The Legend of Bouvines

Georges Duby

translated from the French by Catherine Tihanyi
University of California Press 1990 [1973]
A book review by Danny Yee © 1998
In 1214 King Philip of France met and defeated the Emperor Otto in Flanders, in the battle of Bouvines. In The Legend of Bouvines Georges Duby writes about this battle, and the legends which sprang from it, from the perspective of an anthropologist. After describing the background to the battle, he presents an edited version of a contemporary account (that of William the Breton). This is followed by a general commentary on the ideology of peace, war, and battle in the twelfth century. Duby then analyses the evolution of the legends that sprang from Bouvines — in the centuries following the battle and, after its 18th century revival, in modern French historiography. Some of the sources for the battle are included as an appendix.

The Legend of Bouvines has a rare immediacy. Duby writes in the present tense, with a polished but effective prose, and brings alive both the ideals and the realities of warfare in high medieval France.

May 1998

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%T The Legend of Bouvines
%A Duby, Georges
%M French
%F Tihanyi, Catherine
%I University of California Press
%D 1990 [1973]
%O hardcover, bibliography, index
%G ISBN 0520062388
%P 234pp, 12pp b&w photos