This paper examines the validity of the autonomous judicial ordeals, – ordeals in which the judicial decision was made by examining the accused’s corporeal response – as legal devices. It argues that scalding ordeals were successful in stating guilt or innocence, because they acted as stress-detectors.This assumption finds its proof in recent medical research undertaken by scientists from the Ohio State University who have investigated the effects of psychological stress on wound healing. Published in 1995, this research’s outcome demonstrates that wound healing in stressed subjects lasts significantly longer than in unstressed. Therefore, it may be assumed that other types of autonomous ordeal are also based on the influence of stress on human body.
Medieval English writers produced few manuscripts of instruction in personal arms, but what there remains, differ substantially from their Continental counterparts. This has implications for our understanding of elite interests in martial knowledge, developments in procedural and pragmatic writing, and it contradicts previous studies of technical writing, books of secrets, and popular and practical literature. These English fight-texts also share many traits with English dance choreographies. This suggests a shared source in oral and aural pedagogy. This paper describes the texts, their strategies, their relationship to Continental counterparts, and shared traits with medieval English dance literature and its significance.
Under Richard II, England saw a revival of the judicial practice of trial by battle, particularly in cases involving accusations of treason. This paper analyses trial by battle as a legal and social practice against a wider framework of shifting conceptions of knighthood and contested definitions of treason. Using chronicle accounts and documentary sources including a rare extant record of an appeal of treason in the Court of Chivalry, it will examine the ways knightly status and chivalric manhood were constructed and performed through the textual and material preparations for a trial by battle. It will also consider how the carefully constructed self-representation of knighthood could be imperilled and undone through the combat itself and its judicial consequences.