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How and to What Extent Did War and Violence Contribute to the Definition of Chivalry as Both an Historical and Social Phenomenon?

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Submitted By clmnd
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How and to what extent did war and violence contribute to the definition of chivalry as both an historical and social phenomenon?

It is largely acknowledged by historians that, while it is difficult to be definitive in the meaning of chivalry-with Maurice Keen believing it to be a ‘word elusive of definition’- it came to denote the culture of a martial estate which ‘regarded war as its hereditary profession’. Thus, it could be considered that the violence of war had large implications on what people began to perceive to be chivalry. Additionally, the focus on violence- such as the participating in tournaments and jousts- further emphasises the close link between carrying out violent acts and the idea that a knight was being chivalrous. However, there were alternative influences, such as literature written in the period, which presented people with a chivalric ideal that they may then have come to define it by and thus strive towards. Similarly, religion may be seen to have influenced what came to be viewed as chivalry as through ecclesiastical critiques of the noble class, derived the knights desire to adopt what the Church deemed proper Christian conduct. Ultimately it is likely that it was not simply war and violence, but a combination of these influences which culminated in the definition of what people of the period perceived to be chivalry.

It is evident that war and violence were seen as intrinsic elements of chivalry. The idea that chivalry was synonymous with bloodshed and violence may be seen to have derived from the concept being centered on prowess in the art of fighting. This is largely due to the fact that chivalry was essentially an aristocratic ethos largely confined to the nobility; the emergence in the twelfth-century of a greater consciousness of boundaries between social groups led to the development of this notion of chivalry as a way of…...

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