What have I written? Why does it matter? — Ethan

It’s the end of the semester, and I have 47 pages of polished writing. What have I shown?

I believe I’ve given an example of a mutually positive relationship between the U.S. government and a mainstream print media outlet, due to which the public reaction to a foreign policy event was to some degree determined by the coverage given by the print media outlet. I have demonstrated the connection between the foreign policy aims of American foreign policy leaders during and after the Six-Days’ War and those advocated and legitimized by the print coverage of the War by the New York Times. Further, I have explicated the symbiotic relationship between sources of information thought to be authoritative and credible, and the disseminators of that information, in order to substantiate the logical basis for that relationship in this specific instance of foreign policy. Continue reading

Conclusion for Ancient Women – Bella

As I am finishing up my book, I am beginning to weave together all of the different and corresponding parts of the two societies of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece. I have been trying to address this in my closing chapter, but this chapter has been the most challenging part of the book to write. I am having trouble putting all this research to a close, and my first paragraph of my closing chapter reads as followed:

“The civilizations of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece show how different women were treated in the Ancient World in these societies. Continue reading

Overview of Richard II’s Affinity -Gwyneth

Since I am writing my paper on the royal affinity under Richard II, I thought I would use this blog post to provide an overview of this body, based on the most comprehensive study available – Chris Given-Wilson’s The Royal Household and the King’s  Affinity. In my previous blog posts on bastard feudalism (x x), I discussed the practice of retaining lower-ranking members of the gentry which emerged among the nobility in the 14th century. Richard II is notable for being the first king to fully adopt this practice himself. Earlier kings had certainly retained men, but these retainers had primarily remained within the royal household. Beginning during the political crisis of 1387, however, Richard began retaining men in the localities in order to establish a widespread base of support throughout the country.

For the most part, Richard’s retainers had one of two titles – “king’s knight” or the lower-ranking “king’s esquire”. This is not to suggest, however, that king’s esquires could not be of substantial importance within the king’s affinity, only that they were less individually powerful in their localities than fully fledged knights. According to Given-Wilson, 149 king’s knights served during Richard’s reign. This number excludes those king’s knights who primarily served within the household as either chamber knights or high-ranking household officers. Additionally, 280 king’s esquires are recorded during the reign, excluding esquires and sergeants of the household. Interestingly, a substantial proportion of these esquires were retained during the last two years of Richard’s reign, a period which has come to be known as Richard’s “tyranny”. Only 105 of Richard’s 280 king’s esquires are mentioned before 1397. After this point, in what has been referred to as the ‘Cheshire phenomenon’, the king recruited a great number of esquires, mostly from Cheshire, a county under direct royal control which Richard granted principality status in 1397. Overall, this means that 429 members of the gentry made up the king’s affinity outside of the household (Given-Wilson 212).



The angels in the famous Wilton Diptych, commissioned by Richard II in the 1390s, wear Richard’s badge of the white hart, which has come to symbolize his affinity

In the first two years of his reign, Richard retained between 240 and 250 persons. Sixty of these were knights, forty-four were esquires, and the remainder were lower-ranking servants of Edward III. The majority of these men were retained at the same time as their annuities received under Edward III were confirmed (Given-Wilson 213). This, along with the fact that Richard was still a child without any real control of government, suggests that at this time, the process of retaining was not intended to create anything akin to a new royal affinity, but was rather a necessary step for maintaining a level of continuity in the transition from one reign to the next.

From this point until 1387, Richard engaged in very little retaining. After being essentially stripped of power by the commission of 1386, Richard left the heart of royal government in the southeast and embarked on a yration around the country. It was at this time, specifically during the summer of 1387, that Richard began attempting to tie prominent men in the localities to himself (Given-Wilson 213-4). Richard’s motivation in doing this was clear – he was attempting to gain sufficient gentry support to take back control of government. Unfortunately for him, this attempt was made too late and proved insufficient to prevent the Appellants from emerging victorious in 1388.

After regaining power in 1389, Richard revived his attempts at creating an affinity, this time much more formally, as is demonstrated by the substantial increase in men retained by the king for life. In particular, Richard was heavily engaged in retaining from 1391-3 and from 1397-8 (Given-Wilson, 214).

