Jean Froissart (c.1337-c.1404) was the author of one of the great historical enterprises of the later Middle Ages. His Chronicles2 span almost the whole of the fourteenth century, concluding with the accession of Henry IV. Selective in viewpoint and emphasis as they undoubtedly are, they embrace many of the major political and military events of that period, and address at least some of its more serious social disturbances. This chapter3 focuses on the principal ways in which the discourse of the chronicle – as Froissart practised it – presents to the reader a lively but selective vision of social order, structure and hierarchy. A second aim is to show how Froissart’s text sometimes takes us one stage further forwards by subverting – momentarily, but no less unforgettably for that – the very image of social order that it purports to uphold. This important feature is explored through close analysis of an episode from Book II depicting a key moment in the struggle between Louis, count of Flanders, and the people of Ghent, under their leader Philip van Artevelde.
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