Welcome Larissa Tracy and Host Jason Leopold (TruthOut)

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book and be respectful of dissenting opinions.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature Negotiations of National Identity

A few years ago, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a one-page document the organization had obtained from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) as part of its in its long-running Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit related to the treatment of “war on terror” detainees in custody of the US government.

The document contained a list of nine questions OLC had sent to the CIA about the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” the agency intended to use on its high-value captives held at black site prisons around the world. Question number five stood out among the others:

“How close is each technique to the ‘rack and screw’?”

In a report I published in 2009 citing this questionnaire, I characterized the “rack and screw” as “medieval” torture devices. I specifically chose to use the word “medieval” to impress upon readers that the methods of torture the Bush administration devised were as barbaric and its use as systematic as the techniques people were subjected to during the Middle Ages.

Equating “medieval” with cruel forms of punishment is commonplace and was popularized in a particularly gruesome scene in the movie “Pulp Fiction” when Ving Rhames’ character Marsellus tells his rapist that he and “a coupla hard, pipe-hittin’ niggers” are “gonna go to work on [his rapist] with a pair of pliers and a blow torch.”

“I’ma get medieval on your ass,” Marsellus says.

But in her exhaustively researched new book, Larissa Tracy, an associate professor of medieval literature at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia, says linking “medieval” with acts of torture is a fallacy.

“[T]orture was not a pervasive means of medieval judicial control, despite accounts of public brutality and secular punishment …,” Tracy wrote in the introduction to “Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature,” which cites the “Getting Medieval” scene from “Pulp Fiction” as a way of explaining how our understanding of the medieval era has been misguided.

In an interview with the syndicated radio show “With Good Reason,” Tracy said the general public believes torture was “popular” during the Middle Ages because “we have museums full of torture implements all over Europe and even traveling torture museums in San Diego and Washington, DC.”

“There is this sense that because they were older people that they were more violent, they were less civilized and they used violence as a means of controlling their population,” she said. “Part of that is because we don’t have an awful lot of evidence to overtly contradict that.”

So Tracy spent more than six years closely examining how torture and judicial brutality are depicted in medieval literature, such as “The Miller’s Tale” by Geoffrey Chaucer, to prove that it was not as widespread and systemic during the Middle Ages as we were led to believe. In fact, she argues there was no more torture during medieval times than we’re confronting today. Moreover, she says brutal torture techniques, such as “equine quartering,” where a person’s limbs are torn off of their body, was likely more of a literary motif than a practice.

“Today we consider ourselves far away from the medieval country of tortures’ dotted with wheel, gibbets, and racks’ that Michael Foucalt (author of “Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Modern Prison”) envisions, if such a landscape ever actually existed,”

Her conclusions, she wrote, will ultimately force us to “rethink our interpretation of the [medieval] period, and our interpretation of our own society and cultural norms – our own national identities.”

“The perception of national identity is influenced by our own culture of violence (real and imaginary), and perhaps our continuation of this debate on medieval torture and brutality brings us closer to the very society from which we attempt to disassociate ourselves,” Tracy writes. “Perhaps it is easier to distance ourselves from the violence (and even torture) in the modern era if we can situate it firmly in the past and convince ourselves that we are not as violent as medieval society.”

131 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Larissa Tracy, Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature Negotiations of National Identity”

BevW April 14th, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Kat, Welcome to the Lake.

Jason, Welcome back to the Lake and thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

(For people to read along: refresh your browser PC=F5 key, MAC=Command + R keys)

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

Larissa, thanks so much for being here today. And thanks to Bev and the FDL crew for inviting me back to host.

Larissa, you spent more than six years researching your book. I’m wondering if you could tell me what was the catalyst that led you to tackle this project?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:01 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 2

Hello Bev and Jason! Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity.

Jason, in response to your question, I started this research when I was doing my dissertation work at Trinity College in Dublin. I was working on a manuscript of medieval English women saints’ lives and I was struck by the amount of torture in these narratives.

Elliott April 14th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Hi, welcome to the Lake!

Are you saying that no one was ever drawn and quartered and that it wasn’t an official punishment for treason in England?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:04 pm

Each day, my fellow students would ask me, “who’s being tortured now”, “what nasty things are they doing to Saint so-and so- today”, and so i started doing more research into the torture of these virgin martyrs. i found that a number of very good scholar found the frequency of these torments appalling (as most people would), but as I compared them to historical accounts in the Roman period, I found that the torture methods being used in the medieval accounts of early Roman saints were more medieval than Roman, and so I wanted to see how many secular texts engaged in a similar discussion of torture. I looked in as many primary sources as I could think of, and this book is essentially my findings.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

Thanks, Larissa! How have medieval historians responded to your arguments? And why do you think our perception and understanding of the medieval era has been to associate it directly with torture?

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 2:05 pm

My impression is that torture, as well as fire-and-brimstone preaching, were more facets of the Renaissance period rather than of the medieval period. After all, that’s when you had the great witchcraft craze, and many of those were tortured until confession.

-stewartm

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:06 pm
In response to Elliott @ 4

Hello! yes, it certainly the punishment for treason in England, until 1838. But there is a big difference between punishment and torture in the Middle Ages. Punishment was done once someone was convicted (through due process in England) and then punished. And hanging, drawing (disembowelling) and quartering was an extreme punishment for extreme cases.

