Thursday, March 8, 2012

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in the Middle Ages

There's a really interesting article over here on the translated edition of ScienceNordic worth reading about for those interested in the psychology of warfare in the soldiers and knights of the medieval era. The article is a bit brief, but it discusses the depth of analysis currently being put into studying the undertones of medieval literature and the way of the fighter during the bloodier periods of the Middle Ages. I thought it was interesting that the researcher Heeboll-Holm (sorry, spelling limited to my poor command of alt characters) suggested that the common perception among students of this period was that of the knight as a violent psychopath (presumably from interpreting literary sources of the period) who was overly glorified. I was largely under the impression that there was a fair amount of aggrandized glorification, but far less aware of the modern perception of this also equating such conduct to psychopathic proclivities.

Anyway, for anyone who has ever thought to themselves, "boy after killing hundreds of vile monsters and foes, my fighter ought to have a bit of psychological scarring to go with those extra feats and HPs," this article might have some bits of interest. In fact, the entire concept of PTSD that those who deal with violence as a way of living must deal with is something that RPGs all too often ignore in favor of the mythic idealism of our protagonist PCs...well, except maybe for Call of Cthulhu, I guess!


  1. So, in order to be able to deal with the violence of combat it's best to be a zealot?
    I guess that makes some sense.
    There's a book I've been reading, 'The Better Angels of Our Nature' by Steven Pinker. Among other things it suggests that life in earlier times was generally rougher, crueler... and death was a much more familiar matter than it is now... along with an absolute belief in the Hereafter. So that violence was more commonplace and accepted in the lives of everyone, not just soldiers.
    So not quite the same as our modern kids who leave the (relatively) peaceful lands of small town U.S.A. and head out into war.

  2. I'll have to look that book up, it sounds interesting. I imagine that life (and longevity, prosperity, and so forth) were regarded in a profoundly different manner just a few centuries ago. Even reaching the ripe old age of 40 in the Middle Ages was an accomplishment for most; if death by violence didn't get you, then disease and other ill-understood ailments did. The psychology of death as an ever-present factor in one's life has to have a profound outlook on how people react to their environment, as well as interpet and try to understand it; small wonder that religious faith was so strong! Like you say, now we have some pretty comfy lifestyles, highly sanitized and shielded from the harsher elements of life. This isn't (shouldn't be?) a bad thing, except for the key problem that our modern world still isn't universally up to par on the "soft and cushy" approach to life, I suppose...we still need those guys who will pick up a sword (gun) and hack apart the barbarians at the gates for us....!