December 12, 2003

A Shiver in My Spine: Chevauchee

One side effect of having the text of 10,000 books from Project Gutenberg newly-downloaded onto your laptop is that you can read the introduction to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales while proctoring your undergraduate exam. But I just ran across a passage that puts a shiver in my spine, a passage about the KNIGHT'S son, the SQUIRE:

With him there was his son, a younge SQUIRE,
A lover, and a lusty bacheler,
With lockes crulle as they were laid in press.
Of twenty year of age he was I guess.
Of his stature he was of even length,
And wonderly deliver, and great of strength.
And he had been some time in chevachie,
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie,
And borne him well, as of so little space,
In hope to standen in his lady's grace.

"...had been some time in chevauchee..." (as it is usually spelled).

Let me tell you how the Hundred Years War (during which Geoffrey Chaucer was an English government functionary) worked. An English army ventures into France. The French have more knights, more horses, and lots of castles. As long as the French harass the English--cutting off detachments, ambushing vanguards, surprising foraging parties--the English will (a) fail to take territory (for besieging castles is difficult and time consuming, and (b) find their army attrited away. Only if the English can induce the French to charge the English longbow archers while they are entrenched behind their wooden stakes can the English win a pitched battle, and in the aftermath of a massive victory like Crecy or Poitiers or Agincourt press forward and pick up the mass surrenders that gain them provinces.

So how can the English kings and princes persuade the French to charge the longbows? The answer the English found was the chevauchee: send your cavalry and your archers (who can march pretty fast) through French provinces, moving as fast as possible, burning and killing everything in their path. Perhaps the destruction will enrage the French enough that they will lose their heads and charge. Perhaps the French will feel that they must fight--whether it is good tactical ground for them or not--out of a sense of duty to their vassals and serfs. Perhaps the English get a pitched battle fought under favorable tactical circumstances. If not, they will come home having suffered few casualties, and laden with at least some booty, having had a merry time burning crops, burning villages, and killing peasants, and extorting valuables from small walled towns that do not want to risk the chance that the English army would halt and attempt a full siege.

That is what's hidden beneath Chaucer's three merry lines:

And he had been some time in chevachie,
In Flanders, in Artois, and Picardie,
And borne him well, as of so little space,

Truly this is the kind of activity after which one can "hope to standen in his lady's grace."

Right now I'm seeing burned French villages and butchered peasants in my mind's eye, and contrasting it with Chaucer's further description of the SQUIRE:

Embroider'd was he, as it were a mead
All full of freshe flowers, white and red.
Singing he was, or fluting all the day;
He was as fresh as is the month of May.
Short was his gown, with sleeves long and wide.
Well could he sit on horse, and faire ride.
He coulde songes make, and well indite,
Joust, and eke dance, and well pourtray and write.
So hot he loved, that by nightertale
He slept no more than doth the nightingale.
Courteous he was, lowly, and serviceable,
And carv'd before his father at the table.

The past is truly another country. (Of course, much of the world in the present is another country--all of the world outside the borders of the U.S.A. is another country, in fact.)

Posted by DeLong at December 12, 2003 08:59 PM | TrackBack


Go for a drive in Oakland, you can find another country there, if you're not careful where you go.

Posted by: Dick Durata on December 12, 2003 09:41 PM


Chaucer is great. If you understand the satire in his verse, his world may not seem so strange anymore. Chaucer was very well aware of the devastation of the war, as some of the passages of his Tales show. Look for the passage that mentions the vagabond 'smyler' with dagger under his cloak, lurking to rob and murder unlucky stragglers wandering throught the smoking ruins and feral dogs devouring the dead after one those little English forays through the countryside. I've forgotten what the joke is about with the Squire, but will try to remember and fill you in.

He was also quite aware of the devastation of the Crusades. The knight narrator (not the same person as the knight in the Knights tale). He is described as a great hero of Christian victories, but the battles Chaucer mentions were all Christian defeats or disgraceful Christian massacres of Muslims, or whoever was unlucky enough to be there. And the narrator knight is dressed from head to toe in massive defensive armor.

Chaucer's good-humor and sometimes incongruous juxtapositions sometimes disguised absolutely savage commentary on his society. He was apparently a man of his time in many respects, though, as can be seen in the mysterious "retraction" of his sinful secular poery he wrote near his death.

