Master of Arts (MA)


French Studies

Document Type



The goal of this study is to understand the role that honor represents for warriors through certain conflicts from the XIIIth to XVth century. The Christian ethic was in opposition to the Feudal ethic, and the opposition between the two provoked several changes in the way honor was perceived in warfare throughout the centuries. The notion of honor depends on the thoughts and the context into which individuals or groups belong. It implies reciprocity; measured by norms often recognized by an other entity. The chivalrous ideology was born out of the social rise of the milites and through the simultaneous dissemination of the aristocratic and chivalrous ideology of royal origins, which advocated for protecting the weak and the downcast. This cultural event confirmed the solid status of the dominant class, which allowed it to dominate the lower ones with ease through the knights and nobles at the helm. During battles such as Bouvines, duels between knights occurred often surrounded by troops who were forbidden to intervene. Settling differences was a business conducted amongst gentlemen even if the footmen around could have altered the course of the fight. These knights challenged each other on the battlefield without trying to kill one another because these soldiers of high birth during that time fought as if they were jousting. The battle of Crécy brings back into question what was considered an honorable fight. The honor code followed by knights rejected the use of bowmen. Those troops were not used against nobles. The British however, had many archers and used a new technology with devastating effect: the « longbow ». That technological breakthrough impacted the battlefield in ways never seen before. It changed everything on the ethical, tactical but also the military aspect of warfare. The knight’s place was redefined as well as war itself. The old code of chivalry got lost little by little. Military Strategists managed to adapt to the enemy thanks to technological advances and new ethical principals. An openness of mind expanded the space for critical thinking, which allowed combatants to be more flexible. The nature of conflicts change but men’s aptitude to adapt to their environment does not.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Leupin, Alexandre