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John D Salt

Heh, and yet you still managed to write fungible while stating that you would not mention fungible again! 🙂 I’m now very intrigued by what this idea is.

The interchangeability of fear and fatigue — see the thread in the Modern forum about the soldier’s load, where I drone on at length on the matter.

Not sure how applicable this is to early medieval warfare, though — it’s one of my large collection of unpopular opinions that combat morale worked quite differently before the advent of pointy bullets, nitrocellulose propellants, high explosives, and the empty battlefield.

You’ll not find that opinion unpopular in this quarter. I’m firmly in the camp that holds that people thought very differently back then. That extends to how and why they waged war, and perhaps also to their willingness to put themselves in harm’s way, although it’s all a very complicated topic.

Ah, see, I think (on the basis of no particularly good evidence) that people thought, and perhaps more importantly felt, in much the same way as they do now; the way the brain and the endocrine system function is the same as it ever was (unless you buy that “breakdown of the bicameral mind” shtick, and that places its claims well before the medieval). However modern (last 100 years or so) combat has, under the influence of industrial-age technology, become a different thing, which pushes its participants to extremes of psychological endurance never previously required. That’s why psychological casuaties aren’t really a thing until the arrival of “shell shock” in WW1 (although “soldier’s heart” from the ACW may have been a precursor).

The shock effect of seeing/hearing something dramatic and outside one’s previous experience is surely not to be underestimated. Think of people in primitive societies, whether medieval or in C19 colonial conflicts, who may never have left their quiet village and never heard anything louder than a church bell/gong or a cow in labour – and confront them with explosions, rockets, massed drums or trumpets, disciplined ranks of redcoats … I reckon that would affect my morale.

I would have thought that for most of history, the experience of warfare was much closer to the experience of civil life than it has been recently. People woud have been much more accustomed to death, and to killing their own food, and sports would have been considerably more violent. Nor would they have had Hollywood presenting them with a sanitised, glamourised, and wildly misleading version of warfare — the complaint that war is nothing like the films is, I think, one that has been voiced almost since there have been films.

All the best,