Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

War a money-spinner for rank-and-file soldiers in Late Middle Ages

Date:
January 24, 2013
Source:
University of Southampton
Summary:
Not just a King's ransom: war was a money-spinner for the rank-and-file soldier in the Late Middle Ages. A historian has found that the practice of ransom was widespread among all soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337 - 1453) and not, as generally thought, just the preserve of kings, knights and higher orders. Ransom in war provided a valuable source of income for all classes in the Late Middle Ages, including those in the lower orders.

Research by a University of Southampton historian has found that the practice of ransom was widespread among all soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337 -- 1453) and not, as generally thought, just the preserve of kings, knights and higher orders.

Dr Rémy Ambühl has found that ransom in war provided a valuable source of income for all classes in the Late Middle Ages, including those in the lower orders. He says: "There is widespread evidence to suggest that during the 15th century the practice of ransom is increasingly extended to commoners, not just Kings or chivalrous Knights."

Dr Ambühl's research has led him to examine a large number of historical sources which support this, including; court records, financial documents, receipts, ordinances of war, petitions, biographical texts and even poetry. He has concluded that contracts which drew-up the terms and conditions of ransom were commonplace between individual soldiers or small groups on opposing sides. This involved captors and captives of all ranks and the practice was an accepted way of making profit out of war. This is supported by an apparent increase in the size of the rank-and-file sections of the French and English armies during this period.

Dr Ambühl explains: "Patriotism was not the driving force to encourage enrollment and ordinary men would have been reluctant to join armies willingly if they faced death upon capture. However, under the terms of ransom, prisoners were less likely to be harmed and additionally the practice provided them with an opportunity to make money -- another incentive to enlist.

"Over the course of the Hundred Years War, more and more rank-and-file soldiers captured more and more rank-and-file prisoners giving rise to a form of social recognition between equals -- the principle of reciprocity meant good treatment on one side would induce good treatment on the other. It can also be argued that materialism had started to penetrate the whole of society and even a small profit gained from the ransom of commoner prisoners was thought to be worthwhile."

From the moment of capture, prisoners became the individual responsibility of their masters who were expected to secure an appropriate place and conditions for them to be held in. The Master had to work out the appropriate value of their prisoners and enter negotiations with them, their family and friends. In turn, prisoners, or their connections, would work to raise funds or arrange an exchange for their release.

Dr Ambühl comments, "Negotiations were crucial in this process and a dialogue was kept open between masters and prisoners at all stages. The ransom culture was essentially contractual and so firmly rooted that it could even supersede or invalidate arguments from the 'law of arms'."

Records show that the earliest evidence of a set scale of ransom payments for the bottom of the social hierarchy dates from the battle of Agincourt (Friday, 25 October 1415). Dr Ambühl concludes this may reflect an evolution of the ransom system in the first decades of the 15th century.

By the 16th century, scales of ransom payments were based on the wages of soldiers and throughout this period and into the 17th century there was increasing control from the state. Eventually a practice which had been shaped by combatants over the centuries ended up being tightly controlled by authorities.

Dr Rémy Ambühl's full research on this subject can be found in his recently published book, Prisoners of War in the Hundred Years War: Ransom Culture in the Late Middle Ages.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Southampton. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Southampton. "War a money-spinner for rank-and-file soldiers in Late Middle Ages." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130124091540.htm>.
University of Southampton. (2013, January 24). War a money-spinner for rank-and-file soldiers in Late Middle Ages. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130124091540.htm
University of Southampton. "War a money-spinner for rank-and-file soldiers in Late Middle Ages." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130124091540.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

French Historians Fight to Save Iconic La Samaritaine Buildings

AFP (Apr. 15, 2014) — Parisians and local historians are fighting to save one of the French capital's iconic buildings, the La Samaritaine department store. Duration: 01:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Bee Fossils Provide Insight Into Ice Age Environment

Newsy (Apr. 12, 2014) — Archeologists have found many fossils in the La Brea Tar Pits, including those of saber-tooth tigers and mammoths. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Daddy Longlegs Once Had 4 Eyes

Newsy (Apr. 11, 2014) — A new fossil has revealed daddy longlegs one had an extra pair of eyes. Modern species retain the gene for the extra pair but never develop them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Rosa Parks Memorabilia Remain in NY Warehouse

Rosa Parks Memorabilia Remain in NY Warehouse

AP (Apr. 10, 2014) — A lifetime's worth of Rosa Parks' belongings, including her Presidential Medal of Freedom, sits unseen and unsold in a New York warehouse. (April 10) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins