Sunday, January 27, 2008

Liberal Fascism?

Tyler Cowen has a review of the stupidly titled Liberal Fascism here. And yes, I know the phrase is from H. G. Wells, and it was stupid when he said it, too. Jonah Goldberg responds:

He may be right that Nazism has "stronger" roots on the right than I'm willing to emphasize, but that doesn't make the case that those roots are in fact strong. Meanwhile I think I do a pretty good job demonstrating that the Nazis were opposed to both traditionalism (Orthodox Christianity, Monarchy etc) as well as to Classical Liberalism. Since these two things comprise the bulk of what define modern Anglo-American conservatism, I think anatomically my argument is very strong.

However, the Nazis were also opposed to Social Democrats, who would fall into the Liberal end of the contemporary American political spectrum. And the book isn’t Liberal Nazism, which would be even more baselessly inflammatory. So we need to look at others Fascist parties, particularly Mussolini’s Fascism Classic™. The Fascist parties based their claim to undemocratic totalitarian rule on the argument that they embodied the national will. As opposed to Lenin and Stalin, who claimed the right to totalitarian undemocratic rule based on the dictatorship of the workers. Fascism was also distinguished by advocating a corporatist mixed economy, as opposed to the full bore socialism of Lenin and Stalin, with state ownership of the means of production..

Fascism and the Communism of Lenin and Stalin should be seen as the tunas and dolphins of the political ecosystem, or perhaps sharks and icthyosaurs. In any case, sharp toothed, fast moving predators competing for a similar niche in spite of some significant internal differences.

The Fascists very much defined themselves by their opposition to both Communism and Democratic Socialism, who occupied the left end of the contemporary European political spectrum. As a result their policies tended to be tailored to appeal to groups on the right, and their coalition partners tended to by from the right side of the political spectrum, during the period before they dispensed with elections. Mussolini and Franco sought church support. Mussolini maintained the monarchy, and Franco restored it. Mussolini had a count for a son in law and foreign minister. The Nazis offered industrialists protection from nationalization and trade unions and lavish government spending on munitions and infrastructure.

The Fascists were weakly socialist, but then so are and were a lot of governments most people would define as conservative. Bismark instituted a number of socialist policies, and Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan left a lot of their predecessors’ welfare state in place.

I don’t thing actual fascism maps very well to contemporary American politics: anti-democracy and arbitrary rule would seem to be off the table for most Americans, let alone the piles of skulls thing. However, looking at the policies above, it’s hard to accept the notion that Fascism was mostly a movement of the left.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Soldier in later Medieval England

The online database currently holds just under 90,000 service records. These are taken from muster rolls, housed in The National Archives (TNA), for the years 1369 - 1453.

Search Tips

You can search through each database field using the drop down box. Here are some tips:

You can look for exact matches, for instance typing John and searching in the First Name field will find all soldiers named John.

You can use fuzzy searching. To do this, type Jo* and search in the First Name field. This will give you all first names beginning Jo.

For people with a double barreled surname, for instance Fitz Alan, typing Fitz and searching the Surname field will bring up all those with surnames beginning Fitz.

Finally, on the search result page, clicking on the title of a column will sort the results via that field.

The site is here.

Initial notes

The count is of occurrences, not individuals.

57136 Archers, including
2910 identified as valleti/yeomen.
677 of the archers are distinguished as foot archers and 1620 as Armed Archers
198 crossbowmen, mustered for naval expeditions, keeping the sea and garrisons

26246 men-at-arms, (210 of these foot men-at-arms assigned to garrisons) including
6 Valleti/Yeomen
47 Gentlemen
8153 Esquires
1579 Knights
70 Bannerets
69 Barons
43 Earls
7 Dukes

I've also been looking for the Scot in English service that Froissart renders as "Sir John Assueton" who performed a notable deed at the barriers at the barriers at Noyon during the Knolles campaign of 1370-1371.

There are no men-at-arms in the rolls under the name John Seton or Swinton, but there are occurrences of men-at-arms listed as John Aschton, Asshton, or Aston, the last a knight mustered with a standing force in Scotland 1389-1390.

I find it rewarding to browse this site by muster roll. Go to a particular year, select one of the references and do a search on that reference. Then sort the result by membrane. You can then scroll through that muster by parchment. You will continually encounter small retinues, each on their own strip of parchment, often consisting of one or two men at arms and a handful of archers. More than once you encounter Chaucerian retinues with a knight, a squire with the same surname and a few archers.

Scribes differed in the details they recorded. Some note the social status of archers, and repeatedly record every archer as a yeoman or valettus. Others make no record of this detail.