He worked for the crown as a diplomate and as some kind of minor treasurer. He lost the latter position after managing to be robbed twice in one day while transporting some funds. So I identify with him -sounds like the kind of messes I can get into if I'm not careful

Posted by: jml on December 12, 2003 10:45 PM


The Anglos eventually had to give up on France.

Later on, they found "another country" where the natives did not have "more knights, more horses"... and no castles... or guns.

Even this country, though, the Anglos had to relinquish to the settlers themselves, once they developed their own mind.

Still later, the Anglos had to give up India as well.

Mathematics rules in all countries, geographic or temporal.

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 12, 2003 11:53 PM


Does proctoring have anything to do with proctology?

Posted by: PJ on December 13, 2003 05:24 AM


The much disputed argument by (ex-Python) Terry Jones in _Chaucer's Knight_ is that Chaucer intended and expected his readers to see through and condemn the Knight and the Squire.

Posted by: Marcus on December 13, 2003 06:22 AM


I've never forgotten Barbara Tuchman's (in A Distant Mirror) account of why the French never developed longbowmen ot their own. She says they did; however, they were never used profitably, because French Chivalry, who in battle put glory first and victory second, would never let the bowmen be deployed in the vanguard. In the rear, with their own men in front of them, they were useless. There was no French command with enough authority to override this; that was the principal English battlefield advantage.
Thay's why Charles the Fifth, who merely wanted to win, refused to fight any battles. He won by attrition, using the tactics recommended by our host, along with sieges and bribery. His generals hated him. He didn't care.

Posted by: Jonathan Goldberg on December 13, 2003 06:57 AM


One could speak of proctoring in proctology perhaps... I for one would never dream of thinking that they were getting paid too much!

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 13, 2003 07:05 AM


The relationship between proctoring and proctology depends mightly upon the exam given.

Posted by: Rob on December 13, 2003 07:43 AM


Me, of course, would know nothing about the nature or content of proctoring in proctology, as this pour soul decided not to go to medical school quite early on in life.

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 13, 2003 09:19 AM


And I am a little afraid of what Google might give us if we continue with this delicate medical education subject -- Google already switched ads to "what every believer should know" stuff! (See what you have done Brad Delong?)

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 13, 2003 09:33 AM


A sort of relating minor point to remind us that there was absolutely nothing unusual about pervasive, prescriptive and proscriptive government regulation in England even in medieval times:

"'Cause public proclamation to be made,' declared one Act of 1369, 'that everyone of the said City of London strong in body, at leisure times and on holydays, use in in their recreation bows and arrows.' Popular amusements such as handball and football were forbidden under pain of imprisonment."

Source: entry for "Archery" in Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (eds): The London Encyclopaedia (1983, 1993).

An interesting corollary is that the authorities were plainly unconcerned about the prospect of having any number of skilled and practised archers around on home territory, which perhaps speaks much for confidence in political stability and law and order. Monarchs through to Elizabeth I tried to encourage archery practice even though advances in weaponry had rendered massed archers in warfare technically obsolete by then. Indeed, the Guild of St George, granted a charter in 1537 by Henry VIII, Elizabeth's father, extended its weapons competence to artillery and provided the foundation for the Honourable Artillery Company of London. Since none of this was secret or concealable, the question is why the authorities in France did not emulate these voluntary institutions to provide counter-vailing forces for defence against marauding English armies.

I'm reminded of a congenial bar-room conversation of about 30 years back with a highly successful entrepreneur in the brutally competitive business of making knitted outerwear garments for women. In those pre-Thatcherite times - inviting in the IMF to bail out Britain's economy in 1975 was yet to come - we were sharing concerns about the failing economy. Mindful of Ricardo's principle of comparative advantage, I said there must be something we are relatively good at. Yes, he said, war. Since he had been awarded the Military Cross, he knew of what he was speaking and he was right. Britain's long history does display an unusual national aptitude for conducting wars in distant places.

It's perhaps worth recalling that at the time of Britain's first census in 1801, about mid way in the Napoleonic Wars from 1793 through to Waterloo in 1815, the population of 10.5 million (excluding Ireland's population then of 5.2 m) was about half that of France, a country with more than twice Britain's land area. And least any might think battles in those times were less bloody affairs than now, latter-day research has remarked on the fact that the combined casualty rate at Waterloo was more than 6,000 an hour:

Posted by: Bob on December 13, 2003 09:58 AM


Like the French always say, there is no nation as disgusting as British.

