Women of History suggestion

The Women of History event reminded me of something that I feel not many people talk about, and that is the fact that nowadays, we know women also participated in medieval warfare. Of course, they didn’t have as much participation as men, and in most cases they were more like “army supporters” (or sexual workers), but there are a lot of written testimonies of women directly taking part in battles and campaigns (one of the most famous ones being the Crusades). And of course, the level of participation also varies from culture to culture and from period to period, but I believe that testimonies, stories, and legends of women in battle are very present throughout the world.
And to this, we should add the fact that, at least in most of Europe, the written word was almost entirely monopolized by men (if not by the different christian churches themselves), which in general means that women tended to be invisiblized, especially if they weren’t nobles.
I’m saying all of this because I want to suggest a little change, which I think would be great to partially remember women participation in human history. My idea may be obvious by now: use the villager generation mechanic (which opens an equal possibility of having a male or a female villagers) to military units, but make the proportions something like one woman per ten men.
I know this wouldn’t be an easy task, as you must make new unit models and record new dialogue lines, but I think it would be a great addition to the game.


you have absolutely no evidence to support that assertion, you simply assume it to be true based off your pre-conceived expectation of

  1. how common and meaningful any female involvement was, and
  2. the expectation that said involvement would go without notice because men wrote stuff.

you even claim the opposite

so it’s clear that the history of the involvement hasn’t been ignored, and you are simply asserting that there’s probably a lot more we don’t know on the grounds of your expectation that men would ignore it. Just because the writers were men didn’t mean they underwrote the opposite gender. As possible as that is, it is equally possible that they overstated the impact. in the aggregate, one can safely assume the historical record to be moderately accurate if you don’t imply and expect bias in one direction.

all that to get a (wo)man-at-arms.


No thank you. Leave that for modders.


Wow, that was fast! Thank you for answering.
First of all, you’re totally right! I’m no expert on the subject (nor haven’t I made any extensive research on the topic). But I wanted to open the discussion since of course (or I wouldn’t have posted it) I’m pretty sure of the truth behind the things I said, but also because I wanted to have a conversation about this subject. So I’m happy someone replied so fast!

Also, I want to clarify I’m not used to posting things on forums nor speaking in english, so maybe it’s kind of hard to read what I say.

So okay, here I go:

you have absolutely no evidence to support that assertion, you simply assume it to be true based off your pre-conceived expectation of

  1. how common and meaningful any female involvement was, and
  2. the expectation that said involvement would go without notice because men wrote stuff.

First of all, you say I have no evidence, but I thing you should have said I present no evidence, since you can’t certainly know what I have and haven’t read, and given this is a forum and not a paper or an academic medium, I wasn’t planning on presenting a full list of read material about the Middle Ages, its sources, genre discussions, etc. Now, even if I said I’m no expert on the subject (which again, totally true), I did read a few things about Medieval History and I think I can say a few general stuff about it.

As you say, I do have kind of a pre-conceived expectation of how common and meaningful female involvement in history was. And that is only natural, given that, as I stated, written sources on the matter tend to distorsionate the weight women in medieval warfare (I’ll come back to this later). And one must say, this can also be said about most quantifiable statements, given that not only the people that writes stuff many times have a hidden agenda, but also that a) most of the time they didn’t have the intention to quantifie anything in particular, so we generally won’t find things like, for example, how old were the soldiers in a battle b) they had their own pre-concieved truth and ideology (bare in mind that many written sources about battles aren’t from people who were actually on them), and c) we have very few sources for a lot of time periods.
Many of these statements, I think, don’t need to be sourced (I’m excluding the first one, the one about women, because again, I want to go back to that later), they are kind of common knowledge. However, if you want me to give some examples about some of these statements, I can think of some: You could read Chris Wickham’s “Framing the Early Middle Ages”, Hill Boone’s “Introduction: Writing and recording knowledge” in “Writing without words”, or Philipp Rackl’s “Anglo-Saxon Paganism” for some examples about the scarcity of written sources and the problems regarding the ideology and agenda of its writer (and of course just the fact that, in most cases, the author of a source isn’t interested in registering the same stuff that the historian want to know) in a certain period. Again though, I think that all this is very common knowledge and you’ll find the discussion of these issues in almost any academic paper.
Coming back to my point: given that written sources give very little information about a lot of stuff, one must often recur to some kind of especulation. Which of course doesn’t mean one can say anything one wants without any kind of backup, but it does mean that the claim of objectivity must be nuanced when talking about periods of time which are so obscure in so many ways, beacuse there is just not possible way to get to a 100% exact answer on almost any general topic, subjectivity will always play its part, sadly.
Now, about the second part: “The expectation that said involvement would go without notice because men wrote stuff”. Well, part of this statement has already been indirectly addressed before, but I want to answer more directly. Again, I haven’t read much about women in history. However, I think I can recommend some sources about the general topic of “things going without notice” on sources. On that statement, you make it seem as if the authors of sources just happened to casually forget to mention stuff, which it isn’t at all what I wanted to say. What I was talking about was the phenomenon of invisibilization, which didn’t only happen to women but also to other groups of society like peasants. This usually happened not because “they went unnoticed” but because a) There wasn’t much concern about registering their lives, b) They were despised and therefore consciously ignored if they had any significance in any given event (for example, and this is said in the original Age of Empires II textbook, the weight of infantry in medieval european armies was heavily underestimated and ignored in sources, and of course most noblement used to ride on horses, therefore there was a clear tendency of overestimating the weight of said class in battles and campaigns), c) Sometimes those sources wanted to show an ideal (in a good or bad way) picture of society, so those voiceless groups would appear in them as the authors intended, d) Sometimes those authors hadn’t had really any contact with those people or events, as it was often the case (in Hagiographies, for example) among other reasons. About this topic, you could read Ginzburg’s “The Cheese and the Worms” or Carlos Astarita’s “Did the Medieval Peasantry have class consciusness?” (sorry if the translation is wrong, I’ve read some of these books in spanish) , but again, almost any academic paper about peasantry you read will tell you a lot about social invisibilization.