Some record every man at arms below knightly rank as a squire. One parchment instead records each of these as a 'gentils hommez armez'. Yet others record some as squires, and others of unspecified status. An awkward category of men at arms who are not squires seems to be developing: scribes either squeeze them into the squire category, or describe them and squires both as “gentils hommez”, or leave their social status blank.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How Bad Is It in Iraq? (IV)

A study based on the Iraq Family Health Survey (IFHS) and recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine sheds new light on violent deaths in Iraq. It estimates that violent deaths are 2-4 times higher than the tally of civilian deaths collected from media reports by Iraq Body Count (IBC). This disparity is unsurprising, since that tally attempts to screen out combatant deaths, and media reports will miss some deaths. The study period ended in June of 2006: applying the same ratio to the current IBC tally would give a death toll in the 150,000-300,000 range.

This fits with the earlier ILCS survey, which estimated violent deaths 2-3 times the contemporary IBC count. This estimate based on cemetery traffic suggests a ratio in the 2.5-4.5 times range.

The study by Burnham et al published in The Lancet estimated violent deaths 10-20 times higher than IBC. There’s an obvious conflict between Burnham et al and IFHS. IFHS had a larger sample size, more resources and better supervision. Both studies failed to survey some of the planned clusters: 11% in IFHS, 6% in Burnham et al. IFHS made an effort to compensate for the missed clusters, Burnham et al did not. IFHS also made an effort to reflect regional population changes from migration during the study period. Burnham et al did not.

Some supporters of Burnham et al are still defending that study. One argument they make is that IFHS isn’t so different if you measure “excess death,” that is the increase in death rates, including nonviolent deaths, over pre-war conditions. I don’t think this works: the IFHS authors didn’t try to calculate that and argued, I think correctly, that recall was worse for the pre-war period. Certainly the recalled death rate for that period was low compared to neighboring countries. Subtracting the pre-invasion death-rate from the post invasion rate could give a spurious increase because of recall issues.

Supporters of Burham et al also complain that the IFHS annual death rate does not show the strong increase from 2003 to 2006 recorded in other sources. However, the range of sampling error is substantial for the annual figures, and the difference in the IFHS trendline and that shown by IBC is not statistically significant.

One of the strengths of the IFHS data is that it also looked at other demographic data, and the large sample size narrowed the margin of error. If Burnham et al was closer to the truth about violent deaths than IFHS, the result should be visible in the IFHS demographic data. If 2.5% of the population is being killed in an armed conflict, (as Burnham et al claim) and most of those deaths are military-age males (one of the few points on which Burnham et al and IBC agree), then the result should be a strong male/female imbalance in adult Iraqi demographics.

The predicted imbalance does not occur in the IFHS data, except for the cohort that was unfortunate enough to reach fighting age back when Saddam Hussein was invading his neighbors.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The 14th c. Lance as a Unit of Account

The mid 15th c. lance as an administrative unit is well documented in the ordonnances of France and Burgundy. It included not only a fully armored man at arms and his warhorse, but additional supporting combatants and non-combatants, and additional horses.

I believe that the lance or man-at-arms was also used as a unit of account in England and France in the second half of the 14th c., but the 14th c. lance was much less inclusive.

It included the man-at-arms and his best warhorse. However, the English man-at-arms was expected to have at least three horses, including remounts and horses for baggage and servants. Shipping arrangements for English armies serving abroad support this expectation. The Florentine commissioners who signed a contract with John Hawkwood in 1389 were warned to insure that they received “three men and three horses per lance, and not women”

If they expected three men per lance, what sort of men? The lance also included noncombatant servants. During this period the English man-at-arms often fought dismounted, and someone had to take charge of his horse when he did. Someone had to take care of the horse and armor, and Filippo Villani reports that “every one of them had one or two pages, some more, depending on their ability to maintain them, ” These servants are more or less invisible in English indentures and payrolls: it seems likely that the wages for noncombatant servants was bundled in with the wages paid to each man-at-arms.

Some of the man-at-arms’ servants were able to serve as fighting men. The 1351 French ordinance of John II set the wages for armed valets with a specified level of armor and mount. This was over and above the wages of the man-at-arms or lance that employed him.

It seems likely that English men-at-arms could also claim pay for combatant servants, either as hobelars, mounted archers or archers. However, this was additional to the wages paid to the man-at-arms or “lance”.