Posted by: Leopold on December 13, 2003 10:29 AM


Actually, I think the French take an afternoon break around 1:00 p.m., and at 2:00 return to insulting the Brits.

I am of Brad's opinion: the past is another country. I think that it is almost impossible that Chaucer meant to condemn warmaking, plunder, and massacre, as such. As a Christian he probably considered it inevitable, given the fallen nature of man. He may have had some ideas about specific limitations or prohibitions, but I think that he regarded war as unavoidable. And further, he genuinely did honor the knights and squires, while accepting that their military activities put them below the monks from a moral and religious point of view.

An experiment worth doing is going through the great writers of European literature and sorting out the ones with blood on their hands and the ones without. The results will amaze you. A very large number of them were proud of their military service. (And Villon and Ben Johnson were guilty of private killings).

Before about 1700 or even 1800 military men from the nobility were honored above everyone but monks and priests -- far above scientists and technicians and anyone in trade or industry. And in reality, the aristocracy did not necessarily defer to the clergy either.

We sometimes think of aristocrats as effete, but during their period of dominance they were murderous. (Though some were ALSO effete when not killing people). Interestingly, too, much of European erotic poetry was written by knights. "Make love not war" wasn't their slogan -- they loved excitement and wanted both. (This is true even in China, where there wasn't really a knightly class: Liu, "The Chinese Knight-errant".)

Posted by: Zizka on December 13, 2003 11:05 AM


Soccer hoodlums must be descended from nobility then.

Our youth up here have other ways to deal with that type of energy. Many of them obtain crotch rockets (snowmobiles) and the tamer ones race Snocross. The wilder ones fly across open water on the ice. Some of them don't make it, but at least they are the only ones who suffer.

Posted by: northernLights on December 13, 2003 11:54 AM


By jingo!

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 13, 2003 12:04 PM


I remember one of my college instructors saying that of all the pilgrims whose tales we were going to be reading, the knight was the only one whose description and tale had no ironic undercutting, I also remember thinking that sounded fishy. I was therefore pleased to read, years later, Terry Jones' analysis of the knight as a sinister character.

I'd been wondering where that left the squire. One learns to be suspicious of Chaucer's airy, artless-sounding catalogues of his characters' graces and virtues. There's not a negative word in them, no overt hint of auctorial disapproval. The unwary reader can slide right past someone like the Prioresse, with all her charming little habits and affectations, without noticing that they're one and all improper for a nun.

My good old edition of Chaucer's Major Poetry (Prentice-Hall, 1963, ed. Albert Baugh) glosses chyvachie as "expedition", and observes that the line in Flaundres, in Artoys, and Pycardie fits the English campaign of 1383, but says no more about it than that. I'd mentally pegged chyvachie/chevauchee as a military exercise of some sort, possibly involving horses. It changes everything to know that chevauchee is fast-moving destructive profitable raiding. That's an interesting piece of professional expertise for man as young as the Squire. Consider also that there's no trace of religion upon him, aside from the fact that he's going on a pilgrimage at all; and that there's no evidence of any devotional spirit in his going.

The past is not such a foreign country that slaughtering defenseless peasants for fun, profit, and possible tactical advantage would be thought an inconsequential habit. (It would happen anyway, but that's a different issue.) Commoners weren't the social equals of knights and squires, but they were in theory their brothers in Christ, and fellow inhabitants of that admittedly rather hazily-defined realm, Christendom.

Moreover, the status of the warrior class was in theory tied to their role in the great tripartite division of society: peasants fed all, clergy prayed for all, knights fought for all. Mercenary adventuring abroad had little or nothing to do with that. It was a business, conducted for profit; and an age of rising mercantilism would not have failed to notice that aspect.

Posted by: Teresa Nielsen Hayden on December 13, 2003 12:40 PM


OOOOPS!!! Sorry, got my knights mixed up! The knight who dressed himself from head to toe in defensive armor was the famous Sir Topaz, the hero of another tale. And described by the narrator of that tale as recklessly brave and noble. The Tale of Sir Topaz was Chaucer's satire on popular chivalrous and romantic ballads, and Chaucer purposely wrote it as such an incoherent mess that the Host was forced to shut it down less than half way through. If you are willing to wade through commentary to get all the jokes, you can see how it would be pretty funny back then. If remember correctly, Sir Topaz was a joke name, and it might have been as simple as a way of calling that knight Sir Yellow. I will have to go check.

