20 October 2015

BOOK: Peter ARNADE & Walter PREVENIER, Honor, Vengeance and Social Trouble. Pardon Letters in the Burgundian Low Countries (Ithaca: Cornell UP), 2015, 256 p. ISBN 9780801453465, 26,95 USD


(image source: Cornell UP)

Prof. em. dr. Walter Prevenier (Ghent, Medieval History) and  Prof. dr. Peter Arnade (Univ. of Hawai at Mānoa) published a joint work on pardon letters in the Burgundian Netherlands.

Among the more intriguing documentary sources from late medieval Europe are pardon letters—petitions sent by those condemned for serious crimes to monarchs and princes in France and the Low Countries in the hopes of receiving a full pardon. The fifteenth-century Burgundian Low Countries and duchy of Burgundy produced a large cache of these petitions, from both major cities (Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, and Dijon) and rural communities. In Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble, Peter Arnade and Walter Prevenier present the first study in English of these letters to explore and interrogate the boundaries between these sources’ internal, discursive properties and the social world beyond the written text.
Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble takes the reader out onto the streets and into the taverns, homes, and workplaces of the Burgundian territories, charting the most pressing social concerns of the day: everything from family disputes and vendettas to marital infidelity and property conflicts—and, more generally, the problems of public violence, abduction and rape, and the role of honor and revenge in adjudicating disputes. Arnade and Prevenier examine why the right to pardon was often enacted by the Burgundian dukes and how it came to compete with more traditional legal means of resolving disputes. In addition, they consider the pardon letter as a historical source, highlighting the limitations and pitfalls of relying on documents that are, by their very nature, narratives shaped by the petitioner to seek a favored outcome. The book also includes a detailed case study of a female actress turned prostitute.
An example of microhistory at its best, Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble will challenge scholars while being accessible to students in courses on medieval and early modern Europe or on historiography.
Table of contents:
Introduction. The Forgiving Prince: Pardons and Their Origins
1. Social Discord: Disputes, Vendettas, and Political Clients
2. Violence, Honor, and Sexuality
3. Marital Conflict
4. Actress, Wife, or Lover? Maria van der Hoeven Accused and Defended
Conclusion. People and Their Stories
Bibliographical Note
"Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble will be of interest to both historians and a broader reading public intrigued by its often dramatic themes. Peter Arnade and Walter Prevenier present a valuable and compelling view of the social world of a vital and often under-illuminated part of late medieval Europe. This book clearly models the effective use of complex and often-compromised sources in reconstructing the social worlds of ordinary people, and for that reason it will be a useful supplement in both undergraduate and graduate teaching."—Wayne te Brake, Purchase College, State University of New York, author ofShaping History: Ordinary People in European Politics, 1500–1700

"In this fascinating study of pardon letters, juridical records at the interstices of legal custom, literary construct, and social action, Peter Arnade and Walter Prevenier offer expert guidance as we ponder the questions they raise about sex and gender, family and personal honor, social networking and individual resistance. Even more important, they open up a rich world of human crime and passion ignored by most traditional sources."—Walter Simons, Dartmouth College, author of Cities of Ladies: Beguine Communities in the Medieval Low Countries, 1200–1565

More information on the publisher's website.

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