Hostages in the Middle Ages: Problems and Perspectives

Adam J. Kosto

in Hostages in the Middle Ages

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780199651702
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191741999 | DOI:
Hostages in the Middle Ages: Problems and Perspectives

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter begins with a brief history of hostageship, from biblical times to the present day. It then discusses the ways in which hostageship has been treated by earlier historiography: as a form of surety or an aspect of international law by legal historians, and as a variety of captivity or imprisonment by social historians. It defines the medieval hostage as a third-party guarantor of an agreement, notionally given rather than taken, and actually or potentially subject to loss of liberty, distinguishing it from captives and other forms of non-custodial guarantors. It then addresses the challenges of locating hostages in the sources, outlining a conservative approach, but maintaining that the hostage was for the authors of medieval texts a distinct category. The chapter closes with an outline of the rest of the book.

Keywords: captivity; imprisonment; personal surety; guarantor; etymology; historiography; judicial procedure

Chapter.  12840 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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