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Hostages in the Middle Ages - Oxford Scholarship Online
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Hostages in the Middle Ages

Adam J. Kosto


In medieval Europe, hostages were given, not taken. They were a means of guarantee used to secure transactions ranging from treaties to wartime commitments to financial transactions. In principle, the force of the guarantee lay in the threat to the life of the hostage if the agreement were broken; but while violation of agreements was common, execution of hostages was a rarity. Medieval hostages are thus best understood not as simple pledges, but as a political institution characteristic of the medieval millennium, embedded in its changing historical contexts. In the early Middle Ages, hostage ... More

Keywords: Middle Ages, suretyship and guarantee, laws of war, political communication, ransom, captivity, treaties, childhood, kingship

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2012 Print ISBN-13: 9780199651702
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012 DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199651702.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Adam J. Kosto, author
Professor of History, Columbia University