It looks like the immediate retinue of an English man-at-arms in the second half of the 14th c. averaged three horses and two servants, with one of them a yeoman. A wealthy knight or banneret would have more, but some of them would be squires, themselves men at arms, so a similar ratio would hold. If I am correct in thinking that the yeomen were listed in the indenture or payroll as archers, mounted or otherwise, then the lance or man at arms as a unit of account would consist of a man-at-arms, a noncombatant servant and three horses.

Do any of my readers have information that confirms or denies this?

Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman by Frances Stonor Saunders is my source for the Florentine commisioners quote. I wish Saunders would provide sources for more of her statements of fact.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Steve Muhlberger has an interesting post here on the 1351 Ordinance of King John II of France, with a follow up.

The ordinance is available at the rich and frequently rewarding site of the Bibliotheque National. Bibliographic information is noted below.

My conclusions:

Armed valets are described in association with the gens d’armes, who are either bannerets, knights or squires. Armed valets are expected to have haubergeons, gorgerettes (probably a mail collar in this context), bascinets with camails, and gauntlets, as well as a horse worth 20 livres, which is 2/3 the minimum value of a squire’s horse. If they have at least this equipment they are paid half the wages of a squire. The haubergeon is worn over a “chope”, which I suspect may be a variant on jupon or gipoun.

Later, the ordinance talks of soldiers called “haubergeons”, who are neither knights nor squires. They are also associated with but distinguished from the gens d’armes. “Haubergeon” is evidently used as a synonym for the armed valet described earlier.

Although associated with the gens d’armes, the armed valets are not described as gens d’armes themselves, and are repeatedly contrasted with gens d’armes.

The armed valets or haubergeons of the ordinance seem quite similar to the sort of soldier described in some 15th c. sources as a gros valet and in 15th c. French and Burgundian ordinances as a coustilier. The original French plan of battle for Agincourt intended to have such men support men-at-arms in charging the English archers.

The men at arms who could afford full armor and warhorses could also afford servants. Each of these represented a mouth to feed and otherwise support in the field: it was in the interest of the French King to see that as many of these mouths to be fed could also contribute to the army as a useful soldier.

In the early part of the 14th c. the English counterpart at the bottom of spectrum of mounted soldiers was called a Hobelar. Later in the century, mounted archers become prominent in this niche: English tactics had greater need for operationally mobile mounted infantry than for second class cavalry. A well equipped man at arms’ servant would appear on the payroll in a French army as an armed valet. In an English army a man of the same resources to equip himself would likely show on the payroll as a mounted archer.

In the English records of Chaucer’s day, valettus and yeoman were synonyms. These individuals could be substantial commoners. They could also be men of gentle birth, like Chaucer, who would later work their way up to the rank of squire or higher.

Secousse, Denis-François (éd.)
Titre(s) : Ordonnances des roys de France de la troisième race.... Quatrième volume, Contenant differents suppléments pour le règne du roy Jean et les ordonnances de Charles V données pendant les années 1364, 1365 et 1366
Date d'édition : 1734

Cote : NUMM-118972

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Sources for Recreating a Deed of Arms at the Barriers

Here are the sources I used to design the deed of arms scheduled for January 12, 2008.

The basic rules for the effect of blows are a simulation designed to give an approximation of the effect of steel weapons on real armor, based on my reading of historical accounts. Here and here are some explanations. It is the basic combat system now used by the Company of St. Michael

Because the deed of arms would be fought indoors, combat at the barriers seemed most suitable, since the area where the fighting would happen could be tightly controlled.

The weapons chosen were designed to be fairly typical of barriers combats, based on these accounts, as well as contemporary illustrations of such combats which showed single-handed swords being used without shields. The decision not to use shields was reinforced by experience at past recreations of barriers combats. Because the barriers make low attacks difficult or impossible depending on the specific rules, sword and shield at the barriers tends to not be very interesting for the combatants or spectators.

One weapons form used at a significant number of barriers combats, thrown spear followed by sword, was omitted. Prudent recreation of that form requires significant separation of the combatants and spectators and I didn’t know if that would be practical at that site.

While many barriers combats ended after a specified number of blows were struck on one side or another, at Noseroy the combat could go on as long as the judges wished. The simplicity of this option was appealing.

The method of recording the combats and some specific rules for eliminating potential prize winners for specific faults were based on the Tiptofte rules.

Barriers combats were popular roughly from 1500 to about 1600, and became increasingly stylized and artificial over time. I was more interested in its earliest form, so I omitted later rules that barred blows from “the girdle downward”.

