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The Great Stirrup Controversy

The Great Stirrup Controversy

By Paul J. Gans

Published Online (2002)

The great stirrup controversy began as a debate over the origins of “feudalism”. In 1887 Heinrich Brunner proposed that feudalism was a side-effect of the development of mounted shock warfare by the Franks. It became the great stirrup controversy when in 1962 Lynn White Jr. proposed that it was the stirrup that produced both feudalism and cavalry. Though the controversy lingers in some quarters, Bernard Bachrach put the idea to rest in 1970 with a successful attack on many of White’s (and Brunner’s) basic points. At present it seems clear that stirrups did not cause the invention of feudalism, and, in fact, they seem to be a convenience and not a necessity for mounted shock warfare.

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