I disagree with the posters who think Chaucer must have been completely conventional in his view of war and chivalry. In some ways we all must be people of our time, but that we shouldn't assume that in all ways people of the past were completely of their time. Chaucer did describe one of the Nuns in the Tales as being very devout, but then he dressed her like a Medieval Mae West. And the making sense of the Knight's tale is very difficult, with very drastic contradictions between the Knight's perspective of the story, and what actually happens in the story.

I admit it is important not to thoughtlessly read modern perspectives into writers from other ages, but it also important not to read our stereotypes about the past into them either. So Jeremiah taught that God was the only sovereign for Judah, so he could never have preached accommodation with Babylon. If Mark Twain's later political writings were lost, and we know as little abut late 19th century as we know about 14th century Europe, it would be assumed that he was an imperialist, since that was dominant view.

Chaucer served in an English campaign in France in 1360, was captured by the French and ransomed. So he had first-hand knowledge of what the Squire was doing on his expeditions. Read the passages below that I referred to in the last post, and make up your own mind. These are from the description of Mars' Temple in the Knight's Tale. I remember reading that critics consider the passage to be a mix of contemporary stereotypical horror stories of the hundred years war, mixed in with realistic montages of things Chaucer might have witnessed.

The smylere with the knyf under the cloke;
The smiler with the knife under the cloak;
The shepne brennynge with the blake smoke;
The stable burning with the black smoke;
The tresoun of the mordrynge in the bedde;
The treason of the murder in the bed;
The open werre, with woundes al bibledde;
The open war, covered over with blood and gore

Yet saugh I Woodnesse, laughynge in his rage,
Yet I saw Madness, laughing in his rage,
Armed Compleint, Outhees, and fiers Outrage;
Armed Strife, Alarm, and fierce Violence;
The careyne in the busk, with throte ycorve;
The carcass in the brush, with throat slashed
A thousand slayn, and nat of qualm ystorve;
A thousand slain, and not killed by the plague;
The tiraunt, with the pray by force yraft;
The tyrant, with the prey seized with force;
The toun destroyed, ther was no thyng laft.
The town destroyed, there was nothing left.
Yet saugh I brent the shippes hoppesteres;
Yet I saw burned the ships tossed in stormy waves;
The hunte strangled with the wilde beres;
The hunter killed by the wild bears;
The sowe freten the child right in the cradel;
The sow devouring the child right in the cradle;

--Here is the noble conqueror described, sitting in his place of honor in Mars Temple:

And al above, depeynted in a tour,
And above all, depicted in a tower,
Saugh I Conquest, sittynge in greet honour,
Saw i conquest, sitting in great honor,
With the sharpe swerd over his heed
With the sharp sword over his head
Hangynge by a soutil twynes threed.
Hanging by a slender twine of thread.

And here is the wolf eating a man

A wolf ther stood biforn hym at his feet
A wolf there stood before him at his feet
With eyen rede, and of a man he eet;
With red eyes, and of a man he ate
With soutil pencel was depeynted this storie
With subtle brush was depicted this story
In redoutynge of Mars and of his glorie.
In reverence of Mars and of his glory.

I got a few other things wrong. Chaucer doesn't mention feral dogs eating dead bodies, rather we have feral pigs eating live children, and wolves feasting on the dead. But stories of animals taking over devastated areas, killing people and eating the dead were a common horror stories from the wars. So, sorry, I got so enthusiastic, seeing the opportunity to discuss Chaucer that I didn't wait to go back and review and was a little inaccurate.

Posted by: jml on December 13, 2003 12:43 PM


Bulent Sayin:

You really seem to know your history, even if you do have a little trouble with your English. That's ok though. Don't let that high-falutin' English of Mr. DeLong dissuade you from your commentary mission. He sure likes to show off though, doesn't he?

I was just wondering- did all the mean Vikings turn into Englishmen, or were the English capable of being mean on their very own? It's hard to believe that all those terrorizing Vikings settled down into lutefisk-eating Lutherans.

