Hostages in the Later Middle Ages: Representation, Finance, and the Laws of War

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 Later Middle Ages: Representation, Finance, and the Laws of War

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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This chapter begins the investigation into the diversification of hostageship after the year 1000. The most striking change is the reappearance of female hostages. Only a handful of examples survive from Late Antiquity and fewer still from the eighth to the tenth centuries; by 1200 they are routine. The appearance of female hostages marks a shift of hostageship out of the framework of family and alliance that predominated in the early Middle Ages and into one that was at once more de-individualized, commercialized, and bureaucratic. The chapter examines how hostages become important not as individuals, but as representatives of larger groups; how they developed new roles in the conduct of warfare, particularly concerning ransom and conditional respite; and finally how they spread from the realm of war, politics, and diplomacy into the world of financial transactions.

Keywords: women; representation; towns; Frederic Barbarossa; Flanders; siege; ransom; Hundred Years War; laws of war; guilds

Chapter.  27125 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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