Saturday, June 09, 2007

Jarbel Rodriguez's Captives and their Saviors in the Medieval Crown of Aragon

At the Medieval Studies congress in Kalamazoo last month, this book caught my eye and I picked it up. Even paid for it! My interest grows out of my current study of Charny's Questions
on War, which include many on capture and ransom of legitimate combatants ("men at arms") and their rights of the two parties. Rodriguez here talks about something different here: how common it was for Christians and Muslims to enslave each other along the religious frontier in Spain and the Mediterranean, how cruel conditions were, how expensive and unlikely ransom was, yet how important the relief of captives was as a policy for important institutions like town governments, religious institutions, and royal government. Rodriguez talks primarily on the basis of documents from one Christian kingdom, the Aragonese confederacy, but makes it clear that these things worked both ways and capturing and ransoming affected all parts of the society he studied. There is a lot more written on this subject, but this was a good introduction to a big topic.

Both literary works and documents make it clear that in many medieval wars, even when there was no difference of religion to justify enslaving, non-combatants were taken for the purpose of ransoming them back.

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Blogger Notorious Ph.D. said...

Interesting -- I hadn't heard of this one. If you're interested in hostage-taking in general, Adam Kosto (Columbia) is working on something on that right now, but I think it's more to do with diplomatic "hostages", rather than war captives.

8:32 PM  

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