Some people like to take things apart to analyze them. I like to analyze things to put them together differently.
William Marshall (1147-1219), who I have mentioned before, is the subject of four biographies sitting on my desk, which I am reading concurrently.
William Marshal by Sidney Painter, c. 1933
William Marshal: Flower of Chivalry by Georges Duby, c. 1984
William Marshall: Knighthood, War and chivalry, 1147-1219, by David Crouch, c. 1990, 2002
William Marshal Earl of Pembroke, by Catherine A. Armstrong, c. 2006
and coming soon to a library near me, a book on lives that overlapped the Marshall's:
The Beaumont Twins" The Roots and Branches of Power in the Twelfth Century, by David Crouch, c. 2008
I am to the point where Richard Lionheart has just returned from the Holy Land - in all four books. I read a section in one, read the same material, written from a different perspective in another, then in the next and so on. Since much of what is written is drawn from documents created during William Marshall's life or shortly thereafter, there is repetition in reading this way. However, I like to be able to compare what different scholarly authors think important to emphasize, or not, and what slant - if any - they give it.
Since William's is the best-documented life of his times in the knightly class, much of the culture - the expectations and requirements, comes through the long expanse of years from then to now. I find myself pondering weapons in the Middle Ages, and how it took years of training and mentoring before a man was allowed to don a sword. Once a sword was earned, the right to carry it came with clear accountability to someone with higher power - someone who would chastise the knight if he misused his weapons.
I think about how in my own era of freedom, any adult with a little money can purchase a deadly weapon with less training and testing than it takes to get a license to drive a car. It is as if in William's day, if they had tested and trained the squires on how to ride a horse for months, and then just handed them a big sword at the end with a wink and a nod, "oh, we know you will use it responsibly!".
I believe William and his peers would find my world quite terrifying - rampaging anarchy.