“One man slashes, one slays, one warns, one wounds”: injury and death in Anglo-Scottish combat, c.1296-c.1403

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Abstract

Although Anglo-Scottish warfare has been subject to a great deal of analysis, the practical realities of contemporary combat continue to elude historians. In particular, almost nothing has been written about the injuries sustained by fourteenth-century warriors. In part this is because of a relative lack of archaeological evidence to which fifteenth-century historians have access from the bodies discovered on the Towton battlefield. Archaeological evidence is not, however, the only means by which historians can assess the nature of injuries sustained by medieval combatants. Medieval chronicles were often written by men who embraced the chivalric mores of their day. This involved quite detailed descriptions of conflict, including the injuries sustained by the heroes of their works. In addition to this, some English and Scottish works were written by, informed by, or created for the very warriors that had themselves experienced the realities of warfare. As such, then, these works are a largely untapped source of information on this facet of medieval warfare.

More than this, however, chronicles also provide an interesting lens through which medieval warfare can be viewed. The ways in which fourteenth-century chroniclers describe both injuries sustained and inflicted provide a different perspective on the types of damage inflicted upon the medieval body. They also document the ability of contemporaries to survive the injuries they sustained and provide some idea of the impact such disabilities incurred. Similarly, chronicle description of soldierly reactions to injury and its impact provides a valuable opportunity to investigate the warrior mindset in this period. In particular, the warrior perception of injury as a ‘badge of honour’ is an important facet of contemporary mentalité that has yet to be explored in sufficient depth. Using the fourteenth-century Anglo-Scottish conflict, therefore, as its base this paper will consider various different chronicles and their descriptions of injuries sustained by contemporary warriors. It will also consider the depictions of such injuries in their own right and consider what such accounts can tell us about medieval perceptions of the body and the reactions of contemporaries when that body was wounded in conflict.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKilling and being killed: bodies in battle
Subtitle of host publicationperspectives on fighters in the Middle Ages
EditorsJörg Rogge
Place of PublicationBielefeld, Germany
PublisherTranscript-Verlag
Pages59-75
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)978-3-8376-3783-0
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2017

Publication series

NameMainzer Historische Kulturwissenschaften
PublisherTranscript-Verlag

Keywords

  • Medieval warfare
  • Battlefield injury
  • Anglo-Scottish warfare
  • History of medicine

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  • Cite this

    MacInnes, I. A. (2017). “One man slashes, one slays, one warns, one wounds”: injury and death in Anglo-Scottish combat, c.1296-c.1403. In J. Rogge (Ed.), Killing and being killed: bodies in battle: perspectives on fighters in the Middle Ages (pp. 59-75). (Mainzer Historische Kulturwissenschaften). Transcript-Verlag.