Lust for liberty (Cohn)Justyna Wubs-Mrozewicz
We like to stress the variety of medieval conflict in our #retroconflictsinspirations but sometimes conflict is just what you expect: revolts, riots, and rebellions. This week’s microreview is about that kind of conflict, Samuel K. Cohn’s ‘Lust for Liberty’.
Subtitled ‘the politics of social revolt in Europe 1250 to 1425’, the book compares the testimonies of many medieval chroniclers to present a picture of group conflict in both its qualitative and quantitative dimensions. One of the first comparative studies of this kind of conflict, the book’s quantitative elements provide valuable context for our project, charting the relative growth and decline of different kinds of conflicts, using a typology of conflicts based on their motivations. The comparison highlights the city as the main stage for medieval conflict, with 90% of Cohn’s revolts happening in urban settings. In its qualitative dimensions, the books also prefigures some of our interest in how strategies and tactics affected conflicts. Cohn emphasizes the economic and social determinants of conflict, but he is also sensitive to the ways that conflicts are shaped by their participants. Even as we look at conflicts outside the realm of political revolt, Lust for Liberty’s account of the skill of managing communication and symbolism during a conflict offers both an valuable example and an illuminating comparative point for our history of conflict management.