War was a source of wealth for a soldier in the late Middle Ages

War was a source of wealth for a soldier in the late Middle Ages

Research carried out by the University of Southampton has revealed that the practice of rescue was practiced among the soldiers during the Hundred Years War (1337 - 1453) and no, as was believed until now, it was reserved only for kings, knights and recognized characters.

After studying a large number of historical sources supporting this version of events, such as court records, financial documents, receipts, war orders, petitions, biographical texts, and even literary texts, Dr. Rémy Ambühl concluded that contracts reflecting the terms and conditions of the rescue were common among individual soldiers or between small groups of different sides. There were captors and captives of all ranks and the practice was accepted as a way to get rich during the war.

Dr. Ambühl explained that “patriotism was not an element that guaranteed recognition and men who joined the army under this premise could face death in the event of capture. However, under the terms of the ransom, the prisoners were less likely to be harmed and, in practice, it gave them a chance to get some money. An extra incentive to enlist”.

From the moment of capture, the prisoners became the individual responsibility of their captor, who was in charge of finding a suitable place and conditions for them and had to calculate the appropriate value for each prisoner and negotiate with them, their family members and their friends. In turn, inmates and their contacts worked to raise funds in exchange for their release.

Records show that the first evidence of an established ransom payment scale for the lowest part of the social hierarchy dates back to the Battle of Agincourt. Dr. Ambühl indicated that this could reflect an evolution of the rescue system in the first decades of the 15th century.

In the sixteenth century, ransom payment scales It was based on the wages of soldiers, and in the seventeenth century the state imposed a much more vigilant control of these practices.

The complete investigation of Dr. Rémy Ambühl about these facts can be found in his book, which has recently been published under the title Prisoners in the Hundred Years War: Ransom Culture in the Middle Ages.

Almost graduated in Advertising and Public Relations. I started to like history in 2nd year of high school thanks to a very good teacher who made us see that we have to know our past to know where the future takes us. Since then I have not had the opportunity to investigate more in all that our history offers us, but now I can take up that concern and share it with you.


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