Society in Byzantium under the Comneni, 1081–1261 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Useful background on Byzantium’s relations with the West can be found in Savvides, A., Byzantino-Normannica: The Norman Capture of Italy (to A.D. 1081) and the First Two Invasions in Byzantium (A.D. 1081–1085 and 1107–1108) (Leuven: Peeters, 2007); Theotokis, G., The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans, 1081–1108 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2014); Lilie, R.-J., Byzantium and the Crusader States, 1096–1204, trans. J. C. Morris and J. E. Ridings (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993); Nicol, D., Byzantium and Venice: A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988); Brand, C., Byzantium Confronts the West (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968).

For the issue of whether Byzantium became a more persecuting society under the Komnenoi, see Browning, R., ‘Enlightenment and Repression in Byzantium in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries’, Past & Present 69 (1975), 323 and Magdalino, P., ‘Enlightenment and Repression in Twelfth-Century Byzantium: The Evidence of the Canonists’, in Oikonomides, N. (ed.), Κανονικό δίκαιο, κράτος και κοινωνία (Athens: Εταιρεία βυζαντινών και μεταβυζαντινών μελετών, 1991), pp. 357–73. Heresy as a social and ethno-religious phenomenon is discussed in Garsoïan, N. G., ‘Byzantine Heresy. A Reinterpretation’, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 25 (1971), 85113; Patlagean, E., ‘Byzance, le barbare, le hérétique et la loi universelle’, in Entretiens sur le racisme sous la direction de Léon Poliakov (Paris: EHESS, 1978), pp. 8290. A more constructivist approach is taken in Cameron, A., ‘Enforcing Orthodoxy in Byzantium’, in Cooper, K. and Gregory, J. (eds.), Discipline and Diversity (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), pp. 124, The Violence of Orthodoxy’, in Iricinschi, E. and Zellentin, H. M. (eds.), Heresy and Identity in Late Antiquity (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008), pp. 102–14, and Byzantium and the Limits of Orthodoxy’, Proceedings of the British Academy 154 (2008), 139–50. The most recent survey of the trials is Trizio, M., ‘Trials of Philosophers and Theologians under the Komnenoi’, in Kaldellis, A. and Siniossoglou, N. (eds.), The Cambridge Intellectual History of Byzantium (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp. 462–76.

For analyses of maiming and other punishments inflicted by the state, see Patlagean, E., ‘Byzance et le blason pénal du corps’, in Du châtiment dans la cité: supplices corporels et peine de mort dans le monde antique (Rome: Boccard, 1984), pp. 405–26, and Herrin, J., ‘Blinding in Byzantium’, in Scholz, C. and Makris, G. (eds.), Polypleuros nous: Miscellanea für Peter Schreiner zu seinem 60. Geburtstag (Munich: Saur, 2000), pp. 5668. For aggression by the masses, J.-C. Cheynet, ‘La colère du peuple à Byzance (Xe–XIIe siècles)’, Histoire Urbaine 1 (2001), 25–38. Studies on castration, rape and other forms of sexual violence include Tougher, S., Eunuchs in Antiquity and Beyond (London: Classical Press of Wales and Duckworth, 2002); Laiou, A., Mariage, amour et parenté à Byzance aux XIe–XIIIe siècle (Paris: Boccard, 1992); Laiou, A. (ed.), Consent and Coercion to Sex and Marriage in Ancient and Medieval Societies (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1993); Herrin, J., ‘Toleration and Repression in the Byzantine Family: Gender Problems’, in Unrivaled Influence: Women and Empire in Byzantium (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), pp. 261–80. Finally, the history of emotions (envy, anger, etc.) is attracting attention: see Hinterberger, M., ‘Emotions in Byzantium’, in James, L. (ed.), A Companion to Byzantium (Chichester: Blackwell, 2010), pp. 123–34.

