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From an old NY Review of Books review by Freeman Dyson (What Price Glory?):

… several historic battles in which foot soldiers defeated cavalry. In spite of these repeated calamities, the knight on his horse remained the emblem of military virtue throughout the long centuries of the Middle Ages. Kings and emperors spent their fortunes and gave land to their feudal depends to pay for knights and horses. In times of peace, the knights and horses exercised their military skills by competing with one another in splendid tournaments. The display of fine armor and equestrian skill became an end in itself, pursued by knights and armorers without much regard for military effectiveness. Making a grand spectacle in tournaments was more important than winning battles against peasants armed with bows and arrows. According to the customs of the Middle Ages, a knight who survived a defeat by peasants could usually return home without dishonor, after paying a ransom appropriate to his rank in the feudal hierarchy. The ransom might ruin his feudal estate but would not ruin his military career.

By the way, in other (totally unrelated readings of course) reading this week we learn that a great deal of gratitude should be paid by American revolutionaries to disease carrying parasites – which are very likely to have made a serious contribution to the British defeat by Yorktown. Of note as well, slavery was eliminated in England in the 1830s, and not until the 1860s in the States. Just sayin’


One Response to “Americans in Shining Armor”

  1. Kit says:

    Not to split hairs but slavery was never legal in England – Somersett’s Case. The 1833 act made slavery illegal in the British Empire. The Slave Trade Act, of 1807, outlawed the slave trade which, pretty much, stopped new slaves reaching the States.

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