MW IV-2 now available

It has been very busy over here at Medieval Warfare. Aside from our regular issues, we also have our very first Special to work on, which will go to print around the end of next week. Hence, we don’t have much time to provide you with blogs as much as we would like. However, in the meantime, we also have our regular issues to think of, and the latest one has just come back from the printers; plenty of reason to make some mention of what the issue is about.

Medieval Warfare IV.2, entitled ‘Queens and Valkyries’, focuses on medieval woman who either participated in actual fighting themselves, or who commanded units or armies in the male-dominated world of medieval combat. When hearing medieval woman warriors, one immediately thinks of Joan of Arc, and she is not absent from this issue. In fact, she is the topic of the main article, written by Gareth Williams and including the beautiful centerfold by Milek Jakubiec, which can be seen as a background of our Facebook page (and I can tell you, it looks much better in print). But the Middle Ages holds much more examples of female warriors and commanders; so many, in fact, that we seem to have barely scratched the surface of what is available to write about, as is clear from Owen Rees’ introduction in which he mentions several other famous woman or groups of woman who do not feature in this issue of Medieval Warfare. Clearly a theme worth revisiting in the future, but for now, we have a selection of fascinating women for you in store. 

The first article, by Santa Jansone, focuses on the archaeological evidence we have for female Viking warriors. Much is found in graves in Northern Europe, but not much can be said with certainty about whether or not bearded axe-wielding muscular men had to fight against (or alongside) with sturdy women armed and armoured. Santa Jansone sheds some light on the grave finds, and draws some tentative conclusions based on what has been found. No women are really singled out in this article, though, in contrast to the subsequent 5 articles. David Balfour covers the military life of Sichelgaita of Salerno, who suddenly found herself in the middle of the turbulent south-Italian politics during the the Norman conquests in southern Italy and Greece around the time of Robert Giuscard (which, as you might remember, was also the theme of MW I-4). She might not have been involved in actual combat, but she surely knew how to inspire. Not so much like Queen Tamar of Georgia, who is discussed by Filippo Donvito, who may not have been a warrior or commander, but whose reign was full of military successes against internal and external enemies, not least among them the Muslim Emirates of the area, who had managed to carve out some nice states only a few years before. Just before the Mongols would come to wreak havoc, Tamar managed to make Georgia a state respected (and feared) by friend and foe alike. 

After the main article about Joan of Arc, who, I assume, doesn’t need any introduction (read the article if you’re curious), it’s up to Nils Visser, who has combined his strength with Willeke Snijder in covering the turbulent life of another young woman, this time in Brittany, who carries a somewhat similar name: Jeanne de Flanders. They tell the story of how she had to take up command of her husband’s forces against the king of France on the eve of the Hundred Years War, and how she came to be called ‘the Flame’. While Joan and Jeanne actually participated in actual combat, Margaret of Tyrol has been selected by Jean-Claude Brunner due to her astute political maneuvering in order to save her small but strategic county of Tyrol by being usurped by kings and emperors alike. 

The whole issue is orientated on individuals, instead of larger conflicts and battles, though the topics discussed touch upon many different periods and areas, and incidentally cover many fascinating aspects of medieval military history. The two non-theme articles are both focuses on an individual as well, though these are separate in character due to the nature of the politics in which they became involved. Kenneth Cline writes about the Byzantine general George Maniakes, who saved the empire from disaster, but who also came close to usurping that very same empire due to his own personality. For the second non-theme article, we decided to (sort of) let Mike Ingram revisit the ‘medieval legends’ theme of MW III-6 by focusing on Falkes Bréauté, i.e. the real sheriff of Nottingham. Of course, the real sheriff was quite different from the sheriff of legend, but it makes for fascinating reading nonetheless, covering the turbulent politics in England during the First Barons’ War.

All in all, a very interesting issue. Focusing on so many different individuals let’s us visit many different places during many different times in medieval history. It provides something of worth for both casual and more inspired reader alike, by offering a broad spectrum of medieval military topics on the one hand, and details about the individuals and their time and place on the other. 

And, as a reminder, don’t forget to check the news & letters section for upcoming themes and deadlines, and, more importantly, for the odd correction of a detail in previous issues (we don’t want to provide you with false information, after all).

You won’t have to wait long for our next issue-blog, as the Special (which is available at a discount if you pre-order before publication) will break the monotony of our bimonthly publication. Our next regular issue will cover the First War of Scottish Independence, worth reading for anyone who has ever seen Mel Gibson’s Braveheart; and perhaps even more so for those who haven’t. 

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