Means, Motive, Opportunity: Medieval Women and the Recourse to Arms

WalpurgisMeans, Motive, Opportunity: Medieval Women and the Recourse to Arms

By Valerie Eads

Paper presented at The Twentieth Barnard Medieval & Renaissance Conference, “War and Peace in the Middle Ages & Renaissance,” December 2, 2006

Why did medieval women go to war? The usual explanation is that such actions take place in crisis situations when the absence of male authority creates a power vacuum and class temporarily trumps gender–the lady defending the castle while her husband is away on crusade motif. I do not think that the sources support this model1 and by considering the small but growing body of work on military actions undertaken by women in the Middle Ages I hope to be able to either establish a new model or to at least refine the extant model to something more useful. These studies almost arranged themselves into groupings

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