Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

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Marcus Woodhouse
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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Mon Aug 23, 2010 1:28 pm

Indeed I was Jorge.
I have been told that I don't know about being subjective when I do (two history degrees and being a history teacher has tuaght me that much) but what I can see happen again and again is not subjectivity but selective speculation.
So a illustration from the Flemish (or North Italian School) of Hungarian Jews in the 1480's/90's, a Dutch picture from the 16th century of Jews in an undisclosed West European country and some legislation from the time of Henry VIII gets used as evidence of therebeing a African or Asian population in England during the WOTR.
If I had gone to any of my lecturers with that kind of evidence they would have bumped me off the course.
I have read Medieval Women (and recentally sold my copy on ebay by the way), and other books about the role of medieval women and you can find examples of women involved in professions and in roles that run against the established norm of the then society, but these are (though not as rare as hen's teeth) not the norm which is often why they were noted down. I really don't think they should be used, as they are by certain re-enactors, to justify what most people here would agree is not a true reflection of our past.
The "company" of women (which some commentators siad were perhaps 200 strong) were raised before Charles became Duke of Burgundy. He had them paraded with flags and a pennent of his own design and they may have been used as pioneers to help in the digging of ditches and earhtworks during a seige (which sounds like a typical use of non-fighting but still a strong and useful work force, sparing actual soldiers for combat). Another recent suggestion is that they were given banners and paraded around as a taunt to the French, as in "If you won't come and fight our men will you come and fight our women?"
I can see the military use of both, Charles had quite strong views of women in a military camp, he allowed them to stay but tried to monitor there numbers (and limit them), he was not at all keen on men bringing along their wives for instance. partly this was down to his rather puritanical sense of religiosity but it was also down to his fears of poor behaviour. I expect being nearly murdered by mutinous English mercenaries who were fighting with Italian mercenries other access to the camp prostitutes did not sway his opinons much.
That said the Swiss claim that thousands of "ladies of pleasure" were taken along with booty after Nancy, so however much he wanted to limit the number of camp followers on paper he was clearly resisted in practice.
Of course this does not relate to the fast moving and short lived campaigns of the WOTR but the much more extended campaigns and seiges of the Franco-Burgundian wars.


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Wed Aug 25, 2010 5:49 pm

My mistake it was a different book with a simialr title that I sold.
I still have Leyser's book along with Power's Medieval People and Medieval Women and a lot on specific character's such as Anne Neville, Maragaret of York. Happy to share should they be required.


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Havercake Lad » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:21 pm

Ignoring literary and pictorial evidence for a moment...I suspect that there are as yet no archealogical finds of fighting women amongst Medieval battle site graves.


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Thu Aug 26, 2010 3:46 pm

Erm, not that i know of.


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Ayliffe's Steve » Thu Aug 26, 2010 4:22 pm

I know it is not a big deal but one that might be worth noting is at Tewkesbury GCoT portray foreign mercenaries which have been hired for the battle. Various members have backstories about how they are involved with the group (mine is that I am the son of a Welsh farmer who's farm was failing and left etc.).

If people cannot think of a backstory or do not want to then they are assumed to descend from the Hussites in Bohemia and are instructed to pretend not to speak much English if MOPs probe them for details. Some others in the group trace definite backstories across from Bohemia and can back it up with various facts and colourful details which they will entertain the crowd with if they get the chance. Some Hussite descendents continue their fore father's beliefs and some do not.

Therefore we are not portraying a 'unit of Hussites' at Tewkes as such.


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby behanner » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:16 pm

Havercake Lad wrote:Ignoring literary and pictorial evidence for a moment...I suspect that there are as yet no archealogical finds of fighting women amongst Medieval battle site graves.


The short answer is no. The long answer is that the evidence isn't really useful, there haven't been many battle graves excavated so the sample is very small. While most bodies gender can be identified there is a certain small percentage that fit within the range that could be one or the other. As for general cemetaries if you found a woman with wounds like from a battle you wouldn't know how she got them. Lastly women would have been less likely to have been killed even if they were at a battle and just because they are there doesn't mean they fought.
There is a reference to I believe the Swiss over running a Burgundian camp and sparing the women. They may have bared their breasts, I'd have to find the reference to give the details.

It is important to remember that there are two different questions here, were women in these armies and what roles did they play.



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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby behanner » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:17 pm

Problem with Tewksbury is that the mercenaries were Flemish/Burgundian.



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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Havercake Lad » Thu Aug 26, 2010 9:46 pm

Bridgeport list is often used as evidenve of women trained and prepared for war. Sadly even this might be suspect, I once thought I'd found evidence of women in 17th infantry companies ( and local Historians trotted out accounts of these local 'amazons'.) On getting hold of the actually muster lists I found that although a widow was mentioned as present with pike etc on one muster roll , a second list ( ignored by partizan historians ) bracketed a widow and a man for one payment...the only such instance in both lists. Argueably the widow provided her late husband's gear for a financial consideration and the good of the company.
I can't say either way ( though if I was a betting man I'm afraid my money would most certainly have to go on the chauvanism of the time )


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby behanner » Thu Aug 26, 2010 10:50 pm

Correct the Bridport muster is from the great general muster of 1457 which was about assesing military strength and not about units being sent to fight battles. The Norwich muster from the same 1457 great muster also has women listed in it.