BevW April 14th, 2012 at 2:06 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 3

Would you not expect a lot of “torture” to be in the narrative of (women) saints? Is this an extreme example of torture literature?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to stewartm @ 7

Stewart, you are absolutely correct. The incidence of judicial torture increases in the sixteenth century. It was illegal in England throughout the medieval period, and is only made legal by Henry VIII in 1540, and it’s only legal there until 1640. There’s a similar upsurge in France in the sixteenth century and Spain in the 15th century.

Tammany Tiger April 14th, 2012 at 2:07 pm
In response to BevW @ 9

I remember reading some awfully graphic depictions of torture in the Lives of the Saints when I was a kid. The term “torture porn” hadn’t been invented, but this certainly would have qualified.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:08 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 6

Jason, I’ve only heard from a few other medieval historians, and so far, they’d all agreed with my findings, but I’m sure there are those who will dispute them, especially the emphasis on national identity. But i grounded my work in that of the leading scholars of torture in medieval history and law, like Edward Peters and Thomas Langbein.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:10 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 8

But torture was not widespread as we were led to believe, as you state in your book. So how was it used and for what purpose?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:11 pm
In response to BevW @ 9

Bev, the narratives of virgin martyrs, specifically female ones, are exceptionally gruesome. But these women don’t actually suffer from the torment. they defy their persecutors and stand up to them, speaking out against their tyranny. What I found was that these texts place the use of torture outside civilized society, in an ancient and barbaric past. But at the same time, make uncomfortable (and probably unintentional) connection to the time in which they were written (the thirteenth-fifteenth centuries) when the only institution carrying out torture on a large scale is the Catholic Church.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:13 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 11

“Torture porn’ has been used to describe the lives of women saints. Some scholars contend that the authors enjoyed depicting women’s bodies as ravaged sites of torture and brutality, and it’s certainly possible that some did. But it’s very formulaic. There’s a pattern, and the emphasis is on the fact that women don’t actually suffer and they continue to instruct their persecutors all the while. Saint Christina keeps talking, even when they cut out her tongue.
Similarly, the Passion of the Christ narratives are fairly gruesome, because the audience is supposed to respond to that suffering. But in many cases this is a literary device, rather than a mimetic exercise.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 2:14 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 10

The incidence of judicial torture increases in the sixteenth century.

The only instance of judicial medieval torture I can think of offhand was Philip the Fair’s suppression of the Knights Templar in 1305. Any others?

-stewartm

masaccio April 14th, 2012 at 2:14 pm

According to my copy of The Prince, Machiavelli was was subjected to the strappado more than once, and apparently this was common in Florence.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:15 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 13

It was used by the Church (largely) as a means of eliciting a confession, the “Queen of Proofs”. But in order to apply torture, there had to be at least two ‘half-proofs’ against the person first, like eye-witness reports, or circumstantial evidence. If a person confessed, then torture could not be applied. And there were limits and restrictions on how far an interrogator could go. A judge was present, and if someone died under torture, the judge could be held liable for that death and charged with homocide.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to masaccio @ 17

I’d classify that more as Renaissance era.

One could make pose a hypothesis that as a culture’s belief system declines in acceptance, more and more harsh means are employed of propping it up. That certainly fits with what occurred in the Renaissance/Reformation era.

-stewartm

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:17 pm
In response to masaccio @ 17

Yes, he was and it was. Machiavelli lived at the end of the 15th century and the beginning of the 16th century, as torture became more widespread. Italy certainly practiced it then, but there was dissent against it even in the Church.

masaccio April 14th, 2012 at 2:19 pm
In response to stewartm @ 19

But if it was common then, surely it was used earlier.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:21 pm
In response to stewartm @ 16

Stewart,

You are quite correct. When Philip had the Templars arrested in 1307, he ordered them to be tortured. They were subjected to the Rack (which was actually a fairly primitive device at the time), to the strappado and flames were applied to the soles of some of their feet. Some were fed on bread and water.

But only the French Templars were tortured. In fact, Edward II of England steadfastly refused to torture the English Templars. He resisted for two years, and when he finally did agree, he didn’t actually allow anything that would cause permanent damage, or a ‘great effusion of blood’. But since there wasn’t a mechanism for using torture in England, since it was illegal, the English Templars weren’t actually tortured. Eventually they were released and just absorbed into other orders.

Besides the torture and execution of heretics during the Albigensian Crusade (or the Cather Crusade 1209-1229), there aren’t any wholesale acts of judicial torture that I can think of. Though there certainly were acts of barbarism against groups of people, like the pogroms against Jewish communities.

BevW April 14th, 2012 at 2:21 pm

Interesting. Different eras?

the only institution carrying out torture on a large scale is the Catholic Church

but there was dissent against it even in the Church.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:22 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 18

Interesting. The torture techniques implemented by the Bush administration elicited false confessions and the use of such methods did not require two “half proofs.”

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:23 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 18

Amazing! There was accountability in the medieval era!

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:24 pm
In response to masaccio @ 21

Not necessarily. Torture is only introduced in the twelfth century with the rediscovery of Roman law. And it was introduced to replace the judicial ordeals that were seen as arbitrary and didn’t really provide justice. Even with it’s inception, there were those, like Gratian, who dissented.

It was used in Italy between the twelfth and fifteenth century, but not on as wide a scale. The local laws varied, and Church law insisted on regulation.

Elliott April 14th, 2012 at 2:25 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 8

Oh OK, I misunderstood the quote in the opening, apologies.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:26 pm

In your research, Larissa, have you been able to trace why we equate “medieval” with systematic torture?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 24

No they didn’t. in fact, in the Middle Ages, the other proofs were of paramount importance. There was an interest in finding the truth, of ‘discovery’, rather than an interest in just torturing someone for the sake of torturing them. It was not meant to be a punishment in, and of itself.

Kelly Canfield April 14th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Greetings! Thanks for being here.

Respectfully, I’ll offer a challenge here. I’m not sure I buy this these thesis even with the “judicial” caveat. And the reason why is the longevity and origin of the term “subpoena” which literally means “under torture.”

Coming from Roman law that a slave’s testimony wouldn’t be considered unless it was sub poena, as the theory went that the servant would either love or hate the master, and only pain would distinguish the truth.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:27 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 25

very much so! There are surviving letters that complain about abuses… letters to popes and Kings, and if judges got too heavy handed, they could be removed and punished.

Tammany Tiger April 14th, 2012 at 2:27 pm

When I was doing research for a book about violent entertainment, several sources noted that executions used to be carried out in public and were regarded as a form of entertainment. How common were public executions during the medieval era, and were they done in a brutal manner as a form of general deterrence?

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:28 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 8

My apologies for misinterpreting and perhaps not articulating it well in the intro. I thought you argued that “quartering” likely started out first as a literary motif and then became an “experiment” and it was discovered this method of torture did not work well as horses ran in herds?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:29 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 28

that’s a good question Jason. A lot of it stems from research done in the early part of this century, which categorized the Middle Ages as a dark and oppressive time, without fully understanding the context of many of these policies or traditions or laws. We know a lot more now.

Johan Huizinga was one of the first to suggest that the medieval period was dark and barbaric to an extent, and Barbara Tuchmann took that up in her book on the fourteenth century. Some of her work is quite good, but she generalizes a lot and applies a few instances to the larger whole, implying that really there were bodies hanging at every cross-roads and that people could be tortured and executed for minor infractions.

As I said, we know a lot more now.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 2:30 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 22

Besides the torture and execution of heretics during the Albigensian Crusade (or the Cather Crusade 1209-1229)

You know, I thought of that one too. But when I wiki’ed it to check, what I found out was that (by comparisons with Renaissance/Reformation insurrections) the penalties on most was surprisingly lenient:

The Languedoc now was firmly under the control of the King of France. The Inquisition was established in Toulouse in November 1229, and the surviving elements of Catharism were eliminated from the region, largely thanks to the famous inquisitor Bernard Gui. Under Pope Gregory IX the Inquisition was given great power to suppress the heresy. Contrary to popular legend, the Inquisition proceeded largely by means of legal investigation, persuasion and reconciliation. Judicial procedures were used and although the accused were not allowed to know the names of their accusers, they were permitted to mount a defence. The vast majority found guilty of heresy were given light penalties. 11 percent of offenders faced prison. Only around 1 percent, the most steadfast and relapsed Cathars were sentenced for treason, and faced burning at the stake.

However, I must include what happened after the failure of the Jacquerie in 1358 was pretty ugly, even though that wasn’t judicial (at least I don’t think it was).

-stewartm (I have a degree in European history, though it’s dusty)

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:31 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 33

That’s ok Jason. there are two types of quartering. THere is the quartering after death, which means separating the body into for parts as a deterrent to other traitors.

Equine quartering, drawing apart by horses, is largely a literary motif. There are only a few historical instances of it being done, and then it was largely unsuccessful and what you have is someone being dragged by horses.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:33 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 36

Ah, my apologies. Thank you for explaining. I’ll fix that up in the intro.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:34 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 30

No problem at all Kelly. you are quite correct. In Roman law, that is how it was meant. And in Roman law, torture could only be used against slaves. Citizens could not be tortured. When Roman law is rediscovered in the twelfth century, and reapplied on a broader scale by the Church (canon law), they didn’t adopt the same use of subpoena. In the Middle Ages, torture comes form the Latin “torquere”, to twist, and it is a very specific form on ‘putting to the pain’, which is what ‘poena’ means.

Torture was practiced frequently in the Roman period, to greater degrees depending on the Emperor. But in the Middle Ages, Roman law was revised and adapted.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:36 pm
In response to stewartm @ 35

Your degree serves you well! Yes, the interrogations of the Cathars are fascinating because so many of them don’t actually mention or rely on torture at all. What you see most frequently in those records is a reliance on monetary punishment. Fines. It was more lucrative to get someone to pay as a punishment than to cause them pain. And in fact, most secular law requires monetary fines.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:39 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 37

No worries. That’s actually a fairly common mistake, because we hear “hanged drawn and quartered” so often. The use of horses in equine quartering appears in a couple of cases in records, but there is some question as to whether it actually worked, since horses like to herd, they often won’t pull that hard in four ways, and the human body is more resilient.

There is a record of a criminal (the assassin of Henry IV of France, I believe) who was sentenced to this and it didn’t work. they had to sawn through his joints a bit to make sure the would be dismembered. It was horrific. BUt it was also the sixteenth century. It is possible that someone read about it in the Song of Roland and though that it was a fitting punishment for a traitor.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

In regards to the Inquisition, I remember a historian on TV (and I didn’t get his name) arguing that its ferocious reputation was largely undeserved. One, it didn’t have nearly the eyes and ears necessarily to ferret out all heresy (if you kept your mouth shut); Two, it followed strict rules in its interrogation and judicial procedure; and Three, its punishments were still often more light than those of a secular court.

He even said (and my memory is vague) that there were those in secular jails who added some minor heresy or even witchcraft to their crimes to get into the Inquisition tribunals, as they were more lenient if one confessed.

Googling for his name brings up nothing, so I can’t add more. Comments?

-stewartm

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:41 pm
In response to tammanytiger @ 32

I’m glad you asked about that. Executions were public, they were public spectacle, not as entertainment but as a deterrent. And they were only in extreme cases, like treason or an attempt on the monarch. The most common form of execution across Europe was hanging. England has a thing for beheading its traitors, but again, that wasn’t an every day occurrence.

Phoenix Woman April 14th, 2012 at 2:43 pm

I understand that there is some question as to whether Medieval Europe was as violent in general as it is usually depicted. For instance, the crimes of Gilles de Rais, Peter Stumpp, and Erzebet Bathory are thought by some to have been grossly exaggerated, if not wholly imaginary (Rais and Stumpp in particular are thought to have been the victims of political enemies).

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 40

It is possible that someone read about it in the Song of Roland and though that it was a fitting punishment for a traitor.

Heh. So they had their version of Hollywood too? The more things change…

-stewartm

Peterr April 14th, 2012 at 2:43 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 42

To what extent was torture similarly public, for the same reason of deterrence?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:45 pm
In response to stewartm @ 41

Stewart, you could be talking about Edward Peters, or Trevor Dean, or a host of other really good scholars who have written on the Inquisition. Edward Peters has a book called “Inquisition” which is an outstanding read, as is his book “Torture”, which dispels so many of these mythologies. One of the most pervasive is the one that envisions an INQUISITION with a capital “I”. There wasn’t one. There were smaller inquisitorial courts that operated with the jurisdiction of the Pope.

One of the most notorious of the inquisitors is Bernard Gui… I’m sure those of you who have seen or read the Name of the Rose have heard of him? He was actually more interested in penitence than punishment.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Larissa, how has your research changed your “interpretation of our own society and cultural norms”?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:47 pm
In response to Phoenix Woman @ 43

Yes, that’s probably right. And Erzebet Bathory is sixteenth century again. she was found guilty of killing more than 330 young women, and walled up in her rooms until she died (three years later) for doing it. But there is some question as to whether she actually tortured those women for pleasure or bathed in their blood at all.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:50 pm
In response to Peterr @ 45

Good question Peter. It wasn’t. Not until the Reformation, and even then, not always public. Torture was carried out as part of a judicial proceeding, with a judge and interrogators and usually a panel of witnesses, but it wasn’t done in the public square.

You have some public displays like the auto-da-fé in Spain, but those were actually public penance for confessed heretics, and were mostly post-1500. After the Reformation, there is more torture, but it usually wasn’t public either.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:53 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 47

That’s an interesting question Jason. I started this research expecting to find lots and lots of accounts of torture in secular literature, I expected the literature to reinforce the same stereotype and I was a bit surprised when it didn’t.

in the mean time, I was appalled by the adoption of enhanced interrogation as a facet of American foreign policy. i grew up in the military, my dad is a retired fighter pilot. So the idea that the American government would resort to such measures made my stomach turn. The more work I did on torture, the more aware I was of the public discourse about torture and the more aware I became that we are struggling now with many of the same questions that medieval Europeans did in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

BevW April 14th, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Reading through the comments, it seems like the torture is conducted for religious violations/rules. How much of the torture was conducted by the government/ruler for violations of state law?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to stewartm @ 44

Indeed Stewart! though even in the Roland there is some question whether Charlemagne looks really bad for subjecting Ganelon to such brutal, extra-judicial punishment. Historically, Charlemagne was far more interested in mercy and in reconciliation than vengeance. And since the text we have was written in England, it is possible that it is an attempt to diminish the status of the great French hero and his king.

Kelly Canfield April 14th, 2012 at 2:55 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 38

To a very large extent, I agree. But let’s clear one thing up, time range. So for your Medieval Period, what range of years do you use? That might help with Periods.

As regards Roman law, I’ll suggest that the definition of citizen has a lot to do with torture, as there were many more non-citizens, i.e. women, men who did not own land, etc. than citizens.

So much like the Roman roads, these principles were laying around, and used, whether given regard to Romans or not.

In other words I am saying I don’t think people become somehow “nicer” and less torture-ful compared to a previous era, and then a following era. Particularly in the Medieval period where much less writing, and therefore much less re-searchable data is available.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 50

Thanks so much for that response, Larissa.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 2:56 pm
In response to BevW @ 51

Not much at all, though occasionally the secular arm would do the torturing on behalf of the Church because clerics were forbidden from shedding blood. Though they did find a way around that. They used hot irons, the rack and thumbscrews, none of which shed blood. But by 1256, inquisitors were allowed to absolve each other if they used the instruments of torture.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:02 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 53

It’s a good question Kelly. The medieval period ranges from about 650 AD to 1500. From the early Middle Ages until the 1100s, torture is not part of medieval law, and there are quite a few written records to draw from in a variety of languages, from a variety of medieval cultures. Once Roman law is ‘rediscovered’ at the universities of Bologna and Paris, torture becomes part of canon law, but not necessarily secular law. And again, there are a lot of sources, even from the inquisitorial courts. A huge edition and translation of one small set of the records (which covers only a few years but is nearly a 1000 pages of text) was just published last year. Torture becomes more frequent from 1500 to about 1700. By the end of the Enlightenment, torture has been abandoned every where in Europe.

