In the video, I talk about unequal taxation, partly as a result of the Black Death, as one cause of anti-noble feeling among commoners. How else might demographic decline have destabilized social relations?
How different was urban and rural life for late medieval commoners? What kinds of tensions might have arisen between urban and rural rebels as a result?
In addition to Paris, other northern French towns, such as Senlis, Amiens, Orléans, and Rouen, had involvement in the revolt. What can you tell about their actions based on the map?
Translations of some sources for the Jacquerie in Samuel K. Cohn, jr., Popular Protest in Late Medieval Europe: Italy, France, and Flanders, Manchester Medieval Sources (Manchester, 2004), pp. 143-200.
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “The Eponymous Jacquerie: Making Revolt Mean Some Things,” in The Routledge History Handbook of Medieval Revolt, ed. Justine Firnhaber-Baker with Dirk Schoenaers (Abingdon and New York, 2017), pp. 55-75.
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “Soldiers, Villagers, and Politics: Military Violence and the Jacquerie of 1358,” in Routiers et mercenaires pendant la guerre de Cent ans: Hommage à Jonathan Sumption, ed. Guilhem Pépin, Françoise Lainé, and Frédéric Boutoulle (Bordeaux, 2016), pp. 101-14.
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, “The Social Constituency of the Jacquerie Revolt of 1358.” Speculum, vol. 95, no. 3 (2020).
Firnhaber-Baker, Justine, The Jacquerie Revolt of 1358: Violence, Politics, and Society in Medieval France, Oxford Studies in Medieval European History (Oxford, 2021).
*Warning:* This video contains some graphic and disturbing descriptions which may not be suitable for all viewers.
Primary Source Document
A translation of the remission letter granted to Antonie van Claerhout in 1455 can be found in Peter Arnade and Walter Prevenier, Honor, Vengeance, and Social Trouble. Pardon Letters in the Burgundian Low Countries, Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2015, p. 116–18.
1. Read a pardon letter or a petition for pardon. What do you notice about the rhetorical techniques and legal arguments used by the petitioner to support their demand for pardon?
2. How is violence described in pardon letters? What does that tell us about the medieval attitudes to violence?
3. Why could it be in the interest of a king or a prince to grant pardons? Does the late medieval use of pardoning threaten to deteriorate public order?
4. To what extent was royal pardon connected to the Christian notions of justice and mercy? Check the related vocabulary used in a pardon letter to elaborate on this question.
The Himanis Project website, transcribing and indexing some of the French Trésor des chartes that recorded remission letters.
The Calendars of the patent rolls preserved in the Public record office, available on the HathiTrust website, describe royal pardons granted by the English Crown.
Robert Henryson’s version of the fable, “The Preaching of the Swallow,” is available in David J. Parkinson’s edition of Henryson’s poetry for the TEAMS Middle English texts series. It is in Middle Scots, a language spoken in lowland Scotland from roughly 1450 to 1700 (if you would like to read a Wikipedia entry about this language written in Scots, see here). As Professor Jennifer Brown explains here, “This edition, like all of the TEAMS editions, is extremely student friendly. It contains a glossary, a bibliography, and footnotes that explain the Middle English,” or in this case, Middle Scots, “making it easy for a student to navigate as they learn the language.”
