This paper deals with the question, how an abstract practice like ‘violence’ can be measured. On a methodological level, there are two possibilities: On the one hand, a quantitative approach that tries to determine homicide rates allegedly allowing comparisons over regions and time. On the other hand, there is a qualitative approach that analyses key concepts like ‘cruelty’ in order to define the limits of acceptable violence. However, both approaches have clear shortcomings. This article proposes another perspective: Using the example of France in the later Middle Ages, it scrutinises contemporary ideas of violence as they were expressed in chronicles and treatises. By focussing on decidedly negative descriptions of violent acts, we can pinpoint several characteristics that show which cultural aspects were of special importance for the contemporaries, e. g. the social standing of the people involved, the context of the act itself as well as the physical integrity of the nobles’ bodies.
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