It’s not really a question of people becoming ‘nicer’, it’s a question of culture and many of these cultures didn’t want to emulate Rome. They had their own traditions and cultures and laws. And Roman law was a feature of the Church, not secular governments.

you are quite correct that the definition of ‘citizen’ in Roman was limited, which meant more people could be tortured, and many of them were, but in the Middle Ages, with the question of Christian salvation and the debate over the separation of body and soul, people were uncomfortable with those measures.

BevW April 14th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

The US and the World are questioning, protesting, and petitioning their governments to stop torture in their name, as national identity.

How did the medieval Europeans protest?

we are struggling now with many of the same questions that medieval Europeans did in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:06 pm

Manuals for Inquisitors make interesting reading as well. Bernard Gui wrote a Manual for Inquisitors (1322–23) as a means of instructing Church interrogators on identifying heretics and clarifying the most effective lines of questioning. In seventeen years of service (1307–24) Gui pronounced over 536 judgments though he only sentenced 45 people to death. In the grand scheme of things, that’s a fairly small number.

He does give instruction on using torture, but cautions against being excessive. And confession obtained under torture had to be corroborated as well, which is why there are accounts of tortured confessions being retracted. Eventually medieval legal scholars realized that torture did not produce reliable confessions and so they abandoned the process and reworked their legal systems.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 3:07 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 53

In other words I am saying I don’t think people become somehow “nicer” and less torture-ful compared to a previous era, and then a following era. Particularly in the Medieval period where much less writing, and therefore much less re-searchable data is available.

I don’t think that they were “nicer”. However, in the high Middle ages, the powers that ruled society were more secure. In the Late Middle Ages and Renaissance, the old order was crumbling and these were less secure. One could argue that security by those in power makes them more lenient. and insecurity makes them more willing to inflict more drastic punishments.

Larissa, are you familiar with Marvin Harris’s explanation for the Great Witch Hysteria? Harris notes that in 1000 AD it was heresy to believe that witches existed, but by 1500 AD it was heresy to believe that they didn’t exist. He reviews the data and the explanations and concludes, so to speak, that “if witchcraft didn’t exist it would have been necessary to invent it” and that it was the “magic bullet of the propertied classes” of suppressing dissent from below (it wasn’t the avarice of your local nobles or bishops that caused your child to die, it was those damned witches at it again, and moreover you could see the authorities “protecting you” by carbonizing another old crone alive).

-stewartm

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Larissa,

I have been associating our current Government situation to Medieval for a long time now. When torture goes wrong, as we all know it does, do you see a modern day version of the tumbrels wheeled out to carry those mistakes away?

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 3:09 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 58

Eventually medieval legal scholars realized that torture did not produce reliable confessions and so they abandoned the process and reworked their legal systems

Ahhh. If only Dick Cheney had the morality of a Grand Inquisitioner!

-stewartm, who’d have thunk of the comparison being so??

Phoenix Woman April 14th, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Larissa, thanks for writing your book. It’s yet another data point that indicates that life in general, particularly for the vast majority of persons, may not have been quite as nasty compared to, say, the lives of English cotton mill workers (many of whom were children) of Nineteenth-Century Britain. (See also the tenth chapter of Marx’s Capital.)

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:10 pm
In response to BevW @ 57

Sometimes in letters to the authorities directly–there is a letter called the Lamentacio written in 1308 in protest of the torture of the French Templars. It is diplomatic in its criticism of Philip the Fair, but the letter condemns their torture, decrying the brutality of this process, and claiming that the objective wasn’t truth but conviction.

Otherwise, literary texts that include torture episodes always place it in the hands of barbarians… or as a measure of last resort, used by the king in the interests of justice (but those are fairly infrequent). Most texts actively claim that only barbarians (or werewolf kings) would use torture, not civilized societies.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:11 pm

Larissa, can you discuss how you settled on the literary sources for your book (there must be numerous texts out there) and why are the literary sources in general trustworthy to make this argument?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
In response to stewartm @ 59

Thanks for that Stewart. I’m not familiar with the name, but I am familiar with the argument, which is fairly sound.

In the early Middle Ages (pre-Reformation), there were few, if any witch trials… there were heresy trials (which sometimes amounted to the same thing). But societies had no problem with magic in their day-to-day lives or in literature (miracles are essentially God’s magic to them). but this all changes with the Reformation.

Peterr April 14th, 2012 at 3:14 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 58

Gui and torture (or the threats thereof) figured prominently in Umberto Eco’s book “The Name of the Rose.” Did Eco get it right?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:15 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 60

I’m not exactly sure I know what you mean.What’s fascinating, and disturbing, it the current tendency to defend torture, and at the same time say it isn’t torture. I’m thinking of the recent republican debate where all the candidate fell over themselves (except Ron Paul) to defend torture, and water boarding, and then say that water boarding isn’t really torture (which it is) and then say again, that test, it’s necessary.

I think torture has become part of a political dialogue that ignores the very reality and consequence of torture, not only on the person who is tortured but on the government and the society that condones it.

