The Treatment of Prisoners of War in the Middle Ages: Western European Examples

  • Andrzej Niewiński The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Military and Historical Laboratory of KUL
Keywords: Middle Ages; War; Prisoners


The Polish version of the article was published in Roczniki Humanistyczne 64 (2014), issue 2.

The present article indicates some examples of the circumstances and ways of taking prisoners of war into captivity during military conflicts, the different possibilities of treating them and some measures to release them. The article includes, among others, fixed gestures and signs that were used to manifest the intention of giving oneself into the hands of one’s opponent and the ways of treating other prisoners of war.

The examples cited herein, related to the captivity of kings, illustrate how different were the ways of treating prisoners of war, even of the same rank. Moreover, they show that some aspects of a politico-economic nature were superior to those indicated by the chivalric code. At the same time, the Crusades and close encounters with the Islamic world contributed to the considerable growth of sensibility to the fate of prisoners of war, which was expressed by the institutionalised (at least partially) procedure of giving freedom.


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