Read The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages by Robert Bartlett Online


Seven hundred years ago, executioners led a Welsh rebel named William Cragh to a wintry hill to be hanged. They placed a noose around his neck, dropped him from the gallows, and later pronounced him dead. But was he dead? While no less than nine eyewitnesses attested to his demise, Cragh later proved to be very much alive, his resurrection attributed to the saintly entreatSeven hundred years ago, executioners led a Welsh rebel named William Cragh to a wintry hill to be hanged. They placed a noose around his neck, dropped him from the gallows, and later pronounced him dead. But was he dead? While no less than nine eyewitnesses attested to his demise, Cragh later proved to be very much alive, his resurrection attributed to the saintly entreaties of the defunct Bishop Thomas de Cantilupe.The Hanged Man tells the story of this putative miracle--why it happened, what it meant, and how we know about it. The nine eyewitness accounts live on in the transcripts of de Cantilupe's canonization hearings, and these previously unexamined documents contribute not only to an enthralling mystery, but to an unprecedented glimpse into the day-to-day workings of medieval society.While unraveling the haunting tale of the hanged man, Robert Bartlett leads us deeply into the world of lords, rebels, churchmen, papal inquisitors, and other individuals living at the time of conflict and conquest in Wales. In the process, he reconstructs voices that others have failed to find. We hear from the lady of the castle where the hanged man was imprisoned, the laborer who watched the execution, the French bishop charged with investigating the case, and scores of other members of the medieval citizenry. Brimming with the intrigue of a detective novel, The Hanged Man will appeal to both scholars of medieval history and general readers alike....

Title : The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages
Author :
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ISBN : 9780691126043
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 168 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The Hanged Man: A Story of Miracle, Memory, and Colonialism in the Middle Ages Reviews

  • Jan-Maat
    2019-04-24 05:45

    Of those ninety-eight prisoners condemned to death at the Chatelet of Paris in the years 1389-92, sixty-eight were hanged. Of the others, fourteen were burned, twelve decapitated, three buried alive, and one boiled in a cauldron.This is a good short little study that starts from one hanging, that of the Welsh rebel William Cragh (or the 'Scabby') who, apparently miraculously, survives his execution. This miracle was investigated by a Papal Commission collecting evidence for the canonisation process of the late Bishop of Hereford, Thomas de Cantilupe, who it was believed had intervened, as a good saint must, to save the man's life.From this incident the author moves out to discuss the canonisation process, the background of the colonial Welsh-English conflict in the South Wales Marches, the family backgrounds of William de Briouze - the Lord who had Cragh hanged, his wife, who asked her husband to be merciful, prayed to the Saint and took charge of Cragh's recovery, time and memory, as well as hanging as a punishment. Each of these themes could be expanded into a full sized study - Bartlett explores the colonialism angle on a European scale in The Making of Europe - (and the linguistic boundaries between the French speaking Briouzes and the Welsh speaking Cragh, the bilingual Friar bring From Memory to Written Record to mind) but here they are sketched in enough detail to give a rich interpretation of an ordinary medieval story of rebellion and punishment while keeping the book short.This book is a fascinating little window on to the past and a great example of how on occasions when there is evidence it can be worked over to illuminate another age.Bartlett works by taking the story and cracking open the roles, William de Briouze has to seen to be strong and decisive, being a great Lord doesn't give him agency, rather it is a script from which he may on occasion be allowed to improve, similarly his lady wife, was she really personally merciful? What he do know is that the wife of a Great Lord was expected to be merciful and to display kindness and Christian virtues, interceding on behalf of criminals was part of her job description, like wise the saint - saintly intervention to save a man's life was what saint's did it implied no political or legal comment on the injustice or injustice of Welsh rebellion against French speaking Lords bringing in Flemish settlers and English law.Hanging, literally, was more about display than killing, although death was a desirable side effect (well for some of those involved), unlike in recent times when hanging requires a strict relationship between weight and length of drop and a knotted noose to break the neck, in earlier times one was simply strung up on any more or less suitable looking vertical by anyone - sometimes a co-accused, or a passer-by, and one was left to dangle until death resulted possibly as a result of exposure or thirst. Occasionally the vertical might break, or the victim might survive for long enough that the authorities felt that they had received sufficient punishment and were prepared to accept a plea for mercy (as in this case). Survival naturally was attributed to supernatural intervention which as in this case led to the story being recorded by a canonisation investigation.A noble on the other hand had the right and expectation of being beheaded which while unfortunately fatal, it was relatively dignified - you didn't get small children pointing at you saying "Mummy! Daddy! Look at the bad man shitting himself! Yuck he stinks! Look at his black face and neck, lets throw stones at him!" While the parents look on ans say: "See what happens when you annoy Bill de Briouze, kids, look and learn".

