Medieval Women & War
by Valerie Eads
Welcome to the Medieval Women and War page.
Its purpose is to provide a reference tool, especially for students
beginning their research. The books and papers listed here were selected
because they provide references to primary sources about women waging war
in the Middle Ages. The few that do not meet this criterion are noted.
Currently the bibliography is arranged alphabetically by author. This can
change as it grows.
Anyone who knows of a paper or book that
should be here or who can further annotate what is already here (or
correct an error) is welcome to contribute; all contributions will be
acknowledged. email: email@example.com
Amdur, Ellis. "The Role of
Arms-Bearing Women in Japanese History." Journal of Asian Martial
Arts 5:2 (1996).
This article is online: http://www.koryubooks.com/library/wwj1.html
Bradbury, Jim. The Medieval Siege.
Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 1992.
The citations in the index do not cover
all the references to women and war that are actually in the book. The
notes frequently cite other secondary sources, but give a starting point
Chibnall, Marjorie. "Women in Orderic
Vitalis." The Haskins Society Journal 2 (1990) pp. 106-121.
A number of references to instances of
women involved in military actions described by Orderic Vitalis.
H.E.J. Cowdrey, "The Mahdia Campaign
of 1087." The English Historical Review 92 (1977) pp. 1-29.
A true rara avis, this article
shows that, although she did not take part personally, Matilda of
Tuscany was active in planning and making possible this successful
campaign undertaken during the short pontificate of Victor III.
Derbes, Anne. "Imagined Encounters:
Amazons, Crusaders, and the Histoire Universelle Manuscripts from
Acre." Paper presented at The 29th International Congress
on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo MI, 1994.
DeVries, Kelly. Joan of Arc: A Military
Leader. Phoenix Mill: Sutton, 1999.
________. "A Woman As Leader of Men:
Joan of Arc's Military Career." In Fresh Verdicts on Joan of Arc,
edited by Bonnie Wheeler and Charles Wood, pp. 3-18. New York and London:
Drew, Katherine Fisher. "The
Carolingian Military Frontier in Italy." Traditio 20 (1964)
Some of the capitularies cited by Drew
list abbesses among those whose troops are being called up. An
interesting insight into the responsibilities of landed women.
Dunn, Diana. "The Queen at War: The Role of Margaret of Anjou in the Wars of the
Roses". In War and Society in Medieval and Early Modern
Britain. Ed. Diana Dunn. Liverpool, 2000.
Discusses the actions in which Margaret took part, her well-known image in Shakespeare and other writers, and compares her actions to those of other English queens who became involved in military affairs. No analysis of any of the actions, but a good outline of the career of Margaret of Anjou in the struggle for the crown of England.
Eads, Valerie. "The Geography of
Power: Matilda of Tuscany and the Strategy of Active Defense." Crusaders,
Condottieri and Cannon: Medieval Warfare in the Mediterranean Region.
Edited by J.L. Andrew Villalon and Donald Kagay. Leiden: Brill, 2002.
________. Mighty in War: The Role of
Matilda of Tuscany in the War between Pope Gregory VII and Emperor Henry
IV (Ph.D. Dissertation: City University of NY, 2000)
Matilda of Tuscany
Echols, Anne and Marty Williams. An
Annotated Index of Medieval Women. New York: Markus Wiener, 1992.
A limited survey of the secondary
literature, mostly in English, this book turns up more than 100 women whom
the authors label "soldier," plus an assortment of
"rebels," "outlaws" and "crusaders." A
possible starting place for anyone looking for a topic, but in some cases
the cited bibliography does not point to the primary sources. Still
useful, especially for undergrads.
Freeman, E.A. The History of the Norman
Conquest of England, 5 vols. Oxford, 1870-79.
An example of an older historian who
appreciate the importance of a woman's role in military affairs.
Describes the resistance to William the Conqueror undertaken after
Hastings by King Harold's mother, Countess Gytha.
Gillmor, Carroll. "Practical Chivalry:
The Training of Horses for Tournaments and Warfare." Studies in
Medieval and Renaissance History 13 (1992) pp. 7-29.
Actually, not about women, but horses are
an important aspect of war up to the middle of the twentieth century,
and women certainly rode.
Hay, David. The Campaigns of Countess
Matilda of Canossa (1046-1115): An Analysis of the History and Social
Significance of a Woman's Military Leadership. Ph.D. Dissertation:
University of Toronto, 2000.
After a hiatus of thirty years, there
were two dissertations on Matilda of Tuscany defended in 2000. Gives a
broad overview of the known actions undertaken throughout Matilda's
long life, rather than a detailed military analysis of specific actions.
