The feuding spectrum: From the mountains of Albania to the court of Charles v

Edward Muir*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


At the end of an interdisciplinary conference on "Feud in Medieval and Early Modern Europe," held in Aarhus, Denmark in 2003, the participants realized we could not agree on a definition of the feud, and we were left with a certain "definitional incoherence." In the hope that scholarship can make progress, this paper proposes to build upon the Denmark conference. This paper suggests that the feud should be understood as a spectrum of behaviors and values. Part of the task is to identify the boundaries of the feuding spectrum, so that all acts of reciprocal violence do not collapse into it. At one end of the spectrum were those acts most distant from the power of the state, exemplified by the customary law of the Kanun of the Albanian mountains. At the other end of the spectrum might be cases of feuding that hid under the blanket of the ragione dello stato and statutory law, cases in which the laws of the monarch repudiated private justice in favor of public norms but that in practice allowed certain privileged persons to continue to pursue feuds. The paper examines the role of Emperor Charles V in the assassination of Lorenzino de' Medici, himself the assassin of Duke Alessandro de' Medici, the Emperor's son-in-law. In between these two extremes were numerous examples of perpetrators of violent acts who negotiated their way along the spectrum to maximize the chances of success during a period of deep social conflict over the honorable and legal ways to redress grievances. There is a certain paradox in my thesis: although the customary codes of the feud implied rigid obligations to maintain honor, feuding parties made choices about where to situate themselves on the spectrum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalActa Histriae
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • Albanian Kanun
  • Assassination
  • Emperor Charles V
  • Feud

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History


Dive into the research topics of 'The feuding spectrum: From the mountains of Albania to the court of Charles v'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this