My thesis focuses on the written laws of Anglo -Saxon kings called dooms. Every time I start explaining just why on Earth I chose such an obscure theme for my thesis I am met with mild bewilderment and polite curiosity.
The truth is, I've always been interested in history, particularly the medieval period. But not the romanticized and distorted version of the modern views of popular culture: King Arthur, The legend of the Holy Grail comes to mind instantly.
Instead I'm interested in immersing myself in the culture and social norms of the period I'm researching. I try to understand what motivated these people to behave as they did. What did they value and respect?
In honour cultures, no surprise here: it was honor. The highest value of all, more precious than life itself. Coming from today's society this is a shocking discovery. How can someone value their honour more than their life. And not just in heroic epic tales, but in actual real mundane life. People were perfectly willing to die for a trivial matter.
I give you an excerpt from an author I have come to respect immensely and who is far more versed in the intricate art of writing:
Honor was what provided the basis for counting for something, for you being listened to, for having people have second thoughts before taking your land or raping you or your daughter. It even governed how you spoke, how loudly, how often, and to whom and when, and whether you were attended to when you did; it governed how you held your shoulders, how tall you stood - literally, not figuratively - and how long you could look at someone or even dare to look at him at all.
William Ian Miller, Eye for an Eye