According to Given-Wilson’s assessment, with which I completely agree, Richard’s overall motivation in his retaining policy was the creation of a loyal core of supporters in the event of another crisis such as the one which occurred in 1387-8 (Given-Wilson 217). Richard’s loss of control of government in these years made clear the lack of support, both military and political, on which he could rely in the face of opposition. Thus, from the time he regained power, he made it his priority to build up this support through the mechanism of the affinity which was so heavily used by the nobility. Whether or not this policy was a successful one is a question I will examine in depth in my final paper. However, the fact remains that another crisis did indeed emerge in 1399, and this time Richard lost power not temporarily, but permanently, despite all his efforts to secure his position.




Works Cited

Given-Wilson, Chris. The Royal Household and the King’s Affinity: Service, Politics and Finance in England 1360-1413. Yale UP, 1986.


Image: https://reeddesign.co.uk/inspiration/wilton-diptych.html


Bastard Feudalism Part II -Gwyneth

In the time since my last blog post on McFarlanian bastard feudalism, I have been able to get access to McFarlane’s seminal 1945 essay on the subject (a big thank you to the librarians). Additionally, I managed to finish P. R. Coss’s lengthy 1989 essay “Bastard Feudalism Revised”, in which Coss provides a thorough critique of McFarlane’s ideas and offers a new framework for understanding the bastard feudal system. Thus, I plan to use this blog post to discuss McFarlane’s ideas a bit more and present some criticisms that have been made of them.

Coss begins his dissection of McFarlane’s work by challenging McFarlane’s emphasis on military developments, particularly during the reign of Edward I, in his explanation of the origins of bastard feudalism. According to McFarlane, “[t]he origin of the practice of substituting paid for unpaid service”, which marked the transition from classical to bastard feudalism, “still remains untraced in detail. But its most significant stage was reached when the need was felt for an army more efficient and durable than the feudal host” (McFarlane 162). He claims that the practice of systematically employing English troops (as opposed to foreign mercenaries, who had been present in English armies even earlier) was begun by Edward I. McFarlane then goes on to describe the process by which these soldiers were hired: “Edward made his contracts with a number of his greater barons, those evidently whose abilities and loyalty he trusted, and left them to make sub-contracts with the members of their respective contingents”, noting that these contracts were initially made verbally and that the practice of setting down the terms of recruitment in a written indenture was not standard practice until Edward III’s campaign of 1341 (McFarlane 163).

Edward I.jpg

Edward I (Richard II’s great-great grandfather!), reigned 1272-1307

Coss argues against McFarlane’s designation of the reign of Edward I as a turning point, claiming that “significant though the developments of the reign of Edward I may have been, they were by no means as revolutionary in the military sphere as had been supposed…[Edward’s] army was recruited in reality upon mixed lines and…the fully contractual army had to wait until the opening years of the Hundred Years War” (Coss 31). It is important to note that McFarlane did not argue that this was not the case, but rather seems to have viewed Edward’s recruitment of troops to supplement those raised by the traditional levy as an important moment in the transition from the levy to the contract as a means of raising troops rather than the definitive replacement of the levy with the contract.

In a more direct contradiction of McFarlane’s argument, Coss makes the claim that “contractual troops antedated Edward’s reign”. He notes the existence of a surviving contract from July of 1270, two years before Edward I became king, in which Adam of Jesmond promised one year of service with five knights in the army of the future king (then the son of the reigning king, Henry III), which embarked on crusade that August. Going off of the work of Simon Lloyd, Coss claims that “the written contract provided the backbone of the English crusade of 1270-2” (Coss 32). Given the clear evidence provided by the contract between Adam of Jesmond and Prince Edward, this is a reasonable claim, although it does not pose a significant challenge to McFarlane’s dating of the origin of the military contract, since this crusade not only took place right before Edward I’s ascension to the throne, but was led by that very same Edward. Additionally, Coss notes that the subcontracts (contracts between magnates and the soldiers that they would bring to the king’s army) which existed at this time were short term rather than for life. This characteristic distinguishes them from the slightly later contracts cited by McFarlane, which were “for life, appearing in this to give to the new order a stability in which by contrast with a feudal society it was otherwise singularly lacking” (McFarlane 164). If indenture for life was indeed a key component of bastard feudal relationships, it can easily be argued that the contracts described by Coss were fundamentally distinct from those which characterized bastard feudal society.

