Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How Great were Great Horses: The Myth That Just Won't Die

  I was shocked, and dismayed, to hear someone at IMC Leeds make a comment about monstrously large, draft-horse-like destriers.

Not what I'd want to ride to war.

    I shouldn't really be surprised. This myth is pervasive, heavily supported by prior histories, and catches the urban imagination, all of which makes it difficult to stamp out. The repetition of this exact myth, by a scholar whom I greatly respect, is what convinced me to go into research five years ago. That was more than ten years after the publication of John Clark's The Medieval Horse and its Equipment and Ann Hyland's The Horse in the Middle Ages, which I had thought settled the "argument."  Here I will talk about how this myth developed, how it was perpetuated, and some of the evidence put forth to dismantle it. I am, in part, drawing from my first "real" research paper, but I welcome the opportunity to revisit it and update my thoughts on the topic (despite cringing at old writing and some of my own assumptions and generalizations). Because this is turning out rather longer than I had intended (after all, this is a discussion with a long history of its own) I have broken it into separate posts.

Part 1: Where did this idea come from?

Part 2: The More-Modern Historiography

Part 3: "New" Views

   

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