Bibliographical Essay

There has been an increasing output on the subject of violence against women in early Islam. Most of it focuses on the Qur’anic verse in Surat al-Nisa’ (4:34) which gives the husband the right to correct a disobedient or recalcitrant wife, and analyses discussions in the exegetical and traditional literature. In this connection the articles by Marin, Manuela, ‘Disciplining Wives: A Historical Reading of Qur’an 4:34’, Studia Islamica 97 (2003), 540, and Mahmoud, Mohamed, ‘To Beat or Not to Beat: On the Exegetical Dilemmas over Qur’an 4: 34’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 126 (2006), 537–50, both review the exegetical literature and provide a novel assessment, bearing in mind the Muslim feminist interventions of, among others, Amina, Wadud’s Qur’an and Woman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999) and Fatima, Mernissi’s The Veil and the Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation of Women’s Rights in Islam, trans. Mary Jo Lakeland (Reading, MA: Addison Wesley, 1993). This feminist intervention has brought about a radical articulation in the interpretation, implying a virtual abrogation of the verse. A special issue of Comparative Islamic Studies in 2008 includes a number of articles interpreting Q 4:34, notably Karen Bauer’s ‘Traditional Exegeses of Q 4:34’ and Laury Silvers’s ‘“In the Book We Have Left Nothing”: The Ethical Problem of the Existence of Verse 4:34 in the Qur’an’. Chaudhry, Ayesha S.’s Domestic Violence and the Islamic Tradition: Ethics, Law, and the Muslim Discourse on Gender (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) provides an extensive study of the intellectual history of Q 4:34, tracing the intellectual history of Muslim scholarship on this verse from the ninth century to the present day and providing a nuanced study of how scholars have approached this question juridically and exegetically.

A central issue to this discussion is marriage, which has been brought into focus by Ali, Kecia, Marriage and Slavery in Early Islam (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2010), who analyses the diversity of opinion in early legal thought as well as the influence of hierarchical social structures on the jurist’s vision of marriage which is key to any understanding of family and family relations.

While most secondary literature focused on analysing religious and juridical texts for the sake of interpreting the Q 4:34, much less discussion is available for the less prescriptive texts, notably historical chronicles and adab. In Violence and Belief in Late Antiquity: Militant Devotion in Christianity and Islam (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), Thomas Sizgorich rereads works of the early Muslim historians as they narrated violence perpetrated by Khawarij in order to help understand the problem of how militant piety was understood within the early Muslim community. Cheikh, Nadia Maria El’s Women, Islam and Abbasid Identity (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2015) is useful for its analysis of the way anti-heretical polemic was used in mainstream Abbasid sources, including the historical chronicles and adab sources with respect to the Qaramita.

Cheikh, Nadia Maria El’s ‘Women History: A Study of al-Tanukhi’, in Marin, Manuela and Randi Deguilhem (eds.), Writing the Feminine: Women in Arab Sources (New York: I. B. Tauris, 20012), pp. 129–48, looks into the two adab anthologies of al-Tanukhi and analyses the type and quality of information on women they contain, as these compilations tend to focus on situations rather than actions. An analysis of the content of these works offers one route towards understanding women’s role and gender relations in the society that produced them. Ultimately, the weight of the investigation will have to be carried by the sheer accumulation of evidence from a multitude of adab and other works.

Bibliographical Essay

Just how violent were the Middle Ages is a debate with a long history. The foundational works depicting the medieval world as a society that thrives on violence are: Lea, Henry Charles, Superstition and Force: Essays on the Wager of Law, the Wager of Battle, the Ordeal, Torture (Philadelphia: Henry Charles Lea, 1866); Huizinga, Johan, The Waning of the Middle Ages: A Study of the Forms of Life, Thought and Art in France and the Netherlands in the Dawn of the Renaissance (London: Edward Arnold, 1924); Bloch, Marc, Feudal Society, trans. L. A. Manyon, vol. ii (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1961); Elias, Norbert, The Civilizing Process, vol. i, The History of Manners (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969), and vol. ii, State Formation and Civilization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982); Foucault, Michel, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Random House, 1977). Recent critiques have suggested a much less violent view of the medieval judicial system. See Gauvard, Claude, ‘Justification and Theory of the Death Penalty at the Parlement of Paris in the Late Middle Ages’, in Allmand, Christopher (ed.), War, Government and Power in Late Medieval France (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2000), pp. 190208; Smail, Daniel Lord, ‘Violence and Predation in Late Medieval Mediterranean Europe’, Comparative Studies in Society and History 54 (2012), 128; Kaeuper, Richard W., ‘Chivalry and the “Civilizing Process”’, in his Violence in Medieval Society (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2000), pp. 2138.

In terms of measuring rates of violence, the two groundbreaking studies are Given, J. B., Society and Homicide in Thirteenth-Century England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1977) and Hanawalt, Barbara A., Crime and Conflict in English Communities, 1300–1348 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1979). The difficulties of comparing medieval and modern crimes rates have been addressed by Post, J. B. in his ‘Crime in Later Medieval England: Some Historiographical Limitations’, Continuity and Change 2.2 (1987), 211–24. For a fuller understanding of the use of legal fictions in medieval law, see Maddern, Philippa, Violence and Social Order: East Anglia 1422–1442 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992) and Gauvard, Claude, ‘Fear of Crime in Late Medieval England’, in Hanawalt, Barbara A. and Wallace, David (eds.), Medieval Crime and Social Control (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), pp. 148.