One claim which would more overtly call into question the validity of McFarlane’s framework is the argument made by Richardson and Sayles and cited by Coss “that contracts for military service must have had a continuous history from at least the twelfth century” (Coss 32). However, no evidence besides the late 13th century contract already noted is provided to back up this point. The contracts referred to by Richardson and Sayles may refer to those used, according to Coss, by kings for the purpose of expanding their personal household forces before a military expedition “as early as the time of Henry I and quite possibly in the time of the Conqueror himself” (Coss 32). This may very well be the case and would indeed demonstrate that the practice of paying for military service was in existence long before McFarlane places its origin. However, it should be noted that the king’s practice of hiring men to serve in his personal household was quite different from him contracting magnates throughout the country to serve him with their own personal contingents of hired troops and should therefore not be thought of as being bastard feudal in nature.

Moving forward with the assumption that “[b]oth contracts and contracted troops were important features of royal armies well before the period in which McFarlane saw the beginnings of bastard feudalism”, Coss looks for a different explanation of the origins of bastard feudalism. He cites as one possibility the approach taken by J.M.W. Bean, which revolves around the bachelor – “a special kind of retainer associated, whatever the precise provenance of the payments made to him, with service in the household, and enjoying a more intimate relationship with his lord than did other knightly retainers who did not have his status” (Bean; qtd. In Coss 33-4). Importantly, Bean “suggests that such men were already being given fees from landed estates during the thirteenth century” (Coss 34). Thus, the relationship between a bachelor and his lord could have been a precursor to that between lord and retainer which characterized bastard feudal society. Since bachelors were defined by their service in aristocratic households, Coss ties Bean’s work back to his own disputation of the generally accepted chronology of bastard feudalism by stating that “[s]tressing the importance of the household allows one to argue for the essential similarity of the practices of Anglo-Saxon warlords, Anglo-Norman barons and fourteenth-century magnates” (Coss 34). However, seeing as the bachelor has his origins in the 13th century, it is difficult to directly connect the noble practice of paying knightly household servants with fees from estates to Anglo-Norman,

Coss continues with the pattern of his argument by claiming an earlier origin for another integral feature of McFarlanian bastard feudalism – the practice of retaining justices and civil servants. He notes a study conducted by J. R Maddicott which places the earliest known occurrences of this practice in the 1230s and 1240s. However, those doing the retaining in these early incidences were not lords, but members of the clergy. Coss attempts to dismiss this caveat, stating that “[a]lthough these examples are monastic, there is no reason to suppose that there were not parallels with lay barons” (Coss 36). Personally, I think this assumption warrants further investigation rather than being treated as self-evident. Nonetheless, Coss’s claim that “[t]he occasional assumption that the practice of retaining justices developed, as bastard feudalism itself seems to have developed, only in Edward I’s reign is hard to substantiate. It is more likely that it had been brought into being by the middle years of Henry III” is a reasonable one.

Overall, the arguments which Coss raises against McFarlane’s conception of bastard feudalism are for the most part valid points. However, they ultimately prove insubstantial to invalidate McFarlane’s overarching framework. The most significant contribution of Coss’s work is not to dismiss McFarlanian bastard feudalism entirely, as was his goal, but to suggest a slightly earlier origin for many of the features of the system.


Works Cited

Coss, P. R. “Bastard Feudalism Revised.” Past & Present, no. 125, 1989, pp. 27–64. JSTOR, JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/650860.

McFarlane, K. B. (1945), BULLETIN OF THE INSTITUTE OF HISTORICAL RESEARCH. Historical Research, 20: 161-180. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2281.1945.tb01345.x


Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/history/articles/edward_i/


Introduction to Ancient Greece – Bella

I am really starting to get into Ancient Greece, which was unexpected. I thought it would be more difficult than Ancient Egypt, but I am realizing how fascinating the Grecian world was. The challenge is that it is more difficult to discuss Greece, because it is comprised of islands and different types of political systems, not just one large kingdom like Ancient Egypt. My notes on Greece are extensive, and I am realizing there was a level of rape culture that was not   prominent in Ancient Egypt. Grecian women were objects, not people, and viewed as such a source of evil that the names of women could not be spoken in public. Continue reading

Conclusion and Results


With the end of the year approaching, I’m thinking back on what I set my original goal to be for this project. I knew I had a passion for learning about the reasoning behind people’s actions, and why socially aggressive behaviors exist among us. This prompted me to shoot for two things: a deeper understanding of social aggression and related topics, and to make any kind of change within my own community.

