I am a historian of early modern Europe at Duke University. Most of my published research has focused on various aspects of aristocratic life in France – on clientage networks, on women and warfare, on oral culture and material culture. In my work, I make use of letters, household accounts, muster rolls, inventories of clothing, jewels, furniture and, most recently, weapons from fifteenth- and sixteenth-century noblemen and women. My current project and past projects include:
Living by the Sword
This book-length essay centers on the period 1400-1600 and asks the question: how was “modern” war made culturally possible? I argue that analysis of material culture, especially the lives of swords, enables us to see that warrior culture had changed profoundly even before the introduction of gunpowder weapons transformed the battlefield. The change in warfare over time – which we have labeled modernization - was a cultural, not simply a technological or political process.
About the Image: Sword of French King Francis I, taken from him by troops of the Spanish king when he was captured at the Battle of Pavia (1525) – still on display in Madrid.
Word of Honor:
Interpreting Noble Culture in Sixteenth-Century France
Cornell University Press
In this boldly innovative synthesis of political history and interdisciplinary social history, Kristen B. Neuschel revises our understanding of politics in early modern Europe. Drawing on the methods of the linguist and the ethnographer, Neuschel shows that early modern nobles must, like the common people of that period, be approached as having a mentality very different from our own. In particular, she argues that the world view of these nobles was shaped by their still largely oral culture, and that historians must take this into account if they are to understand, for example, the nobles' volatile loyalties and their close attention to seemingly trivial moments of insult and self-aggrandizement.