Posted by: northernLights on December 13, 2003 12:49 PM


Double OOPS. I've just noticed I left out an important line from the Knight's Tale. In the middle of his catalog of the glories of Mars -(you know, the usual chivalrous glories of war: bloody wonds, cut throats, random killing, burning villages, the dead abandoned in the underbrush, people being killed and eaten by animals) Chaucer writes this line:

The cook yscalded, for al his longe ladel.
The cook scalded, despite his long-handled spoon.

Now what was the point of this? Was Chaucer blaming Mars of kitchen accidents? When I read some of the critics,it would seem so. Especially the ones who want to force Chaucer into the mold of a very heart, cheerful, bluff conventional old Englishman.

But who and what could Chaucer have been talking about? Why throw in a line about cooks being burned by the soup, despite their long spoons? Could it have been a sly criticsm of the authors of some of these wars? But then, people didn't do that back then, did they

I don't know, maybe there is an old English tradition that Mars is responsible for cooking accidents. If so, I would like to hear about it.

Posted by: jml on December 13, 2003 01:11 PM


>>terrorizing Vikings>> But Vikings weren't generally terrorists, they were merchants, traders and diplomats too. Maybe just more so eastwards than westwards. I think the theory that Viking influence was an important factor behind the building of the Russian nation (Gårdarike) is still strong. One implication from the names:

Many of the Vikings that went east came from a part of Sweden called *Roslagen* (It was divided into areas which each provided a ships crew, a rowing team, [SW: ett Rodd-lag]). Hence, as this part of Sweden is closest to Finland, the Finns call Sweden *Routski*. As Russia was founded by Vikings from *Roslagen* it has a similar name *Ryssland*.

Posted by: Mats on December 13, 2003 01:18 PM


Apologies in advance: this has nothing to do with Chaucer, but instead is about the pace of technological change. Anyway, I was reading George Gilder's "Life After Television" today (don't ask why), and came across a passage where he was talking about the challenge that the PC would pose to the cost structure of centralized databases (which at the time charged thousands of dollars for searches). Gilder writes of this one guy who was trying to come with an alternative pricing method for information (this is in 1988): "[His computer's] hard-disk memory could hold dozens of megabytes of information, or the amount of data contained in more than one hundred books . . ."

So at a price that, inflation-adjusted, was two or three times as expensive as a good PC today, you could hold the text of "more than a hundred books" on your computer. Now Brad's got 10,000, and it takes up what, a tenth or a fifteenth of a laptop's hard disk (one-seventy-fifth of the storage on my desktop)? We're living through this, and I still think it's hard fully to comprehend it.

Posted by: James Surowiecki on December 13, 2003 02:06 PM


RE Vikings:
Weren't the Danes and Norwegians the most dangerous and volent raiders? Were they called Vikings too? And then there were some Vikings who hooked up with the Finns and Estonians who liked to kill things the found floating all over and around the Baltic Sea. Seems like Viking-like activity back then came in a variety of flavors.

Posted by: jml on December 13, 2003 02:23 PM


I think that it's more true than we like to think that early long-distance traders were pirates and bandits as necessary. Not just the Vikings, but the Venetians, the classical Greeks, and the early modern empires. Voluntary trade was preferred to forced trade, but forced trade (or plunder) was never renounced. And during some periods free trade was in effect, but during others attempts were made to destroy competitors (e.g. Pisa, Venice, and Genoa, or the Greeks and the Phoenicians, or the Romans and the Carthaginians, or the early modern pirates and privateers).

"I think that it's more true than we like to think": actually, than YOU like to think. This is one of my pet ideas.

Frederick Lane: Venice and History.

Steensgaard, Niels, “Violence and the Rise of Capitalism”, Review (of Braudel Center), V:2, Fall 1981, pp. 247-73.

Posted by: Zizka on December 13, 2003 02:43 PM


I hate to believe it, but there may be something to what you say. I remember one of the Greek Historian (Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophone, -I don't remember which...) wrote

"To Athenians, freedom means the ability to rule rule others, as well as themselves."

Certainly the Athenian league was not at all voluntary for many of its members. And a request of a small city-state for aid in an emergency often turned into permanent servitude.

Posted by: jml on December 13, 2003 02:58 PM


NorthernLights, whatever makes you think Brad DeLong's language is "highfalutin'", or that his use of it constitutes showing off? What sort of thing do you usually read?