Like any research project, I had some small setbacks and some pretty large ones, too, but it ultimately helped me learn how to persevere and led me down paths that I had not originally intended. And while I did accomplish both of my goals to a certain extent, one thing became very apparent to me near the end of my project: I had learned much more about who I am as a person than ever before. Throughout my research, I couldn’t help but consider my own actions and existing biases or ways in which I treat others. While that wasn’t the goal of the project, my own increased self awareness has helped me improve the community through my own actions.

Last week, I sent out the survey I had created to the school, in order to measure the amount of social aggression through my peers’ observations. Honestly, I was very excited to get the results back and see what the other students in the school thought of our culture. The questions consisted of a ranking-system, in which students could choose how often a certain type of social aggression happens through a never-to-always scale. Unsurprisingly, most of the answers came back mostly neutral (students had chosen the “somewhat agree/sometimes” option). However, once I began to analyze the data by a gender split, some very interesting outliers became apparent to me. Nearly 87% of female-identifying students said that they have witnessed/are witnessing socially aggressive behaviors frequently at our school, whereas only 62% of male-identifying students said they have (still a very high number, but significantly lower than females). This gap was clearly shown throughout other questions, in which females typically ranked specific socially aggressive behaviors as much more frequent than males. The data also showed that socially aggressive behaviors such as gossiping and spreading rumors were almost always ranked very frequent among girls, whereas almost always ranked as nonexistent among boys. However, areas in which males showed more tendency to carry out socially aggressive behaviors included cyberbullying or embarrassing another person online. The two areas in which both male and female voted similarly were “belittling another person due to their gender, race, and sexual orientation” and “treating a younger person as inferior due to their age/grade level”, where more than 60% of both groups voted often or always.

Among the questions regarding specific locations at school in which students witness social aggression, the data concludes that for females, areas with the highest levels of social aggression include the dorms (80% voted often/always), the dining hall (78%), and during sports practices (67%). For males, most frequent areas of social aggression include the dorms (79%), the Day Student Lounge (62%), and the dining hall (57%).

While I wish I had the answer as to how to eliminate social aggression at our school, I do not. However, the first step to lessening an issue is to recognize it first, and point out specific areas which we can improve. Although I wish I had more time to dive deeper into analysis and research ways which we can tackle specific types of social aggression that appear most prominent in our community, the school year is coming to a close in a few short weeks. I am more than confident that my passion for this issue will persist, and I will continue to seek solutions alongside the incredible peers of mine who share a common interest. This survey, along with my work this semester, is just the beginning of a very long path to continuing to better the world around us.

Thanks for reading,


Bastard Feudalism and the Rise of the Medieval Affinity -Gwyneth


When we think of medieval politics, we think of feudalism, the hierarchical system of obligations by which men of lower status are bound to serve men above them in the so-called “feudal pyramid” made up of peasants, knights, lords, and king. Feudal obligations were rendered by tenants in exchange for hereditary grants of land from the lord of the manor. Ultimately, the king owned all of the kingdom’s land and the highest class of the nobility were those who held their land directly from him.

feudal pyramid

Continue reading

How Hitting a Button Began to Change My World-Sabrina

On May 2nd at 8:00 am on the nose, I hit enter and Project G.I.R.L went live. It was accessible to the whole world, and I felt extremely exposed.

screenshot-54.pngThe way I had described it to my friends, was that I had a baby: I had been preparing in every way, shape, and form for months and then all of a sudden, one day, it just existed. It came into the world and seemed to take on a life of its own. I understand that this analogy is intense and a little crazy because it is. Continue reading

Training an Object Detector with TensorFlow (Part II)-Kevin

For last week’s blog post, I wrote a short tutorial for training a custom object detection model using TensorFlow Object Detection API. Due to the limited space and time constraints, my tutorial was not quite finished. Therefore, in this week’s blog, I will continue my tutorial and include additional steps such as the usage of a tool to test your model’s accuracy.

Continue reading

Background to the Reign of Richard II -Gwyneth

Because no historical person or event can be accurately examined outside of its wider context, I thought it would be a good idea to use this blog post to provide some basic information regarding society during the reign of Richard II, with particular emphasis on the world of politics. At the time that Richard became king, England was shaped by two defining events in its recent history: the Black Death and the Hundred Years War. Continue reading