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  • Preface:Peace and Power in Medieval Europe
  • Raymond Clemens

"Peace and Power in Medieval Europe" was the theme of the 2006 Illinois Medieval Association conference, held at the Newberry Library and sponsored by Illinois State University and the Newberry Library Center for Renaissance Studies. The choice of theme was influenced by the increasing deployment of American troops throughout the world enjoined, paradoxically, both to wage war and enforce peace. The nation is finding that achieving peace is far more difficult than starting war and often requires even greater resources, both human and monetary. While the notion of "waging peace" may sound like an oxymoron, its roots are deep and centuries old. As Thomas Head's keynote address, "Peace and Power in France Around the Year 1000," demonstrates, the Peace of God (and eventually its codification as the Truce of God) was a fundamental mechanism implemented by bishops and other Church officials through which they sought to gain or maintain their own power against that of secular rulers such as knights and lords. What is unusual, and what distinguishes the medieval version of waging peace from modern attempts, is the ideological force behind the concept. The Church sought to protect its properties and rights initially not by military force, but with the threat of punishment in the next life. Head reveals, though, that the bishops were quite willing to use arms if the lords were unwilling to swear the oath. Head's multifaceted argument illuminates the birth of an ideology, a new way of thinking about secular and sacred, and the actual (if the writings of Ademar of Chabannes can be trusted) historical events that gave shape and substance to that idea. As historians continue to debate the nature and importance of the Peace of God movement, Head's essay makes clear the complexity of the issues involved and provides a convincing reading of a wide range of sources.

But of course the Peace of God was only one (if the earliest) effort to impose [End Page i] peace. As Justine Firnhaber-Baker's essay demonstrates, French kings also attempted to impose peace within their realm by prohibiting non-royal or "private" warfare within the kingdom. She also shows that in the centuries following the birth of the peace movement in Aquitaine, ideas about maintaining peace shifted from a religious foundation meant to protect ecclesiastic property to become a cornerstone of the king's power and sovereignty. The path to exclusive royal warfare was not a straight one, she argues, but one that was developed in fits and starts and underwent numerous transformations to accommodate new circumstances, beginning in the reign of Louis IX and reaching maturation under Philip IV.

Tory Pearman's essay moves from the historic to the allegorical representations of conflict. Rather than the imposition of peace on two relatively equal parties, Pearman examines the peace that is achieved with the end of a conflict, one imposed by the victor on the vanquished. Her analysis of Theseus' conquest of Hippolita and Emily in Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" focuses on the function of gender and ethnicity, which evolves through the language employed by the Knight to tell the tale of Hippolita's defeat at Theseus' hand. Women, she notes (although also men), are asseged by conquerors, who are then free either to further confine them within the bonds of matrimony, as Theseus confines Hippolita, or to arrange the marriage of the conquered woman, as Theseus does with Emily. That both women were Amazons, further demonstrates how those outside of European culture are depicted.

In looking at military culture outside the period in which the Peace of God was formulated, Jennifer Thibodeaux examines the continual conflict among the thirteenth-century Norman elite in the diocese of Rouen, directed largely against the archbishop of Rouen, Odo Rigaldus (archbishop from 1248 to 1275). Rather than seeking peace and stability, the Norman rural elite who survived after the conquest of the Capetians sought continual conflict as the best method to increase their power against the Archbishop. She studies Odo's conflicts through a unique historical document—a register of Odo's daily activities kept by the archbishop himself that outlined his...


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