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Earliest English Use of "Prisoner of War" Uncovered

Discussion in 'Military History' started by The_Historian, Jan 16, 2018.

  1. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    So far. ;)
    "The earliest known use of the term "prisoner of war" in England has been discovered by a historian at the University of Southampton.
    Court documents from 1357 show the term first used for the Count de Ventadour, captured at the Battle of Poitiers.
    "It's possible this early use of the phrase was prompted by the very large number of soldiers captured at Poitiers," says Dr Remy Ambuhl.
    This suggests a "new phrase linked to a new status", says Dr Ambuhl.
    But Dr Ambuhl says his research has shown that the legal "rights" attached to a medieval prisoner of war were not about protecting the captured soldier.
    Instead, this was about an "economic status", protecting the property rights of whoever held the prisoner.
    The historian says the origin of the phrase "prisoner of war" is completely different from modern ideas of international rules governing the treatment of captured soldiers.
    Medieval warfare had its own international market in the sale of prisoners, with such ransoms becoming a lucrative source of income for soldiers.
    The designation of "prisoner of war" status gave the "master" or owner of the prisoner legal protections over what had become valuable commodities.
    Dr Ambuhl says the term was first used as an assertion of private, financial rights, with later court cases also using the term "slave" to describe the relationship.
    This first appearance, earlier than any known previous records, appears in 1357 as "prisonnier de guerre", using the Anglo-Norman language used in 14th Century courts."
    www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-42690437
     
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  2. gtblackwell

    gtblackwell Well-Known Member Patron  

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    Barbara Tuchman has made reference, several times,to holding prisoners, particularly those of financial value usually attached to titles, for ransom. Your article expands that a bit and dates it. I appreciate this bit of history. I remember she describing a particularly gruesome event when a group of French knights were held for pay by the moors but the latter cut the hearts of their living squires to show mastery over the French. Paid to be in the 1 % even then! Ah, the good old days !
     
  3. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

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    reminds me of the "saying" - What's the difference between sexual harassment and flirting? Whether the woman is attracted to you or not"
    "What's the difference between slaves and Prisoners of War? Whether the captured person has money or not."
     
  4. TD-Tommy776

    TD-Tommy776 Man of Constant Sorrow Patron  

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    Depends on how you look at it. Seems to me that it paid to win the war.
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Well done the University of Southampton for finding an angle to get some medieval military history onto the front page. In fact , even better still spinning five year old satroy as news! Medieval warfare 'ransom market'

    Taking prisoners for ransom did not start with the battle of Poitiers - admittedly this battle brought a fine crop of Frenchmen to England and funded some fine English architecture. (The historically named Fleuir de Lys pub in St Albans was home to King John II of France for four years while the French stump[ed up a huge ransom.) Was this any different to the Duke of Austria imprisoning Richard I on his way back from the Crusades? What Happened To Prisoners Of War In Medieval England
     
  6. The_Historian

    The_Historian Pillboxologist Patron  

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    Nice one. Can't help wondering how one bloke managed to get captured and ransomed 17 times and still afford to live?

    Very true; think it's just a reference to the first contemporary use of the phrase in an English source, though it could have been made a lot clearer.
     
  7. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I suspect that ransom was central to the idea of a tournament. Tourney was an approximation to battle, but without anything at stake it was as meaningless as poker for matches.
     
  8. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    I'd say yes quite a bit different. Richard was returning from Crusade and not participating in a war against the Duke. I believe by the rules of the time he was even suppose to be immune from such acts due to the participation in the crusade.
     

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