The genesis of chivalry project receives £137,000 in funding


David Crouch of the University of Hull will be able to explore the origins of chivalry in the Middle Ages after being award a Research Fellowship of £137,629 from the Leverhulme Trust.

The genesis of chivalry: conduct in western European society 1000-1350 is a research project that will examine medieval texts to show how this code of conduct began and evolved in the high Middle ages, becoming a key feature of the behaviour of knights and elites during this period.

Chivalry as a concept first appeared around 1200, becoming a code of conduct which could be taught to aspiring aristocrats.  Chivalry was idealistic: it demanded high moral standards and ethical conduct towards the disadvantaged and weak in society.  The chivalrous man turned his back on luxury and parade, embraced hardship and pursued high standards of loyalty and honesty.

Professor Crouch comments that “this Research Fellowship will enable me to explore what is still a major historical question – how can we account for the genesis of chivalry and hence the formulation of conscious ‘nobility’ in medieval society?

“The idea is to analyse what was thought to be acceptable elite conduct in the century before what we call ‘Chivalry’ emerged as an explicit code of noble conduct for men in the 1220s. I will attempt to explain how what were, until then, widely observed values and behaviours suddenly hardened into a code that was published, discussed, vilified, reformed and analysed for the rest of the middle ages and beyond.




“The first stage of my research will be to produce translations of twelfth-century French, Latin and Occitan texts about male and female conduct – none of which are currently available in English translation, and some of which have never been published. The study will look at medieval conduct in its earlier dimensions rather than its heyday and decline, as most other historians have done.

“I will also look at the neglected question of whether a parallel female code of conduct existed for noble women, despite there being norms of behaviour for the elite females in society.”

Professor Alison Yarrington, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, added “The University of Hull has a distinguished tradition of research excellence and innovation in History and I am delighted that Professor David Crouch’s ground-breaking research, exploring the significant historical question of the genesis of chivalry in medieval society, is recognised in the Leverhulme Trust’s award of a Major Research Fellowship. Whilst David devotes himself entirely to his research, the terms of the award allow us to make a replacement appointment for the duration of the Fellowship.”

The Leverhulme Trust announced their list of 2012 Major Research Fellowships earlier this week. Other projects related to the Middle Ages include The English Parish, c.1290-c.1535 for Robert Swanson of the University of Birmingham, Christianity in fragments:  relics in medieval perspective for Julia Smith of the University of Glasgow, and Italian vernacular classics and textual scholarship, 1270-1870 for Carlo Caruso of Durham University.