JML, I'd say the likeliest explanation for "The cook yscalded, for al his longe ladel" is that Chaucer really liked the preceding line, "The sowe freten the child right in the cradel," and needed the rhyme to make his couplet.

Mats, I'll acknowledge that the trading and exploring aspects of viking expeditions have at times been underemphasized, but there's only so far we can downplay the violence. There are just too many contemporary accounts of them raiding and pillaging for that to work.

I'd never call them terrorists, though. That's a serious misapplication of the term. Like any raiders, they were happy to take advantage of the confusion and paralysis that terror produced in those who might otherwise have opposed their landings; but in no meaningful sense were they ideological terrorists.

Zizka et al.: There are people in the world right now who, given a good safe opportunity to plunder rather than trade, will turn pirate without a moment's hesitation. We've still got slavers, too. I'm not saying that the incidence of piracy is a universal constant; just that whatever it says about a culture is more complex than "they had it/didn't have it."

Posted by: Teresa Nielsen Hayden on December 13, 2003 04:16 PM


"Soccer hoodlums must be descended from nobility then."

No - and that misses important insights. It is said that football [aka soccer] is a game for gentlemen played by hooligans while rugby is a game for hooligans played by gentlemen.
Famously, after Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington, commander of the alliance forces against Napoleon's Grande Armee, said the battle was a close run thing, and that the battle was "won on the playing fields of Eton," a private boys boarding school often attended by the sons of the aristocracy, the affluent and well-connected where rugby would have been the main team field sport - and which Keynes attended. Look through the officer casualty lists for Waterloo posted on the web and, sure enough, the lists include many names from illustrious families in British history.

Wellington had very particular styles of military leadership. He expected his orders to be followed to the detail, allowing little discretion by field sub-commanders and he was no back seat commander. Instead, he rode around the battlefield giving encouragement and orders. There is an eye-witness account of an aide, sat astride a horse beside him, losing a leg to a cannon ball. There are also several accounts of him weeping on reading through casualty lists after battles, hence: "Next to a battle lost, the greatest misery is a battle gained." Curiously, Napoleon held Wellington in contempt - "a mere sepoy general" - while Wellington held a high regard for Napoleon as a battlefield commander - "his presence on the field made a difference of forty thousand men." Arguably, Waterloo showed both their judgements in this respect were flawed.

"I was just wondering- did all the mean Vikings turn into Englishmen, or were the English capable of being mean on their very own? It's hard to believe that all those terrorizing Vikings settled down into lutefisk-eating Lutherans."

From 878 through 955, about half of England - roughly north of a line from the Severn Estuary on the west coast to the Humber estuary on the east coast - was ruled by Danish kings under Danelaw. Place names ending in -by are typically associated with Danelaw foundations. Even after 955, Sandinavian kings continued to pose threats. In 1066, Harold, the last of the Anglo-Saxon kings, after defeating an invading Norwegian force near York had to march his army south to repell the invading Normans at Hastings on the south coast, where Harold was killed.

Evidently, it was the normal practice in medieval times to have separate royal heralds - a function of considerable importance then - for England north and south of the river Trent, which flows into the sea at the Humber. There are those who argue that the influence of this cultural divide continues to the present. Queen Elizabeth I, a hugely successful monarch, never travelled further north than Leicester, south of the Trent. In England's civil war of the 1640s, the King raised his standard at Nottingham, on the Trent, while East Anglia, London and the south east were for Parliament as was Leicester, just south of Nottingham.

On England's multicultural heritage, it's worth knowing of a delicously satirical poem, The True-Born Englishman, by Daniel Defoe, probably better known as the author of Robinson Crusoe, at:

Soccer is said to be England's national game but we are rather indifferent at it against international competition, whereas England's rugby team is among the best in the world. But then as ex-rugby player, I would say that.

Posted by: Bob on December 13, 2003 04:49 PM


I have the utmost faith in the human capacity to hold, simultaneously

1) that war is a crime, a horror, an obscenity;
2) that all men are our brothers in Christ; and
3) that whatever our side is doing in war must be right and just because otherwise we wouldn't be doing it.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kramer on December 13, 2003 08:53 PM


1- War is an extension of foreign policy.
2- Brothers killed each other before and after Christ.
3- Even today certain Europeans want to put Christ's name in European Constitution and also define a foreign policy in that Constitution, opening the way to wage war in the name of Christ.

Man is indeed a complicated creature.

