The Plow, the Pen and the Sword : Images and Self-Images of Medieval People in the Low Countries book cover
1st Edition

The Plow, the Pen and the Sword
Images and Self-Images of Medieval People in the Low Countries

ISBN 9780367594428
Published June 30, 2020 by Routledge
356 Pages

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Book Description

This book compares the cultures of the different social groups living in the Low Countries in the early Middle Ages. Clergy, nobility, peasants and townsmen greatly varied in their attitudes to labor, property, violence, and the handling and showing of emotions. Künzel explores how these social groups looked at themselves as a group, and how they looked at the other groups. Image and self-image could differ radically. The results of this research are specified and tested in four case studies on the interaction between group cultures, focusing respectively on the influence of oral and written traditions on a literary work, rituals as a means of conflict management in weakly centralized societies, stories as an expression of an urban group mentality, and beliefs on death and the afterlife.

Table of Contents

Introduction  Part 1: Group Cultures  1. The Clergy: Self-Image and Ideology  2. Image and Self-Image of the Aristocracy  3. Church Views on Peasants: Cultural Exchange Between the Church and the Peasantry  4. Images of Trade, Merchants, Trade Settlements and Cities  Part 2: Exemplary Studies  5. Oral and Written Traditions in the Versus de Unibove  6. Rituals of Humiliation and Triumph: Stavelot, 1065-1071  7. Early Manifestations of Urban Mentalities: Sint-Truiden, Trier and Cambrai, ca. 1050-1150  8. A Tournament of the Dead: Religious Diversity in an Exemplum by Caesarius of Heisterbach.  Conclusion.

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Rudi Künzel previously taught in the Department of History at the University of Amsterdam.


‘… this book indeed represents a thought-provoking and insightful collection of studies … it succeeds both in opening up the rich array of medieval sources from the Low Countries and in making accessible the relevant literature based on these sources to international readers. The translation is an excellent piece of work: it follows the Dutch closely but the English is elegant’ - Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld, Belgisch tijdschrift voor filologie en geschiedenis / Revue belge de philologie et d'histoire

Sample reviews of the original Dutch edition:

This is an essential work. For anyone who works on the culture of the earlier Middle Ages, it is indispensable’ - Early Medieval Europe

‘Künzel’s research is the first attempt in Dutch to integrate anthropological concepts and medieval learning ... In my opinion this book, fascinatingly written, merits translation into several languages. It constitutes a wonderful example of detailed analysis, yet striking in the broad richness of the ideas expressed’ - Francia

‘Leaning on a broad theoretical apparatus engaging the most recent methods and problems raised in historical anthropology, Rudi Künzel has made an important contribution to this field ... Overall, Künzel has demonstrated brilliantly that ideological and cultural systems are equally determining as economic forces’ - Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale

‘This book offers a rich and fascinating kaleidoscope of outlooks of medieval people … compulsory reading for everybody interested in historical anthropology’ - Millennium