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Barbaric and Insanity would suit the current day episodes. We have rulers that are insanely barbaric to order and promote the use of torture. Thus our society has been removed from any pretense of being civil.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:17 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 64

x

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I should add that your book was a true education for me :) It’s difficult to change the narrative when an idea (medieval = torture) is seared into our unconsciousness. How have your students/audiences responded during your lectures? Have you been successful in changing the narrative?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:19 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 64

Jason, that’s a good question. Literature is one of the best (but certainly not the only) source for cultural material in any period. It is through literature that we understand the ideas and sensibilities of a culture, down to the mundane aspects of life that we wouldn’t normally think of.

I started with the religious texts, because that was my initial research work, then I broadened out my scope. I started by going through as many different medieval texts as I could, from as many different medieval cultures as possible. I certainly have not covered everything, and I’m sure there are texts that I missed (fodder for a sequel, perhaps). But I looked at some of the most popular medieval texts, and what critics said about instances of torture or violence they categorized as torture and went from there.

Jeff Kaye April 14th, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Hi Larissa, I’m a bit late to this discussion. Your book would appear to be an important contribution to grounding the torture issue in fact rather than mythology. I look forward to reading it.

I’m struck by what appears to be an increase in use of torture as the Middle Ages gave way to the beginnings of the modern period, circa the 17 and 18th centuries. Certainly Voltaire’s campaign against “l’infame” helped frame the issue for modern audiences, with his campaign to publicize the Calas and de la Barre cases. I’ve always assumed his accusations re the use of torture by reigious authorities were meant to go far back in time, but perhaps this was not as ancient an evil as portrayed?

In any case, two questions. How prevalent was the “breaking upon the wheel” such as happened to Calas? And how important was the work of the Voltaire and other Enlightenment figures in changing the modern attitude towards torture? (Modern used here as contemporary to the 18 and 19th centuries.)

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 67

You understood very well. The talking heads use word tumbrels. I guess the torturers use hidden prisons and grave sites to keep the victims from public viewing.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:20 pm
In response to Peterr @ 66

Eco got many things right, in many ways… but not that. Though I think he was more interested in painting Gui as a representative of an institution rather than as a historical figure. There is a lot of exaggeration regarding torture, and punishment and heresy and witchcraft in that book, but I think his greater argument is the idea of closed minds or fighting over a word or an idea.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:22 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 73

i think you are probably right, and it saddens and disgusts me. There is actually far more torture globally now, than there was in the Middle Ages. Amnesty International has compiled report upon report about it.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:23 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 70

thanks Jason. I appreciate that. I hoped to make it accessible to an audience outside of medieval academia. I cringe every time I hear someone use ‘medieval’ as a way of defining ‘dark, savage, barbaric’, because there’s sooo much more to the medieval period. So I’m glad I could convert you. ;}

AdamPDX April 14th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Does the US have a cabinet level Dungeon Keeper yet?

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

For those of you not familiar, a tumbrel is a medieval type wagon that was used to pile the dead on to carry them out of sight.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 3:26 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 72

And how important was the work of the Voltaire and other Enlightenment figures in changing the modern attitude towards torture? (Modern used here as contemporary to the 18 and 19th centuries.)

My very-cheeky butt-in to this is that I think it was very important. No, torture has not disappeared from the sad story of humankind, but judicial torture has largely disappeared. Even in Stalinist Russia one wasn’t sentenced to be tortured, it happened “off the books”.

What torture does occur is extra-judicial. This is the real danger in Clarence Thomas’s opinion of 2002 that the 8th amendment only prohibits judicially-sentenced torture, not acts that might occur while in custody. By that reasoning, Stalin didn’t torture anyone.

-stewartm, OK, the expert can chime in now.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 72

Hi Jeff. good question. Voltaire was very important in speaking out against torture and starting the trend to abolish it. But his concerns certainly weren’t new. Michel do Montaigne condemned it soundly in 16th century France, comparing the French government and the Church to cannibals, finding the cannibals more civilized. Bartolome de las Casas argued against the torture of native populations in central and south America by the Inquisition in the seventeenth century.

There have been voices decrying torture in every period in which it has been used, probably even in the Roman period.

As for breaking on the wheel, it was usually a punishment, though occasionally it was used as torture. It was most common in the German principalities. In the records for the city of Nuremberg between 1503 and 1743, only 55 out of a total of 939 executions were performed with the wheel, though the ratio of wheelings to total executions appears to have been much greater in the late Middle Ages than in the following centuries.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:27 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 78

Bring out your dead! (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself)

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:28 pm

I imagine that many of your students, Larissa, grew up with being told by our government that torture is a necessary part of fighting the so-called “global war on terror.” In general, what has been their response to the use of torture by our government?

Peterr April 14th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 74

I’m a pastor, and found his depiction of the theological arguments and battles over poverty well-grounded. In an era when some religious orders were quite wealthy and others were asking difficult questions about poverty (like the followers of St Francis), the line between heresy and orthodoxy was at times a moving target.

I don’t think Eco overstated the arguments and debates over where that line is (was?) with regard to poverty, though perhaps he did so with regard to the historical figure of Gui and the role/practice of torture.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 3:29 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 76

I cringe every time I hear someone use ‘medieval’ as a way of defining ‘dark, savage, barbaric’, because there’s sooo much more to the medieval period.

The old saw about the Renaissance period also holds true–I”m sure that most alive then did not think upon their current events as being some new, exciting, liberating, “re-birth” but as all hell breaking loose and everything they knew to be “right” and proper going to hell in a handbasket. As the Chinese would say, it was an interesting time.