Yo, NorthernLights:

English is second lang to me and my knowldge of history is quite superficial but what I have of them allows me to enjoy myself here on this blog.

BTW, who is Brad Delong?

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 13, 2003 11:17 PM


How did you get to this Bradford DeLong blog?

For more data on our host:


Posted by: Antoni Jaume on December 14, 2003 01:29 AM


Oh that Brad Delong? Sorry, I forgot for a moment.

Yo, NorthernLights, don't worry, I don't read what Brad Delong writes; I just read the comments here and Mr. Delong doesn't post here much. So I'm safe!

Antoni Jaume:

I first got to know about Bradford Delong from John Irons' blog and then again on Irons' blog I read in article of WSJ's David Wessel that he follows such and such economists mentioning Bradford Delong top of the list --- but I guess I had already sort of grown to like this blog by that time, well any way, that's about it as to how...

Posted by: Bulent Sayin on December 14, 2003 04:02 AM


>>JML, I'd say the likeliest explanation for "The >>cook yscalded, for al his longe ladel" is that >>Chaucer really liked the preceding line, "The >>sowe freten the child right in the cradel," and >>needed the rhyme to make his couplet.

No, sorry, this is probably not true at all. Get on the internet and check out the poem. He has several lines following that one along the same line. For example, the cart driver falls and is run over by the wheels of his own cart, etc. And in Middle English, cart could also mean war chariot.

Of course, he COULD, MAYBE, have been just looking for rhymes. We don't know for sure. If you think great poets work this way, you are entitled to your opinion. ("Lat me saugh... carte, harte, ladel, cradel, saddel manne wanne banen... Oh, Odds Bodkins!... man, I gotta be able to throw some kind a hella-rhymes there somehow, baby. It won't mean jack, but my agent's bugging me and I dissed the deadline.")

I know from personal experience that listing rhymes and putting them at the end of disconnected lines is what happens when no-talent bums like me try to write verse.

But what can I say? It is poetry and everyone is entitled to their own opinion... even more so that in macro-economics and finance.

But the original issue is whether 14th century England was such a strange other-world that a reasonable man like Chaucer would find nothing at all disturbing about the chevachie. And a few of us are maintaining that that world was not *that* strange.

Anyway, Chaucer as part of the proto-professional civil servant class. He say three kings come and go during his adult life. Richard II was not that popular. There was no reason to suspect him of being in the thrawl of what a particular king was doing. He was a diplomat, and we know about them. There were Wycliffe and his Lollards, and, heavens, even a few anabaptists running around. People could and did have their own opinions about things. That doesn't mean Chaucer, was one of thos, or would be good Democrat today, or was running an udercover Peace and Freedom Platform. Just that there is evidence that he might have had a reaction to the chevachie that we would find recognizable.

Posted by: jml on December 14, 2003 01:38 PM


There are some confusions here, some material and some not.

One is a confusion between "chevachie" and "havoc". The effects outlined are those of havoc; a chevachie, cavalcade or cavalgada is technically the baggage train of succesful loot acquired in such a raid (see the early part of Washington Irving's "Conquest of Granada" for an example). As such, a chevachie need not necessarily wreak havoc; that said, havoc of that sort was just what the English were wreaking, with chevachie the way of making it cover its costs better.

However there are still some points to clear up. The English didn't invent havoc, they just applied it - see contemporary Turkish methods or the situation in Maine and Touraine during the Plantagenet period a couple of centuries earlier (though as I'm sure Bulent Sayin can tell us, the Turkish methods were aimed at attrition rather than bringing on battle). Havoc rarely killed people directly, even when massacre was the object of the exercise (as it had been in northern England after the Norman Conquest). People usually died of hunger and exposure after fleeing, not direct violence; children's games reflect what to do in an attack, e.g. hide and seek trained them to hide. The way havoc brought on battle was not by threatening the peasantry as such and so bringing out defenders who cared about them, it just destroyed an economic base that the French aristocracy needed to defend; it's the same reasoning as the Spartans laying waste to the fields outside Athens to try to bring on a battle. But until the Black Death peasants were cheap. To the people of the day, dead peasants were usually just collateral damage - though they hadn't been in the north of England, where the idea was to eliminate the human material for potential rebellion.

A few more specific points...

