Renaissance Military Memoirs: War, History and Identity, 1450-1600 (Warfare in History)

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This movement. As Kuperty explains, Renaissance memoirs represent that moment in the history of individualism when the individual was conscious enough of himself to write memoirs, but was also aware that such an enterprise was still largely unacceptable, and was therefore reserved and hindered in this enterprise. Ce mouvement. Introduction 9. This struggle was resolved with the victory of individualism, which enabled memoirs to be emancipated from history, and to be thereby transformed into autobiography. An alternative view interprets the appearance of the author as a protagonist primarily as a means of producing and guaranteeing truthfulness.

It ties the rise of autobiographical writings to the rise in the importance of eyewitnessing, and the tightening Cartesian connections between truth and self. It argues that in the Renaissance it became increasingly common to regard personal experience as the surest basis for truth, and hence writing in the first person became the best way to validate a texts truthfulness. Historians gave more importance to eyewitnessing in their writings, distin- guishing more carefully between primary and secondary sources, and developing a stronger bias in favor of the former.

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As the historians role as eyewit- ness-protagonist became more central, history gradually evolved into memoirs. This was especially evident in the case of crude memoirs written by uneducated authors who lacked the professional skills of historians. Such texts were normally considered far inferior to eloquent scholarly histories, and could be justified only by arguing that they were more truthful than scholarly histories, because unlike the latter, they were based on personal experience.

Kelley, Foundations of Modern Historical Scholarship, Dufournet, Destruction des mythes, 17; Zimmermann, Paolo Giovio, , , An analogous development occurred in early-modern philosophy, culminating with Descartes.

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For theories that view autobiography primarily as a means of producing and validating truth, see Gilmore, Policing Truth, 57, Whereas the individualistic view sees memoirs as a revolt against history, the eyewitnessing view sees them as a natural evolution of history. For the individualistic view, the borderline between lifestory and history in memoirs is a scene of violent struggle, in which the authors lifestory seeks to break away from history. According to this view, memoirs seek to define their authors lifestory as an individualistic sphere, distinct from history and independent of it.

This view fits memoirs into the story of the autonomous, violent and rebellious self; an active self that asserts itself through a struggle against the collective. In contrast, for the eyewitnessing view, the relations between history and lifestory are relations of mutual support: the authors lifestory guarantees the truthfulness of history, whereas history in its turn provides the meaning for recounting ones lifestory. This view fits memoirs into an alternative story of the self: a story of a more cooperative and affirming self; a cognitive self that exists primarily in relation to knowledge, and that supports and is supported by collective identities and truths.

Despite these important differences, both views share the same fundamental assumption, namely that memoirs are about the self.

Renaissance Military Memoirs: War, History and Identity, 1450-1600 (Warfare in History)

The individualistic theory holds that the key to understanding memoirs is the role of the memoirist as an individual seeking a place for his self and his lifestory vis--vis history; whereas the truth-production theory holds that the key to understanding memoirs is the role of the memoirist as an eyewitness, using his lifestory to guarantee historical truth.

Understanding where exactly the borderline between lifestory and history passes and what relations prevail across it is tantamount in their eyes to understanding memoirs, and would pinpoint the exact location occupied by memoirs on the historyautobiography continuum. Even more importantly, understanding this borderline would indicate the location and nature of that elusive modern grail: the self. Hence both views focus on locating this borderline, and exploring the relations existing along it: are there conflicts there or peaceful exchanges?

Renaissance Military Memoirs

Is the border stable or moving? Is it guarded and if so, how and by whom? Yet is this a good approach to reading texts such as Guyons? What characterizes Guyons text is precisely the absence of any borderline between lifestory and history.

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True, elements that can be classified as lifestory and as history are certainly present in this text, but there seems to be no kind of distinction or borderline between them. They are mixed together any which way, as if they were one and the same thing. If Guyons text was an isolated example, we could perhaps have dismissed it as the product of a particularly confused individual. However, the same confusion characterizes almost all Renaissance military memoirs. The memoirs of Robert de la Marck, lord of Florange, open in captivity.

Having been captured at the disaster of Pavia , Florange explains that since he had little to do in captivity, he decided to write the adventures that he had had and what he had seen and what had happened in his time from the age of eight years until the age of thirty-three years. Introduction He leaves home, and is attached to the court of the count of Angoulme the future Franois I.

Unlike Guyon, Florange gives us a comparatively detailed account of his entry into the world, as well as of the youthful games he played with Angoulme. Yet like Guyon he soon abandons himself, and moves to describe general events: the situation in Italy, the Genoese rebellion, the French military preparations, Louis XIIs campaign in Italy, and the battle of Agnadello In the campaign Florange re-appears as a protagonist.

From now onwards, and throughout most of the narrative, Florange oscillates back and forth between history and lifestory. He writes a military history of the Habsburg-Valois wars in the s and s, and though he normally devotes considerably more attention to events he participated in, he very often narrates events in which he did not participate. In particular, since the wars were often fought simultaneously on several fronts, Florange usually takes care to give the readers some idea of what was happening on all the different fronts. Sometimes he just records his presence in a particular place or contingent.

On other occasions, he includes much more detailed descrip- tions of his exploits. However, no matter how much attention he devotes to himself, it rarely adds up to a continuous story. Consequently his status in the text is more akin to that of just another important historical protagonist than to that of the texts center of attention, an impression strengthened by the fact that Florange always refers to himself in the third person as lAdventureulx.