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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Fox » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:23 am

Havercake Lad wrote:Ignoring literary and pictorial evidence for a moment...I suspect that there are as yet no archealogical finds of fighting women amongst Medieval battle site graves.

Is the irony of starting with an answer and "suspecting" that the evidence will support it entirely lost on you?



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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Ayliffe's Steve » Fri Aug 27, 2010 1:46 pm

behanner wrote:Problem with Tewksbury is that the mercenaries were Flemish/Burgundian.


Good job the group traces its routes from there then (although only if presssed by a MoP and it has never happened to me). It pretty much works out as a mercenary group raised by Tabor (Myk) which started in Bohemia and headed into Central Europe, picking up members as they choose to slot their backstories in over the period of a couple of years. Eventually the group ended up in the UK fighting at Tewkesbury.

The story is not 100% accurate to the actual history of any actual mercenary company in that battle but I think if we want to press for that level of accuracy then there are probably other, more glaring, issues which should be resolved first.


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby behanner » Fri Aug 27, 2010 3:35 pm

Ayliffe's Steve wrote: The story is not 100% accurate to the actual history of any actual mercenary company in that battle but I think if we want to press for that level of accuracy then there are probably other, more glaring, issues which should be resolved first.


While I am not disagreeing with your statement, stories people tell are often some of the easiest things to change.



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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Cat » Fri Aug 27, 2010 7:07 pm

Why did you want to know, Jane? We're so far removed, I don't believe we'll ever know. We know it wasn't commonplace, which is good enough reason -for me- to portray a man in order to get my fighting jollies. Doesn't mean I don't respect Jake, Ruth, Zara etc who are happy enough with the evidence that they have found to fight in a kirtle and armour.

To add a small thrupennyworth to the general discussion I had a very interesting chat with Vic James' lovely Dutch ladyfriend a couple of weeks ago. I may have mentioned Granualle O'Malley/ Bonney and Read (we were talking piracy and women and general stuff to do with both) whereupon she told me about a Dutch lady who cross-dressed sucessfully in the C18th, was discovered and -IIRC- rejoined the forces post-discovery. I have a memory like a sieve so can't recall the name, but apparently a strong-minded Dutch woman is still referred to as a ....(mysterious historical lady's name.). I must look that one up.

As far as Marcus' comment about the crowd laughing at the pathetic female gladiators, I think that the mood of the audience was more likely to be titivated/intrigued than amused possibly in the way that a modern crowd will respond to lady wrestlers... or the way that I get 'watched' when using the punchbag at the gym. :^)


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Marcus Woodhouse » Fri Aug 27, 2010 8:39 pm

You could change the word to theorise if you want Fox but it would still mean the same thing.
A scientist starts off with a theory then looks for the evidence to support this theory and later scientists will ether agree with those results or search for evidence to disprove the original theory.
And history is an inexact science.


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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Fox » Fri Aug 27, 2010 10:41 pm

Marcus Woodhouse wrote:You could change the word to theorise if you want Fox but it would still mean the same thing.
A scientist starts off with a theory then looks for the evidence to support this theory and later scientists will ether agree with those results or search for evidence to disprove the original theory.
And history is an inexact science.

On the whole scientists try to avoid theorising without evidence, although in pure science with strongly reproducable results it's sometimes valuable to think laterally.
On the whole what they try to do is reproduce the results of an evidence based conclusion.

But the more inexact the science the more prejudging the evidence is discouraged.
It's why in medicine they hold double blind trials to try and illiminate the possiblility of prejudged results; and the fact these trials still often fail shows how easy it is to draw false corrilations.

So certainly it makes sense to say: I wonder what the archeological record says about.....
But it's wrong to say: I suppose that the archeological records says.....

The irony in this case is that this kind of supposition is exactly what leads to a good deal of the false evidence that misleads people [myself included when I first started in the hobby] about women fighting in the medieval period.



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Re: Pictoral evidence of women fighting in C14th

Postby Ayliffe's Steve » Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:29 am

behanner wrote:
Ayliffe's Steve wrote: The story is not 100% accurate to the actual history of any actual mercenary company in that battle but I think if we want to press for that level of accuracy then there are probably other, more glaring, issues which should be resolved first.


While I am not disagreeing with your statement, stories people tell are often some of the easiest things to change.


This is true, however being as our group interest lies in the Hussite period that is what a lot of our research centres around. It is often what we talk about in the pub etc. So to have that integrated into the background of the group allows us more depth without requiring people to do more research. They are of course encouraged and supposrted to carry out all of the research that they can and would be applauded for doing so. However, as a default baseline we find it useful to stick to what we know so we can go off on a tangent about our forefathers if the MOPs are interested and want to hear more and more about our backstory. Hence we entertain the MOPs more.

Like I said previously, the only people this really applies to are very new people who do not know that much about the period, experienced members who can talk to you in extreme detail about background and those who do not have a great deal of interest in researching.

We slot those without the knowledge in somewhere alongside the more experienced member's background so they can be supported if needed.


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