ethnic stereotyping in twelfth-century paris

this is fun!

from “Ethnic Stereotyping in Twelfth-Century Paris” in Difference and Identity in Francia and Medieval France [pgs. 117-118 – links added by me]:

“To what extent, then, did the young clerics in Paris resort to ethnic stereotyping…. The most famous and frequently quoted passage bearing testimony to stereotyping can be found in book VII of bishop and preacher Jacques de Vitry‘s (c. 1170-1240) ‘Historia occidentalis’, under the heading ‘De statu Parisiensis civitatis’. In a tirade against the immorality of students, who in Jacques de Vitry’s opinion gave preference to gambling and prostitutes rather than devoting themselves to serious study…”

big surprise there!

“…the author laments that the scholars from different regions not only ‘quarreled among themselves about the various sects or about academic discussions, but that they rudely hurled a multitude of insults and sneers at each other, their diversity of origin causing mutual dissension, envy and disparagement.’ Jacques de Vitry goes on to relate that the clashes among students from different ethnic backgrounds were frequently accompanied by verbal abuse in the form of ethnic stereotyping and ridicule. Most of the ascriptions in Jacques de Vitry’s catalogue refer to the vices of ethnic groups, stating that:

“‘the English were drunks and tail-bearers, the French arrogant, weak and effeminate, the Germans furious, with disgusting manners, the Normans vain and boastful, the Poitevins traitors and adventurers. The Burgundians were reputed to be vulgar and stupid. They reproached the Bretons for being frivolous and fickle, often teasing them about Arthur’s death. They called the Lombards greedy, malicious and cowardly; the Romans seditious, violent and avaricious; the Sicilians tyrannical and cruel; the Brabanters bloodthirsty, arsonists, brigands and rapists; the Flemish self-indulgent, rich, gluttonous, and weak and soft as butter.’

“Jacques de Vitry goes on to remark that as a result of the verbal abuse, the students often came to blows.”

and from footnote 14:

“Another example of a clash between students from different ethnic backgrounds, though this time in Reims and not in Paris, is related in the Vita of Adelbertus, where the students enter into a snowball fight and hurl abuse at each other.”

(^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. jacques de vitry telling everyone to behave!)

12 Comments

  1. “‘the English were drunks and tail-bearers, the French arrogant, weak and effeminate, the Germans furious, with disgusting manners, the Normans vain and boastful, the Poitevins traitors and adventurers. The Burgundians were reputed to be vulgar and stupid. They reproached the Bretons for being frivolous and fickle, often teasing them about Arthur’s death. They called the Lombards greedy, malicious and cowardly; the Romans seditious, violent and avaricious; the Sicilians tyrannical and cruel; the Brabanters bloodthirsty, arsonists, brigands and rapists; the Flemish self-indulgent, rich, gluttonous, and weak and soft as butter.’

    Damn! Some of those stereotypes are still current!

    Reply

  2. “Tail-bearers’ means gossipers presumably?”

    Yeah, tale, probably goes with being drunks.

    Reply

  3. @chris – “‘Tail-bearers’ means gossipers presumably?’

    no, tail apparently meant tail! (~_^)

    pg. 128: “Two examples from Jacques de Vitry’s catalogue stand out as particularly derisory. The students in Paris apparently poked fun at the English by alluding to the image of the English as tail-bearers, the *caudatus anglicus* or, in French, Anglois coue.[57] Certainly by the 1190s, this gibe had become proverbial since Richard of Devizes remarked that among the crusading contingents at Messina, the word *caudati* was a term of abuse for the English.”

    footnote 57: “This was an extremely popular joke in the twelfth century. It arose from the tale, first told at the end of the eleventh century in Goscelin of Saint-Bertin’s (c. 1035-1107) account of the conversion of England by St Augustine in 597, in which the inhabitants of Dorchester or Rochester attached fish-tails to the saint’s garment in order to drive him away. As a punishment, the inhabitants and their descendants were afflicted with tails. The legend was repeated by William of Malmesbury (c. 1090-ca. 1142) in his ‘Gesta pontificum Anglorum’, and soon into cropped up in vernacular epic history, such as in Wace’s ‘Brut’ in 1155, or in the verses of twelfth-century Provencal poet Piere d’Auvergne.

    Reply

  4. lol, actual tails. when i googled, it prompted tale-bearer so i assumed tail was a typo

    Reply

  5. The “ethnic” rioting in medieval Oxford pitted Southerners + Irish vs Northerners + Scots. The balance presumably changed as universities were founded in Scotland, and as Scots studying abroad increasingly went to France and then the Low Countries rather than England.

    Reply

  6. @grey – “lol, actual tails. when i googled, it prompted tale-bearer so i assumed tail was a typo”

    (~_^) i thought maybe it was some medieval way of calling someone a monkey or something — “you english monkey!” (^_^)

    Reply

  7. @szopeno – “I never understood why so many people think ‘nations were creation of XIX century nationalism'”

    nope! me, neither. (^_^) other way around, right?

    Reply

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