Discusses the evidence of Matilda's charters for her involvement in
war, but citations are to the 16th century editions rather
than the Monumenta edition of 1998; includes discussion of the
"canonical approaches to women's military authority" and
representation of Matilda in the polemical literature of the Investiture
Controversy. A good piece of medieval military sociology.
Mazeika, Rasa. "'Nowhere Was the
Fragility of Their Sex Apparent': Women Warriors in the Baltic Crusade
Chronicles." From Clermont to Jerusalem: The Crusades and Crusader
Societies, 1095-1500. Ed. Alan V. Murray. Turnhout: Brepols, 1998.
Gives excerpts from the specified
chronicles; comments on likely accuracy of the descriptions; gives
references to archeological finds.
McLaughlin, Megan. "The Woman Warrior:
Gender, Warfare and Society in Medieval Europe." Women's Studies
(1990) pp. 193-209.
This often-cited article gives a number
of examples from primary sources and calls for further study.
McMillin, Linda A. "Women on the
Walls: Women and Warfare in the Catalan Grand Chronicles." Catalan
Review 3:1 (July, 1989) pp. 123-136.
"The women in the Catalan
Chronicles, however, raise issues that go beyond their individual 'desperate
times'. When called upon, several of these women have skill with arms
and knowledge of military strategy. Where was this training acquired and
how widespread was it?"
These are the kinds of questions that
need to be asked if the study of medieval women waging war is to
progress from the collection of anecdotes to military history.
McNamara, Jo Ann Kay. Sisters in Arms:
Catholic Nuns Through Two Millennia. Cambridge MA: Harvard Univ.
This book gives a number of instances of
religious women, because of their noble and landed status, becoming
involved in events that had at least the potential for military action.
And no shortage of notes.
Nicholson, Helen. "Women on the Third
Crusade." Journal of Medieval History 23:4 (1997) pp. 335-349.
"This study focuses on the Third
Crusade, for which the chronicle evidence is particularly full. Some of
the [Christian] narrative accounts of the crusade never mention women or
even deny that they took part, while others describe their assisting
crusaders in constructing siege works or performing menial tasks. The
Muslim sources for the Third Crusade, however, depict christian women
taking part in the fighting, armed as knights. The study discusses the
reasons behind these divergent depictions of women in the Third
Pennington, Reina, ed. Military Women
Worldwide. Westport CT: Greenwood, 2002.
Not specifically medieval, but the editor
put in considerable effort to cover a broad range in both time and
place. The references to primary sources may be limited, but the
emphasis is on the military reputation of each woman.
Prestwich, J.O. "Military Intelligence
under the Norman and Angevin Kings." In Law and Government in
Medieval England and Normandy: Essays in Honor of Sir James Holt,
edited by George Garnett and John Hudson, pp. 1-30. Cambridge: Cambridge
Univ. Press, 1994.
Gives sources for women spies and the
post-Hastings resistance to William the Conqueror led by King Harold's
mother, Countess Gytha.
Searle, Eleanor. "Emma the
Conqueror." in Studies in Medieval History Presented to R. Allen
Brown, edited by C. Harper-Bill, Christopher J. Holdsworth and Janet
L. Nelson, pp. 281-88. Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 1989.
Does not maintain that Queen Emma led
troops into battle, but does have some of the best lines on women and
war to be found anywhere.
Truax, Jean A. "Anglo-Norman Women at
War: Valiant Soldiers, Prudent Strategists or Charismatic Leaders." The
Circle of War in the Middle Ages: Essays on Medieval Military and Naval
History. Edited by Donald J. Kagay and L.J. Andrew Villalon.
Woodbridge: Boydell, 1999. Pp. 111-125.
"Thus there is a striking parallel
between the roles played by women and clerics in medieval warfare. Both
rarely, if ever, actually fought in battle for a variety of reasons such
as advanced age, lack of physical strength, lack of training, religious
vows and social prohibitions. However, it is clear that noblewomen, like
clerics, acted as feudal overlords and therefore controlled military
Wainwright, F.T.R. Scandinavian England.
Edited by Eugene Rice. Ithaca NY: Cornell, 1958.
The chapter on "┬thelfl┌d, Lady of
the Mercians" puts what is known of ┬thelfl┌d's fortification
policy in the context of her father, Alfred the Great's, burgh
defenses against the Vikings.
Wright, Dana A. "Female Combatants and
Japan's Meiji Restoration: The Case of Aizu." War in History
8:4 (2001) pp. 396-417.
Definitely stretches the definition of
medieval, but this article on 19th-century Japanese women in
actual combat is worth a read, even by those who do not research in
Asian history. Given the scarcity of cross-cultural studies of women in
war, its value is doubled.