The speeches and ceremony were based on this and this.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Using Scoring Cheques in a Recreation of a Deed of Arms

Scoring Cheques were used in Tudor and Elizabethan jousts, tourneys and combats at the barriers. Although some faults would explicitly put you out of the running, for tourneys and combats at the barriers the scoring seems to have been a guide to the judges rather than a rigid method of producing a winner.

Here is one way to use scoring cheques in a modern recreation of combat on foot. It is an adaption to the rules and combat conventions used by the Company of St. Michael.

Draw two columns of rectangles on a sheet of paper, one for the comers and the other for the defenders. Each combatant should be listed beside a rectangle. If you like, you can trick their arms there as well.

The upper line of the rectangle is for acts that increase the combatant’s repute, the lower is for things that decrease it. For each good blow they strike against an opponent make a vertical mark on the upper line. For each disabling blow they strike, mark a cross on the upper line. For blows struck against them, do the same on or below the lower line.

If they are disarmed, are born to the ground or fall, or rest a hand on the barrier put a cross on or below the lower line, with a d, b, or h respectively beside it. If they actively disarm an opponent, etc, mark the upper line accordingly.

Tudor deeds of arms often had prizes for each of the different weapons or types of combat. If you do this create a new sheet for each weapon. For combats with a given weapon, all of the blows a combatant strikes and receives are marked on the same rectangle: you don’t need another one for additional opponents.

Combatants who fell, put their hand on the barrier or were disarmed can’t win the prize. For the remainder, the surplus of good blows struck over blows received (with disabling blows counting as three good blows) will be a useful indication of prowess. The ladies or judges are free to consider other indications of skill or hardiness at their discretion.

There are some differences between this and the Tudor system. That scoring system did not distinguish between “good” blows and light. It did distinguish between head and body blows, and noted blows hard enough to break swords. It apparently did not directly note how successful a combatant was at not being hit.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Proclamation upon the Distribution of the Prizes for the Tilt, Tourney and Barriers (early 16th century)

Form of Proclamation to be made by the King-at-Arms in the Presence Chamber, upon the Queen’s distribution of the Prizes to them, who had best exercised the Feats of Arms at the Tilt, Tourney and Barriers

Moreover that all such Triumphs as are agreed upon by the Challenger and allowed by the Prince, shall be published by the King of Arms of the Province in such places as shall be appointed by the Prince. And also that the next night after any such triumph is ended the gift of the Prizes is to be proclaimed by the said King of Arms in the presence chamber after the second Course be served the manner whereof hereafter followeth.

Oyez Oyez Oyez, we let to understand to all Princes and Princesses, Lords, Ladies and Gentlewomen of this noble Court and to all others to whom it appertaineth that the Nobles that this day have exercised the feats of Arms at the Tilt, Tourneys and Barriers have everyone behaved themselves most valiantly in showing their prowess and valor worthy of great praise.

And to begin as touching the brave entry of the L. Lo. made by him very gallantly, the K. Majesty more brave then he, and above all the Earl F. unto whom the prize of a very rich ring is given by the Q. Majesty by the advice of other Princesses Ladies and gentlewoman of this noble Court.

And as touching the Valiantness of the Pikes the D. M. hath very valiantly, behaved himself, the Earl of P. better then he and above all others the Earl of D. unto whom the prize of a ring of gold with a ruby is given by the most high and mighty Princess the Queen of England by the advice aforesaid.

And as touching the valiantness of the sword Sir G. H., Knight hath very well behaved himself, the Earl A. better then he, and Sir J. P., Knight, above all the rest unto whom is given the prize of a ring of gold with a diamond by the Queen’s most excellent Majesty by the advice of other Princesses Ladies and Gentlewomen.

And as touching the valiantness of the sword at the toyle Sir W. H. Knight hath very valiantly behaved himself, the Marquess T better then he, and above all others the K. Majesty unto whom was given the prize of a ring of gold with a diamond by the Queen’s Majesty by the advice of other Princes Ladies and Gentlewomen.

Finally touching the Valiancy of the pike the point abated Thomas P. hath well and valiantly behaved himself Charles C. better then he, and above others R. S. unto whom was given by the Queen’s Majesty a ring of gold by the advice of other Princes Ladies and Gentlewomen.

Harleian MS. 69. fo. 23b, in Cripps-Day, appendix, p.lx

Friday, January 04, 2008

Daily Life in Chaucer’s England, Revised Edition

Greenwood Publishing, my co-author and I have agreed to publish a revised and expanded edition of Daily Life in Chaucer’s England. Are there errors or omissions you’d like to see corrected? Please let me know. Also, are there topics or issues that you’d like to see covered more thoroughly?