For a generation of scholars gender has been an important analytical category for the study of the Middle Ages.1 It has come to be accepted that gender is socially constructed; that is, that masculinity and femininity do not exist as fixed organic categories, but are produced socially and vary. It has also been recognized in recent work that we must be prepared to think in terms of a whole series of masculinities and femininities. Much attention has been focused on medieval women in recent years, but although this work is extremely valuable it has not really been about gender; it has served to ‘add’ women to the historical picture, but has lacked insight into the relational aspect of gender identity (the ways, that is, in which men and women were defined in relation to one another), and the various ways in which gender identity was formed and reproduced. To develop the study of gender in the Middle Ages we need to move beyond the separate study of women, and in order to do so we have to address the gendered identity of men. There is a growing awareness that medieval men, and medieval masculinities, equally require theorizing and detailed analysis. This volume is the first multi-disciplinary contribution to that endeavour written for students of medieval history.2 It proceeds through a series of case
studies ranging in time from the fourth to the sixteenth century, which draw on documentary and literary sources, and on the evidence of archaeology and material culture, from England, France, Italy, Germany, Byzantium and Scandinavia. Insights into medieval masculinities are offered from legal, political, ecclesiastical, social, literary and archaeological perspectives. The diversity of evidence and viewpoints presented enables the contributors to the collection to expose a myriad of masculinities. No one methodological or theoretical approach predominates in the collection, and this allows the contributors, and the reader, to explore the multi-faceted nature of male experience and identity in the Middle Ages.