Living by the Sword: Weapons and Material Culture in France and Britain, 600–1600

Kristen Neuschel


Cornell University Press

Sharpen your knowledge of swords with Kristen B. Neuschel as she takes you through a captivating 1,000 years of French and English history. Living by the Sword reveals that warrior culture, with the sword as its ultimate symbol, was deeply rooted in ritual long before the introduction of gunpowder weapons transformed the battlefield.

Neuschel argues that objects have agency and that decoding their meaning involves seeing them in motion: bought, sold, exchanged, refurbished, written about, displayed, and used in ceremony. Drawing on evidence about swords (from wills, inventories, records of armories, and treasuries) in the possession of nobles and royalty, she explores the meanings people attached to them from the contexts in which they appeared. These environments included other prestige goods such as tapestries, jewels, and tableware―all used to construct and display status.

Living by the Sword draws on an exciting diversity of sources from archaeology, military and social history, literature, and material culture studies to inspire students and educated lay readers (including collectors and reenactors) to stretch the boundaries of what they know as the "war and culture" genre.