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Family, followers and friends : the socio-political dynamics of the Anglo-Norman aristocracy, 1100-1204

By John P. Meddings


Three groups are examined: the family, followers and friends. The structure,functions and tensions of these groups are described and their dynamics analysed in the fields of decision making and conflict resolution.\ud \ud The approach offers a dialectic between Latin and French sources, historical and literary, and social science theories. This opens up new avenues for analysis and allows a holistic description of medieval politics and society.\ud \ud The family comprised parents and their children. Within this small unit affection was very strong; outside, it quickly declined. Although uncles and nephews had political links there was considerably less emotional attachment between them than between parent-child and sibling relationships.\ud \ud Three types of follower are examined: household retainers, enfeoffed tenants and 'neighbours'. Household knights had the strongest emotional bonds to their lord and were\ud seen as the most loyal. Tenants who performed homage were called `men'; 'vassal' is shown to mean 'good follower'. An aristocrat exercised considerable control within his lands and beyond them he maintained some power. In these areas people may have obeyed his will without having any direct link with him. Such people were often called 'neighbours'.\ud Informal influences such as love and fear are shown to have more force than the formal bonds created through homage and oaths. Concepts of 'treason' and 'defiance' are also examined.\ud \ud Five types of friendship are identified: friendship as courtesy, formal friendship, emotional friendship, company and companionship. Calling someone 'friend' was a sign of\ud politeness. Political agreements, often termed covenants, created formal bonds of friendship. A new methodology for investigating emotional friendship is proposed. Groups with a strong identity were called companies. Companionship was a close bond, usually between two men, that combined elements of formal and emotional friendship.\ud \ud This description of the socio-political dynamics of the aristocracy offers an alternative to earlier models and greatly enhances our understanding of Anglo-Norman politics and society

Publisher: School of History (Leeds)
Year: 1998
OAI identifier:

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