A good example is Floranges account of the Italian campaign. Florange begins by recording that he was a member of the company his father sent to join the service of the Emperor at Verona. He then narrates various skirmishes that took place around Verona, without saying a word about what he personally did in them, or even if he personally participated in them.

He then narrates events that were happening in France at the time, reporting the marriage of the sister of the duke of Nemours with the king of Aragon, and the peace between Aragon and France. He then returns to Italy, recounting first the general political and strategic situation there, followed by some personal exploits: seeing that there was little fighting around Verona, lAdventureulx went with a dozen companions to Parma, where his uncle was stationed. Now comes a detailed description of a snowball fight the soldiers amused themselves with, and of how his uncle accidentally got hit in this mock battle by a stone, of which he died a month later.

After recounting his uncles sickness and their last conversation, Florange returns to narrate general events that happened throughout Italy at the time. Rather, it recounts the siege of Bologna.

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  5. Florange, II. In general, like Guyons text, Floranges text too seems to be an account neither of his life, nor of his military career, nor of general history. His domestic life is ignored almost completely, and of his public career we gain only discontinuous and incidental glimpses, separated by events at which he was not present. He often ignores even important services and exploits he performed, such as his conduct in various campaigns and battles. For instance, he recounts the battle of Ravenna at extreme length, but never even mentions that he was present at it. Equally telling is the fact that though he frequently recounts important events at which he was not present, he just as frequently ignores important events lacking a personal angle. Moreover, there are two occasions when Floranges text shows particularly disproportionate interest in him. First, he recounts in the minutest details the private war between the house of la Marck and Emperor Charles V in , which was a rather minor affair. Even more important is the closing section of the text.

    After Pavia, the narrative first outlines in brief various general affairs in France, Spain and Germany. Not only are his actions described in greater detail than almost anywhere else, but he also devotes some attention here to his family and his health, as well as to his thoughts and emotions, which he seldom if ever does elsewhere.

    Moreover, in this section the focus of the narrative is almost exclusively on himself, and little is said about general events. He writes hardly a word about the fate of Franois I and the extremely perilous state of France at the time. Whereas previously Florange found it worthwhile to recount numerous obscure incidents of little importance, he now ignores the greatest crisis of Franoiss reign. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that, being a captive, Florange could no longer influence general events as before. Nevertheless it is precisely now that he finally becomes the sole center of the narrative.

    Pavia was a point of both personal and national crisis, but it was also a point at which general history and Floranges own lifestory seemed to diverge completely. At this point of divergence, when the narrative has to make a choice, it chooses to follow Florange into captivity rather than going on to describe general events and the fate of France and its king. Thus the outer shell of the narrative the first few pages and the last twenty pages indicates that the narrative tells Floranges lifestory. Yet the hundreds of.

    See also I. Florange, I. What story Florange tells is as unclear as what story Guyon tells. Such confusion is present even in very short memoirs that deal with shorter periods. A good example is Villeneuves memoirs, which, like Floranges, were mostly written in captivity. In the introductory paragraph Villeneuve declares that his intention is to write of the coming of the king of France to the kingdom of Naples, of the deeds he performed there and of what happened after his departure. Villeneuve then picks up again the thread of his personal story, narrating in great detail his early days in captivity.

    However, he soon lets go of this thread, and becomes merely an eyewitness: we hear little about what befell him in prison, and instead he narrates a confused jumble of various news he heard while in prison. These tit-bits of news were obviously unreliable and incidental, and the resulting hodgepodge of stories does not add up to anything close to a history. Charles VIII. This makes it all the more strange that Villeneuve insists that his text is a history of the French involvement in Naples; that up until the siege of Trani the text is indeed a general history in which Villeneuve does not appear at all as a protagonist; and that even subsequently the main focus is on the news Villeneuve heard rather than on what befell him.

    An equally interesting case is the memoirs of Guillaume de Rochechouart. This text was meant for the eyes of the Rochechouart family alone. It is a very short text,. The texts other half is a chronological account of various events. It begins with an introductory paragraph about Rochechouarts birth and childhood, including events such as his fathers death and his mothers second marriage. Then comes a very brief account of general events in Rochechouarts actions during that time are not recorded, and we do not even know where he was at the time.

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    Subsequently he continues to focus mostly on general events, devoting to each year just a sentence or two, noting the most important events, even if he himself did not participate in them. He records a few domestic matters of his, but most references to himself are the bare mentions that he was present at this or that event.

    He is also in the habit of skipping over years and even decades, in which in his view nothing of importance happened for example, he jumps over the peacetime of The event to which he devotes most attention is the campaign in northern France, yet in his description of this campaign he never mentions himself at all.

    It is true that some Renaissance military memoirs are more coherently either a lifestory or a history. Yet even in such cases the two are always mixed to a surprising degree. Thus Elis Gruffydd wrote a voluminous world chronicle from creation to , in which his exploits and daily life and those of his comrades in the Calais garrison receive a somewhat disproportionate amount of attention.

    Sebastian Schertlins memoirs present an opposite case. Schertlin focuses on his own lifestory more consistently than most other memoirists. Nonetheless, his text contains numerous descriptions of general events, even events in which he did not participate. In particular, he is in the habit of oscillating back and forth between ostensibly personal and historical events, as if they are one and the same.