-stewartm

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:30 pm
In response to stewartm @ 79

You are absolutely right Stewart. An this is the problem with modern torture… its definition. That’s one of the things about medieval trial records. In a recent book about the Inquisition, the author (not a medievalist) said that the absence of torture in the judicial records means it was being done all the time.

But that’s nonsense. Often, trial records don’t mention torture, even though it might be the only explanation for a sudden confession. It was allowed, so there was no real reason not to record it. Sometimes, there are other terms for it “putting to pain” or “putting to the question”. But the records aren’t long expositions on graphic torture, they are not sadistic catalogues of well, torture porn.

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:31 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 81

LOL! I’m an FDL pitchfork and torch bearer! :-D

Jeff Kaye April 14th, 2012 at 3:32 pm

By the by, Larissa, as more brutal forms of torture and punishment were gradually abandoned (maybe very gradually!), modern torture often relies on “psychological” techniques rooted in isolation and sensory deprivation or overload. Is there any indication of the beginnings of this kind of maltreatment in the “medieval” world?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:32 pm
In response to Peterr @ 83

i think you are exactly right Peter. His construction of the poverty debate is very good, and I think for a modern audience, the torture was expected (though somewhat inaccurate) part of that. that said, heretics were certainly tortured to confess and were certainly executed. Torture did exist, only it’s frequency and general acceptance are in question.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:34 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 82

Since I teach medieval literature, I usually stick to the medieval stuff. i teach at a small, rural public university in Virginia. Draw your own conclusions. That said, many of my students have brought it up themselves, and they see the connections to the modern world, and there have been some insightful and lively conversations in my classes.

And my students know that if they want to get me on a tangent, all they have to do is ask me about torture.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:36 pm

How was torture used as an experiment in the medieval era? That is, were individuals subjected to certain techniques and those techniques later refined based on the response of the individual being tortured? A study into the Bush administration’s torture conducted by the group Physicians for Human Rights found that “health professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA monitored the interrogations of detainees, collected and analyzed the results of [the] interrogations, and sought to derive generalizable inferences to be applied to subsequent interrogations.”

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:36 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 87

A good question jeff. Some of the techniques we use now, started in the Middle Ages… stress positions for one. These were carried out with the Scavenger’s Daughter. Some times starvation was used, and sometimes isolation, but they didn’t usually have the means for other forms of sensory deprivation (except imprisonment).

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Larissa,

Are you familiar with the English author, now deceased, Norah Lofts? She created wonderful works of Literature with her historical knowledge.

Jeff Kaye April 14th, 2012 at 3:38 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 91

Could you elaborate a bit re “the Scavenger’s Daughter”?

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:39 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 90

It was a legal experiment. Legal scholars were trying methods that hadn’t been used in law for more than 500 years, so they tried some methods to see what might work to bring a confession (with sufficient proof already). They were most interested in ‘discovery’ and making sure that an innocent person wasn’t punished unduly. Often it was thought better to leave a criminal unpunished than to condemn an innocent man, a precept borrowed from classical Roman law text and ‘recycled’ by medieval Roman lawyers.

As for physicians, there was some interest in the two… in the thirteenth century there was an interest in autopsy and dissection, though the Church wasn’t really comfortable with it and eventually that would be outlawed. But even in the universities of Salerno in the twelfth century, there was an interest in physiognomy and dissection,a dn I sure some of these findings were used in developing methods of torture.

DWBartoo April 14th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 91

Good evening, Larissa, thank you for spending some time with us.

To your knowledge, did medieval torture “techniques” include threats to the victim’s family; wife, children, parents, and so on, among the “psychological” methods?

DW

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:40 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 92

Alas, I am not. But i will look her up. I have to be careful reading historical fiction, because it it’s good enough, it sometimes blends in with my historical research (Sharon Kay Penman for example), if it’s bad, then it just annoys me.

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Jason Leopold @ 90

I’m no where close to being an expert on the subject, but I have read that physicians of the day studied only to learn the best way of embalming.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:41 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 93

The Scavenger’s daughter takes two forms. One is a metal band that warps around someone in the fetal position, and can be tightened to force them more into that position. the other involves a collar that goes around the neck and around the wrists and around the ankles so someone has to stay in crouching/sitting position.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:42 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 95

My pleasure. Not to my knowledge, though in some cases of heresy people were encouraged to confess and point the finger at as many others as possible.

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:43 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 96

Understood. I don’t think you will be unhappy with her work. However, her books are extremely rare and hard to come by.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 97

I have read that too. It was pretty gruesome.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to stewartm @ 84

Oh absolutely! In fact, the Renaissance coined the term “Middle Ages” for the preceding period. Medieval people did not seem themselves as the ‘middle’ of anything, they saw themselves at the end of a time of war and disease. There’s a lot of apocalyptic literature. In fact they were fairly convinced (repeatedly) that the world was going to end.

It is also the Renaissance (or at least modern Renaissance scholars) that first started pointing to the medieval period as a barbaric and uncivilized time.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:45 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 100

I will certainly see what I can do. Thanks for the reference.

DWBartoo April 14th, 2012 at 3:47 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 99

So it is rather a case of temporary “fashion”, such as occurred during the witch trials at Salem?

What social conditions, if you have discerned such patterns, seem to be most “encouraging” of the use of torture?

