'Virile Strength In A Feminine Breast': Women, Hostageship, Captivity, And Society In The Anglo-French World, C. 1000- C.1300
Hostage and captive-taking were fundamental to medieval warfare and medieval society in general. Despite their importance, however, until recently, these practices have received very little scholarly attention. In particular, the relationship between gender and these practices has been virtually ignored. The evidence, however, belies this neglect, and the sources are littered with examples that not only illuminate the importance of women and gender to these customs, but also how women used them to exercise power and independence militarily, politically, socially, and religiously. Moreover, women worked within a patriarchal society that was often deeply distrustful of their participation in hostage and captive situations in any capacity. This thesis attempts to fill the gaps in the scholarship and illuminate the importance of considering gender when examining hostage- and captiveship. It pulls together evidence from a wide variety of historical and literary sources to suggest that women were not only victims of these processes as hostages and captives themselves, but were also active participants in them as hostage and captive takers, ransomers, and holders. Moreover, they were sometimes but not always accepted in such roles. It will also be suggested here that women were essential to medieval men's understanding of male roles in these activities. Medieval society possessed deepseated anxieties about the fate of hostage and captive women that were played out in a wide variety of sources. As will be demonstrated here, by exploring all the ways in which women and gender intersection with hostage and captive-taking practices, we can more greatly understand not only how women shaped medieval military matters, but also familial relationships social hierarchies, family relationships, religious conflicts and agreements, understandings of emotions, power, authority, love, and hate; as well as theories and practices of rulership.
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