The violence of medieval Christianity has been studied by a wide variety of authors. For an excellent analysis of the origins of clerical violence, see Little, Lester K. and Rosenwein, Barbara H., ‘Social Meaning in the Monastic and Mendicant Spiritualities’, Past & Present 63 (1974), 432. Ascetic self-violence is best understood psychologically. See Kroll, Jerome and Bachrach, Bernard, The Mystic Mind: The Psychology of Medieval Mystics and Ascetics (New York: Routledge, 2005). For canonical views on violence and the role it plays in Christianity, see Nemeth, Charles P., Aquinas on Crime (South Bend: St Augustine’s Press, 2008).

Domestic violence is a particularly rich area of research. For a general overview, see Davis, Isabel, Müller, Miriam and Jones, Sarah Rees (eds.), Love, Marriage, and Family Ties in the Later Middle Ages (Turnhout: Brepols, 2003). For the Mediterranean world, see Eva Cantarella, ‘Homicides of Honor: The Development of Italian Adultery Law over Two Millennia’, in Kertzer, David I. and Saller, Richard P. (eds.), The Family in Italy: From Antiquity to the Present (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), pp. 229–44. For England, see Butler, Sara M., The Language of Abuse: Marital Violence in Later Medieval England (Leiden: Brill, 2007) and also her A Case of Indifference? Child Murder in Later Medieval England’, Journal of Women’s History 19.4 (2007), 5982. Studies of religious perspectives on violence have been particularly fruitful. See Sadler, Gregory B., ‘Non modo verbis sed et verberibus: Saint Anselm on Punishment, Coercion, and Violence’, Cistercian Studies Quarterly 45.1 (2010), 3561; Grossman, Avraham, ‘Medieval Rabbinic Views on Wife-Beating, 800–1300’, Jewish History 5.1 (1991), 5362.

Much has been written recently on the subject of women and violence. Because of the nature of the sources, the research is localised. For Scandinavia, see Ekholst, Christine, A Punishment for Each Criminal: Gender and Crime in Swedish Medieval Law (Leiden: Brill, 2014). For England, see Jones, Karen, Gender and Petty Crime in Late Medieval England: The Local Courts in Kent, 1460–1560 (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006). For Iberia, see Scarborough, Connie L., ‘Women as Victims and Criminals in the Siete Partidas’, in Classen, Albrecht and Scarborough, Connie (eds.), Crime and Punishment in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Age: Mental-Historical Investigations of Basic Human Problems and Social Responses (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2012), pp. 225–46.

Studies of homicide in England have been particularly good. Apart from those by Given and Hanawalt mentioned above, see also Hammer, Carl I. Jr, ‘Patterns of Homicide in a Medieval University Town: Fourteenth-Century Oxford’, Past & Present 78 (1978), 323. For a discussion of law enforcement in the Italian context where police forces existed, see Bowsky, William M., ‘The Medieval Commune and Internal Violence: Police Power and Public Safety in Siena, 1287–1355’, American Historical Review 73.1 (1967), 117. On the process of communal policing, see Müller, Miriam, ‘Social Control and the Hue and Cry in Two Fourteenth-Century Villages’, Journal of Medieval History 31.1 (2005), 2953. Concerning the subject of bloodfeud or vendetta, studies are regional in nature. For Iceland, see two quite diverse perceptions with Miller, William Ian, Bloodtaking and ‘Peacemaking’: Feud, Law, and Society in Saga Iceland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997) and Firth, Hugh, ‘Coercion, Vengeance, Feud and Accommodation: Homicide in Medieval Iceland’, Early Medieval Europe 20.2 (2012), 139–75. For Italy, the definitive work is Dean, Trevor, ‘Marriage and Mutilation: Vendetta in Late Medieval Italy’, Past & Present 157 (1997), 336.

The subject of suicide has been studied extensively. For larger overviews of the subject, see Minois, Georges, History of Suicide: Voluntary Death in Western Culture, trans. Lydia Cochrane (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), Murray, Alexander, Suicide in the Middle Ages, vol. i, The Violent against Themselves (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), and Suicide in the Middle Ages, vol. ii, The Curse on Self-Murder (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats