Author: Jean Chandler

Chivalry East of the Elbe, Part I

Introduction: So what happened to the Second Estate? Most of my own HEMA-related historical research in the last ten years has been focused on the Free Cities and City States which are the origin of so many of the known fencing manuals. But that doesn’t mean one ought to ignore the obvious links of the Second Estate of the warrior aristocracy to the legacy of historical fencing. Knights were a real thing and were definitely involved in the development and practice of fencing in the medieval period. Unfortunately for a variety of reasons, knights are not easy to precisely define or understand as a phenomenon. Nor is...

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Resources on Medieval Literacy Part III

The 14th Century: Famine, war, plague and demographic collapse.  The rise of the vernacular and vernacular literature.  The paper mill spreads north of the Alps.  Secular schools.  Precursors of the printing press.  The Three Fountains of Italy.  The Brethren of the Common Life, Devotio Moderna, and the lay scriptoria.  Maeren and the Pratica della mercatura.  Books of Hours, the Commonplace book.  Books of Adventure and Romance.  The Humanists and the new Universities. This is the third in a series of articles about literacy in medieval Europe, intended as a resource for historical fencers, researchers in the HEMA and WMA...

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Resources on Medieval Literacy, Part II

The 13th Century: Commercial numeracy and literacy. Lay literacy and the first public schools. The Beguines of Flanders. The second life of the translation school of Toledo. Writing in the vernacular. Eyeglasses. The commonplace book. The Universities. The Fourth Crusade   The towns rise to power. The end of the 12th Century saw a convergence of several systemic changes which accelerated economic activity dramatically in certain parts of Europe. In Part I, we’ve already seen the dawn of the water wheel and its cousins which added the considerable horsepower of water powered mechanization to the European economy. This device and its...

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Resources on Medieval Literacy, Part I

Resources on Medieval Literacy, Part 1 When we talk about Historical European Martial Arts we obviously tend to focus on the martial first and foremost. Most HEMA research emphasizes the content of the manuals themselves, parsing and reparsing the author’s words and comparing them line by line to other fencing manuals, crafting competing interpretations to test out in the gym and on the tournament floor. This has proven very useful for figuring out specific techniques and has helped elevate the current HEMA revival to the level it has reached today. But the approach also has built-in limitations, and when...

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The secret, dangerous military life of medieval superstars,

Anglophones are taught from an early age to believe firmly in the notion of the inevitability of progress, which is one of our strongest, albeit secular, religious tenets. We all know that life before the era of the car and the jet was ‘nasty, brutish, and short’, and even worse for Americans, frequently inconvenient. Therefore it follows quite reasonably that we, as a people, know very little about the Middle Ages, and even less about anyone who wasn’t either English or a King or preferably, both. Even these people are known to us primarily from 1970’s Monty Python films, comic books...

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Review: A history of Europe by Aneas Silvius Piccolomini – 1400-1458

  A ‘new’ book from the 15th Century has just been translated and published.  The book was originally published in 1458 by Pope Pious II, originally known as Aneas silvius Piccolomini. translated by Robert Brown.  Pious II was famous for being one of a handful of Humanist Popes, which seems an odd concept for most modern readers though we currently have a rather radical Pope in the Vatican today, so perhaps it’s not so strange after all.  Pious was something of a reformer though he was certainly no Franciscan.  He was known during his relatively short reign (1458-1464) as...

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Review: Warring Maidens, Captive Wives, and Hussite Queens

Before I go any further, I would like to point out that this is physically a very nice book.  The copy I got was a small hard back with a blue cloth bound cover.  Good paper, a nice weight in the hand but not too heavy, it endured a rather intensive reading and period of going back checking and rechecking facts, and is now something of a resource for me in my research, and it remains very robust and elegant little book in spite of all that heavy use.  It is so rare these days to see a really...

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French fencing guilds

French fencing guilds of Paris, Lille, and Amiens in the 16th and 17th century Translated by Pierre Pichon Edited by Jean Chandler, SDA NOLA, New Orleans & Roger Norling, GHFS/MFFG Finally we have here English translations of French fencing guild documents from the 16th and 17th centuries. These documents contain a wealth of information concerning the practices of the fencing guilds and our hope is that the publishing of these will spur further research and sharing of material within the international HEMA community. Much more is to be found out there so keep digging and remember to spread it. Background These documents were provided to me by Roger Norling who got them from the French historical fencing website at http://jfgilles.perso.sfr.fr Terminology For convenience and ease of comprehension for an English-speaking reader I have substituted some English words for specific terms. The term ‘Serment’ means sworn  (via the Latin word serere, which means ‘to join together’, similar to the English legal phrase ‘sworn-in’), and is used throughout these documents to refer to a group of people joined by an oath.  Frequently the term ‘sermon confrere’ is used to refer to a sworn guild.  I’m substituting the relatively familiar term confraternity though the more archaic term ‘conjuration’ is probably a closer match. Confrérie (‘brotherhood’), seems to usually refer to the larger organization, and is translated as guild.  It could also mean sodality....

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