  • Susan
    2019-05-15 09:44

    I have an overtly fussy, love/hate relationship with history books because many focus on things that simply don’t grab me. I think this is because I’m interested in political/military/technological history only as it informs the more intimate aspects of people’s lives. Sure, a group of people might have fought in a battle, but I’m more interested in what kind of spoons they used or, whether they used spoons at all. What did they eat? How did they keep clean? How did they greet each other? What was considered private? What was considered dangerous or profane? What was scary? What was comforting? What was tasteful? So Bartlett’s book is right up my alley. His is a careful examination of documentation generated by an investigation into a supposed miracle in fourteenth century England. Bartlett does a fine job of opening a window into the past on yummy things like how the medieval mind calculated time and distance, established veracity, controlled their emotional environment, and viewed rank, education, and privilege. More importantly, he uncovers why establishing the authenticity of a miracle would be so important to the social, cultural, and political fabric of these people’s lives. In a time when so few could write, the testimony of the witnesses (admittedly diluted because it was transcribed by a cleric, and translated from English/French/Welsh into Latin) is as close as anyone can come to “hearing” a diverse cross section of medieval society “speak”. Since the medieval Church, catholic and universal, was a well-oiled machine in which mid-to-high ranking clerics were hardcore civil servants, I appreciate how Bartlett demonstrates the order and efficiently of the judicial methodology of the period. This bureaucracy was the legacy of Rome, and served as the glue binding the disparate peoples of medieval Europe together. I am continually dismayed that many practicing and/or lapsed Catholics do not understand the political/judicial machine behind the clerical bling that still exists in the Church today. In summing up I’d say that I like this book best because I feel like I’ve actually met some of the people described in it. This feeling of intimacy appeals to me. Perhaps someone should write a scratch-and-sniff book on the Middle Ages for experiential folk like me. Though, I fear the scent samples would be a tad too overpowering for my modern, occidental nose.

  • Kristin
    2019-05-08 10:55

    Fascinating microhistory - the story of a man returning to life after being hanged (twice!) is examined as part of a canonization trial. The interplay between the stories of the different witnesses (more than fifteen years later) is really intriguing. Like any good microhistory, the book uses this event as a point of intersection to talk about a number of important issues. While it is an extremely engaging read in parts, I would say its biggest failing is trying to do too much and losing its focus, which varies from the hanging itself to the canonization hearing to the inquisitors and notaries who managed the hearing. The final "aftermath" chapter, focusing on the later experience of the inquisitors and notaries, bored me - I was hoping to hear about the later life of the hanged man, who was more of a major character through the beginning of the piece. Still, if you're interested in an almost wacky story about a miraculous survival, it's well worth a read.

  • Simon
    2019-04-26 08:49

    This book recounts the facts around one part of the canonization investigation for Thomas de Cantilupe, bishop of Hereford: his apparent (posthumous) role in reviving from the dead William Cragh, a Welsh rebel hanged by the local baron. (The hanging probably occurred in 1290; the investigation into it, in 1307.) For such a delectably lurid story, the book manages to be somewhat uninspired. A chapter on Space and Time, for example, makes some remarks on the ways in which the witnesses gave estimates of distances and durations, but there is little of interest revealed by this survey. Perhaps little could be revealed - I'm suspicious of generalizations about the something-or-other [medieval, oriental, Jewish] mind that are often based on such evidence - but that just goes to show that there's less to be squeezed out of the proceedings than advertised.One interesting fact I learned was that it was standard medieval practice to round up numerical estimates to even numbers. I imagine this is true today as well and I wonder what the psychological basis for it is (if there is one!).

  • Stacy Croushorn
    2019-05-06 05:50

    This really should be called "The Canonization of Thomas de Cantilupe". Because that is what this book is all about. The "hanged man" is just one of his miracles that is attributed to him. The author doesn't talk about possible reasons why this man was seemingly dead, but then slowly came alive again. He didn't talk about wounds or medical practice at the time. In fact, very little was said about the "Hanged Man". But a Lu was said about Thomas. That's the main theme of the whole book, Thomas and how he became a saint.

  • Candace Gregory-Abbott
    2019-04-23 07:44

    Amazing story. How have I been a medievalist this long and I have not heard of this story? In 1289 a Welshman was hanged. But he came back to life...supposedly by prayers to Bishop Thomas de Cantilupe. At the canonization trial for de Cantilupe, the story of this miracle is retold. Issues of faith, language, colonization, identity, marriage, and gender: this story has it all.

  • Aidan Nancarrow
    2019-04-30 05:01

    Though compact, this micro-history is one of the most thorough and far-reaching surveys of the medieval mind I have ever read. It's a shame it is not more readily available, since it would be a far better introduction to the Middle Ages than many existing textbooks.

  • rameau
    2019-05-15 02:54

    Historical thriller and better yet, it's true.

  • Ben
    2019-04-28 10:53

    One of the best history books I have read. Absolutely fascinating account of the case of William Cragh that delves deeply into the lives of all involved. Detailed and compulsive reading.

  • Miguel
    2019-05-05 05:45

    Fantastic book about our perception and construction of time/space and the frailty (for lack of a better word) of the human memory. Highly recommended.

  • Stephen Morris
    2019-05-12 04:04

    Excellent tour of medieval lifeExcellent guided walk through all the aspects of the miracle involving William Cragh and the canonization of Thomas de Cantilupe.