More on medieval knights and PTSD

Posted: December 30, 2011 in medieval history, military history
Tags: , , , , , ,

A brief follow-up to my earlier post that discussed this study–a friend posted another news story by Emily Sohn from Discovery on the ongoing Copenhagen study regarding medieval knights and PTSD, and this one is notable in that it quotes my adviser, Richard Kaeuper, extensively.  Which makes sense after all, he being one of a handful of people who know Geffroi de Charny’s works inside and out, Steve Muhlberger being another.  Which in turn reminds me, for some time now I’ve had Kaeuper’s copy of Charny’s Demandes, one of those fine old type-set dissertations from the ’70s and ’80s. Must remember to get it back to him before I depart Rochester!

I think it makes complete sense that knights had to deal with both fear, and with the chemical reactions, sometimes prolonged reactions, that extreme chaos and danger cause. John Bliese’s articles on medieval battle speeches, such as “The Courage of the Normans”, suggest that allaying fear, even terror, was a high priority for many medieval commanders. Joinville’s account of Louis IX’s crusade presents dozens of anecdotes of knights before battle, in battle, and after battle, in terms that could easily be translated into modern combat psychology.  But at the same time, I agree entirely with Kaeuper (always a good thing to be in agreement with one’s adviser!) that a lifetime of training and social conditioning might well have fundamentally affected the psychological state of knights toward combat, let alone in combat. In short, not to sound like a broken academic record, there’s definitely  more work to be done here, but it’s certainly fascinating and necessary work so far.

  1. Sir Gawain says:

    Interesting -Gawain flinched twice before receiving the nick on his neck from Bertilak. A knight should show no fear but fear gets to the best of us, no matter how well trained.

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