The Great Stirrup Controversy

With a name like the Great Stirrup Controversy, images spring to mind of some of the early silent films like The Great Train Robbery. However, this is nowhere as fun.

The Great Stirrup Controversy is according to the Wikipedia article, an “academic debate about the Stirrup Thesis, the theory that feudalism in Europe was largely the result of the introduction of the stirrup to cavalry”. This theory came about thanks to Lynn Townsend White, Jr in his book, Medieval Technology and Social Change.

Through this book he sees the stirrup as being the cause of feudalism but other historians disagree with this technological determinism. Some critics like Peter Hayes Sawyer and R.H. Hilton say that, “‘the most serious weakness in this argument is that the introduction of the stirrup is not in itself an adequate explanation for any changes that may have occurred. The Stirrup made new methods possible, not inevitable”‘.

Was the stirrup responsible for feudalism on its own? Probably not, but it did affect change during the medieval era in combat, fashion, and transportation.


Daniel Cissel (Word Count 176)

Leave a Reply