What happened in the north of England did actually reduce the Danish cultural presence very much. While the cultural divide remained (see where dialect changes make turnips become swedes), the Danish part became the tail rather than the dog and southern English culture became the main bottom-up input to later English.

Bulent Sayin states that 'The Anglos [snip] found "another country" where the natives did not have "more knights, more horses"... and no castles... or guns.

'Even this country, though, the Anglos had to relinquish to the settlers themselves, once they developed their own mind.

'Still later, the Anglos had to give up India as well.

'Mathematics rules in all countries, geographic or temporal.'

This has some misunderstandings. US independence didn't rest on those things but on those linked with outside aid. India was also not relinquished under that sort of Indian applied pressure but from world pressure and internal British weakness and loss of imperial intention; a revolt then could have been suppressed as easily and as unwisely as the French suppressed the Algerian revolt that happened then (which paved the way for the one a decade later). The mathematics of just those things on their own favoured the British!

Oh, and from the way the English learned archery from centuries interacting with the Welsh, it's fairly clear that the problems the French had picking it up came from the time lag spent learning it from youth and the sizeable numbers needed to make an archery company useful. It was infrastructure support costs of that sort that made it decline in England, not obsolescence; English mercenaries in Italy show that it was still current military technology in the 16th century.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on December 14, 2003 04:31 PM


I like jml's gloss, and have only this to add. I understand that part of the point of the squire's history was to contrast it with the knights. Part of the joke was generational. The knight fought in miserable battles, but was finnicky about fighting Christians. The squire is more "modern" (to Chaucer) in that he is not finnicky, but rather willing to do what needs to be done (to do what his no longer falsely "honorable" nation requires). Thus the knight, though the highest status person in Chaucer's little group, has rust stains on his clothing, while the squire's clothing, even while on the road, is spotless. There is a fine tension between the knight and the squire, but the tension is not between fanciful honor and chivalry on the one hand and the loss of those qualities on the other, but between the necessities of one era's views and virtues and those of another.

Posted by: K Harris on December 15, 2003 08:35 AM


A similar experience for me was reading about one of the Crusades in the words of one of the nobility. I believe it was the last one? The campaign was a resounding defeat. There were thousands of men on the battlefield, the Crusaders had plundered and killed, and only the nobles could afford to buy their freedom. The knight remarks that a couple hundred good men died.

Posted by: Stan on December 15, 2003 10:51 AM


Just a note to remind people that the Hundred Years War was essentially a conflict to determine who would be King Of France. The 'Anglos' (at that point in time there was really no such thing) were French nobles who has invaded Britain in 1066, wresting control from the Danes, and who still maintained land in France. So in all honesty, one might consider the H.Y.W to be a French Civil war. The concept of 'Britain' did not appear for at least another 200 years after the end of the H.Y.W.

Posted by: Mark on December 15, 2003 02:16 PM


Some connected light reading -

One of Dorothy Dunnett's best boks is _The King Hereafter_, the Macbeth story set in the Danelaw-ruled Orkneys.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote two books about the Hundred Years War, _Sir Nigel_ and _The White Company_. Their virtues, culturally constructed as they are, are most evident if you can get the latter with the N.C. Wyeth illustrations; the yeomen are so clear of eye, so clean of limb, so well-fed on beef! One of them brings home a featherbed, among other loot from France; with or without bloodstains from the bonne femme who made it.

Posted by: clew on December 15, 2003 04:22 PM


"Later on, they found "another country" where the natives did not have "more knights, more horses"... and no castles... or guns... Still later, the Anglos had to give up India as well."

Actually, India did indeed have guns before the Anglos came. It was Babar who conquered India with guns.

Posted by: drapetomaniac on December 15, 2003 09:00 PM


Mark is wrong about "French" nobles in England, by about a hundred years. Assimilation was well under way. John's defeats in France a century earlier had forced that part of the aristocracy with holdings on both sides of the channel to choose which feudal overlord to follow, eventually creating an English aristocracy. Going the extra mile to accommodate local feeling had just showed up in the first non-Welsh Prince of Wales and in the first Plantagenet king with an English name (Edward, whose grandson was the one in on the beginning of the Hundred Years' War). And Chaucer speaks of "speaking the French of Stratford", i.e. learning French as an outsider coming to the language and not even learning it from an authentic direct source.

Posted by: P.M.Lawrence on December 16, 2003 04:47 PM


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