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Publication Date

Spring 4-2015


Conflicting Perspectives: Chivalry in Twelfth-Century Historiography Chivalry was the dominant social structure of the Middle Ages. Its tenets were limited to the ruling class, but it affected all members of medieval society. Despite its overwhelming prevalence, a definition of chivalry has eluded most historians. Twelfth-century sources range from histories and chronicles of events, to epic poetry based on facts but depicting idealized or demonized characters, to manuals of knightly behavior. Modem perceptions of chivalry are shaped by which sources historians choose to include in their analyses; modem historians get most of their arguments from medieval literature and texts that are dedicated specifically to chivalry. While these sources are beneficial and offer their own details about medieval chivalry, a vital source is unfortunately left out of scholarly discussion. A comparative analysis of twelfth-century histories offers a more thorough understanding of the conflicting elements and ideas that made up medieval chivalry; they also show how, while ubiquitous, not everyone practiced or interpreted chivalry in the same way. Twelfth-century histories do this very well, but are often ignored by modem historians in favor of more glamorous sources.



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