DW

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 97

they did that too. There’s actually quite a bit about medieval medicine. I’m currently working on a collection of essays about castration and another about wounding, and you’d be amazed at some of the sophisticated medical procedures. They did brain surgery (trepanning… drilling holes in the skulls to relieve pressure after a head injury), they used maggots to prevent infection and eat away dead flesh. They used honey as an antibacterial ointment. the list goes on.

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 3:48 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 104

Excellent question, DB!

rosalind April 14th, 2012 at 3:50 pm

(thanks Larissa and all for a fabulous book salon. incredibly informative.)

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:50 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 104

The Salem witch trials were an aberration… or at least they should be. They did used torture, largely pressing, to get confessions.

Fear, distrust, moral certitude to the exclusion of everything else, abuse of power, tyranny… all lead to torture. Only unstable powers resort to torture as a method of interrogation as a means of verifying or reinforcing their already unstable power. Elaine Scarry’s book the Body in Pain explains this brilliantly.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:51 pm
In response to rosalind @ 107

Thank you so much! It’s been my pleasure. I’ve enjoyed this discussion and all these questions immensely.

BevW April 14th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

As we come to the end of this great Book Salon discussion,

Larissa, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and torture.

Jason, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Larissa’s website and book

Jason’s website (TruthOut.org)

Thanks all, Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow: Wade Rathke – Global Grassroots: Perspectives on International Organizing, Hosted by John Atlas (Seeds of Change)

If you want to contact the FDL Book Salon: FiredoglakeBookSalon@gmail.com

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

My thanks to Jason for hosting this and starting us off, and to Bev for coordinating so well! This has been a fabulous experience for me.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

I have to say that aside from people equating torture with the medieval era I have also observed people equating what they refer to as “true” torture with modern day Middle Eastern countries as well.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Thanks you Bev and Larissa! This has been such a great discussion and two hours flew by!

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

You’re right Jason. there is that tendency to situate torture as a tool of a barbarian Other, medieval or modern.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:54 pm

It certainly did! Have a good evening everyone!

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

A small caveat… my website is a little out of date, so you may want to hold off checking it until we can get it updated!

Jeff Kaye April 14th, 2012 at 3:55 pm

Thanks, Larissa, Jason, FDL, etc.

DWBartoo April 14th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 108

That does not speak well of our abberrational time, however “exceptional” we may be led to believe that it is, Larissa.

I must leave now, but wish to thank you for a most exceptional and informative Book Salon, Larissa, and thank you as well, Jason.

Much appreciated.

Please stop by again, Larissa, whenever you’ve the time and opportunity.

It has been a pleasure meeting you and your most stellar considerations.

DW

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 117

Thanks for stopping by, Jeff!

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 3:56 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 104

So it is rather a case of temporary “fashion”, such as occurred during the witch trials at Salem?

About the anatomy of a witch craze and its victims–it is true that people were tortured and encouraged to name others as participants in things such as witches sabbats.

This was limited, however, in scope. Usually the first victims were of the lower social classes, and as the flames licked up to accusations against those of higher social standing, the authorities would move to stop or suppress any additional charges. Harris found that only *two* nobles, for instance, were ever accused of witchcraft, and both were acquitted. The witchcraft hysteria produced mostly lower-class victims, even though it was the educated and the noble who might be tinkering with alchemy.

Harris says that if someone confessed under torture that he/she saw the local bishop or prince at the local sabbat, the result would have doubtless been to double-down on the torture to get them to *retract* that confession. There was a definite class pattern at work with who got accused and who got convicted.

-stewartm

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 3:57 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 118

Thanks for being here, DWB! Great to see you!

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Thank you DW and Jeff. Yes, I shall certainly have to check in on some of the other discussions. FDL does great work here!

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Thank you Larissa, for the fun, and the chance to dust off my moldy knowledge on these things.

-stewartm

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 3:59 pm
In response to stewartm @ 120

that’s largely true… certainly women were targeted quite a bit, and people who were deemed ‘outcasts’. This is a post-reformation phenomena, but it certainly does say something about the use of torture in those proceedings.

Larissa Tracy April 14th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to stewartm @ 123

It’s always good to exercise this history degrees!

AitchD April 14th, 2012 at 4:00 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 95

Since the Europe of the Middle Ages was considered Christendom, one could suppose that the fear of excommunication or its real threat kept most people from thinking about putting LSD in the wells or flying jetliners into tall buildings.

stewartm April 14th, 2012 at 4:05 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 125

My first history professor wanted us to remember three things from his class:

a) Germans weren’t Huns;

b) Serfs weren’t vassals;

c) I forgot what the third one was. :-)

stewartm, two out of three ain’t bad.

PeasantParty April 14th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Thanks to you Larissa. Your research will be a must read for all Peasants!

Jason, Keep up the wonderful work you do every single day.

Jason Leopold April 14th, 2012 at 4:15 pm
In response to PeasantParty @ 128

I appreciate the kind words very much :)

Thank you!

jasmine311 April 14th, 2012 at 4:40 pm
In response to Larissa Tracy @ 40

Actually I think this happened in the 18th century, 1757 to be exact, to the would be assassin of Louis XV who survived the attempt. The man’s name was Damiens and I think De Sade wrote about what happened to him.

tejanarusa April 14th, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Rats, I got here too late for the discussion. but I clicked on the image of the book, and found the publisher’s website…lots of very interesting books on what might be called “obscure” topics. Sadly expensive, though. I hope academic libraries are able to buy them.

Sorry I missed the salon.

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