Publication Date


Date of Final Oral Examination (Defense)


Type of Culminating Activity


Degree Title

Master of Arts in History



Major Advisor

Lisa McClain, Ph.D.


Erik J. Hadley, Ph.D.


Ellis (Skip) Knox, Ph.D.


Between the years of 1066 and 1119 CE, knights and their families in Western Europe rose from the highest stratification of the common folk to be included as the lowest incarnation of the nobility. This occurred primarily due to an emerging collective warrior identity among the nobility, the Catholic Church’s attempts to contain and sanction violence, and the implementation of the Three Estates political philosophy. This timeline challenges the dominant historical narrative on when knighthood transformed from a military rank into a social rank of nobility, which is usually placed sometime around the end of the 13th Century.

To justify this re-periodization, this study analyzes the accuracy of commonly-accepted translations of words used to describe knights and knighthood, arguing that historians have anachronistically applied modern ideas of noble knighthood to common warriors of the past. Utilizing primary sources such as histories of the First Crusade by contemporary chronicler’s Robert the Monk, and Guibert of Nogent, and other documents including the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, Carolingian Chronicles, and papal bulls, this study places knights and knighthood into a more accurate historical framework. This study is limited to where knighthood originated and flourished, primarily Western France and England and the surrounding areas.

Overall, this project puts the social transformation of knights and their families from commoners to nobles in its proper context. This thesis traces that change from the origins of knighthood, around the year 1,000, to its importation to England in 1066, and its important impact on the First Crusade, primarily in the form of the foundation of the military orders of the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar, which ultimately resulted in the elevation of knights from common soldiers to noble warriors.