It might surprise you that manuscripts were still being made, for example, during the life of Shakespeare, but Harley MS 3865 is, in fact, a handwritten copy of a collection of Robert Henryson’s fables printed in 1571 by the Edinburgh printer Thomas Bassandyne (interestingly, Harley MS 3865 may have been based on a extensively illustrated version of Bassandyne’s edition, which is now lost). If you have access to Early English Books online, you can explore the surviving copy of Bassandyne’s curious book. It’s not easy to read: much of it is printed in a now very rarely used typeface called “Civilité,” based on a late medieval and early modern “lettre courante” hand, designed in France by Robert Granjon (d. 1590) to be used in books for children. Surprisingly, the morals of the fables are printed in a Roman typeface”
Other useful tools for teaching and research
The fundamental story of the Swallow fable is very old. Like most of the old fables, it was told and retold, and often refashioned, through the Middle Ages (and likely into the present day!). Medieval Latin versions of the fable are therefore easy to come by, for example, here and here. You might also want to read a translation of a twelfth-century French version by Marie de France: her version is notable for the treachery of various birds. You can find links to additional versions on the mythfolklore.net website, here, and through the Aesop wiki. Here is Laura Gibb’s translation of an early version of the fable into Modern English for the Oxford World Classics series:
THE SWALLOW AND THE OTHER BIRDS
Some birds who had flocked together saw a man sowing flax seed but they thought nothing of it. The swallow, however, understood what this meant. She called an assembly of the birds and explained that this was an altogether dangerous situation, but the other birds just laughed at her. When the flax seed sprouted, the swallow warned the birds again, ‘This is something dangerous; let’s go and pull it up. If it is allowed to grow, people will make it into nets and we will not able to escape the traps that they devise.’ The birds mocked the swallow’s words and scorned her advice. So the swallow went to the people and began to make her nest only under the roofs of their houses. Meanwhile, the other birds refused to heed the swallow’s warnings, so now they are constantly being trapped in nets and snares.
Consider the variations between the fables. What is the base form of the story, and what changes get made? Especially, what’s significant or interesting about Henryson including a human eyewitness within the fable itself, who sees what happens without being able to change the outcome?
Compare the two illustrations. Harley 3865’s is very unusual: why represent the swallow as an actual human preacher? Why is the farmer just represented by a hand?
Consider the print and manuscript context (you might want to offer a little book or typeface history). The social register of different typefaces might be very interesting to talk about: why a roman typeface for the morals, and civilité for the stories?
Since antiquity, the fable tradition has involved rewriting and remediating fables. Can you imagine a modern version of this fable? Would you tell the same story? Would it still feature a prudent, but frustrated swallow and heedless small birds, or perhaps other animals (would, in fact, you prefer to tell the story with something other than birds)? Or would you illustrate the story, perhaps either in one panel (like the manuscript) or maybe in a multi-panel version? Would you include a witness to the fable (like Henryson)? Who would it be? And would your prudent character, like the swallow in some versions of the story, decide to give up on birds and — as one Latin version has it — “ad homines se transtulit” [to go over to the humans]?
The TEAMS text of The Book of Margery Kempe, edited by Lynn Staley. This edition, like all of the TEAMS editions, is extremely student friendly. It contains a glossary, a bibliography, and footnotes that explain the Middle English making it easy for a student to navigate as they learn the language.
For images and to teach some book history, the British Library has images online of Additional MS 33790, the “short text” of the Julian of Norwich’s Revelations; Stowe MS 42, the “long text” of Julian’s work; and Additional MS 61823, which has The Book of Margery Kempe.
A facing page facsimile of Margery Kempe’s book and its transcription are available here through the Kempe Project. This is great if you are teaching some paleography.
The Middle English Dictionary, to not only look up Middle English words, but also see where else they appear in Middle English texts through the Compendium
The Douay-Rheims Catholic Bible, through which you can search a word in English or Latin, as well as having facing page translations of the two languages.
Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe are two women writing at the same time and more or less the same place (indeed, we know they met one another from an episode recounted in The Book of Margery Kempe). However, their styles and content are extremely different. How does Julian’s position as an anchoress and Margery’s as a wife, traveler, and layperson shape what they say and how they say it? What differences do you detect in the fact Julian wrote her text and Margery dictated hers?
In what ways do each of these texts challenge your views of what women did and said in medieval England? Are there ways in which the texts support what you already thought about medieval women?
We know so little about the encounter between Julian and Margery. How do you imagine it went? Can you construct a dialogue using their respective texts as a basis?
In a follow up tweet, she explained: “I suggested three websites [for them to consult]: @metmuseum, Walters, Victoria and Albert. They first watched a powerpoint I made about medieval purses to get the idea, but that’s not necessary to do the assignment.”