Okay, I want to continue answering in other comment because this is getting too long.


“so it’s clear that the history of the involvement hasn’t been ignored”

This can be taken in two ways: either you’re saying that someone already made research about the topic (which of course is true) so we now know about this stuff, or you’re taking those examples as proof that there are sources about women, therefore women weren’t invisibilized, which I don’t think makes much sense.

There were almost a thousand years from the fall of Rome to the fall of Constantinople, and this game goes even further and backwards in time from that period, so we could say Age of Empires II takes a period of more than a thousand years of history, from all around the world. Expecting that demonstrating that no source of any female involvement in more than a thousand years of world history is necessary to state that female involvement in warfare was underestimated by sources, is like expecting me to demonstrate that there are no cases of medieval peasants ending up as noblemen to state that social ascension in Medieval Europe was almost impossible. There is just no way that in those long centuries, in this big world full of millions of people there aren’t exceptions of any kind.

“Just because the writers were men didn’t mean they underwrote the opposite gender. As possible as that is, it is equally possible that they overstated the impact. in the aggregate, one can safely assume the historical record to be moderately accurate if you don’t imply and expect bias in one direction.”

Well now, it’s true I said that “the written word was almost entirely monopolized by men […] which in general means that women tended to be invisibilized”, but I think it’s obvious I wasn’t making the assertion that “Given that they were men, and that all men underwrite the opposite gender, the opposite gender was underwrote”. I don’t believe that all men underwrite the opposite gender. I’m sure many men nowadays don’t, at least.

What I implicitly was stating was that it was a heavily patriarchal society, and that given that all oppressive societies tend to invisibilize oppressed groups (as I stated in my last comment, kind of indirectly but I guess the point was made), the fact that one of such oppressed groups (women) had almost no access to the written word (therefore, they remained voiceless to History), ended up meaning that we, who can only access to most of human’s history through the written word, inherited a picture of the old medieval societies where women seem to have almost no participation at all. Again, most of what I say can be found on many of the books I quoted earlier, though those books tend to center more around the peasantry or pagan cultures. But I think they show pretty well my premises about sources and social invisibilization. There is, however, a book I recently read about Medieval History that has one or two chapters dedicated to women: Renato Rodrigues Da Silva’s “The Aristocracy of Northumbria in the Long Eighth-Century: Production, Circulation, Consumption.”. However, this book, altough it says a lot about the topic of invisibilization of women, doesn’t particularly cover the warfare part.

So, what I’m trying to say with all of this is that yes, I firmly believe we can state that women, as many other social groups, were underwrote in a lot of senses. Having said all this, I do admit that I haven’t read many academic studies about women in warfare (or about warfare in general, for that matter): my information comes from videos, Wikipedia articles, and some superficial reading of papers I found on Google, all of which could be just wrong, and I haven’t any statistics about how often women used to be involved in war. However, if we are to place a little bit of our belief in Holy Wikipedia, we can find a lot of examples of women actually participating in battles (as I have already said): defending cities, going on crusades, becoming commanders, raiding, etc. There are also bones of women who were buried with weapons and armor (like that one controversial viking skeleton that now has been confirmed to be from a woman).

So, given how underwrote this gender was: how wrong could the game be if, say, one out of ten, or out of fifteen soldiers was a woman? The game already states that there were some armies made mainly out of women (the gbeto, the ones in the mongolian campaign whose name I can’t recall), and also most units are clearly based on european soldiers (the champion, the cavalier, the paladin, etc), so if you add a couple of woman soldiers you could end up being wrong for some cultures, but for other you wouldn’t, and given that the game already mixes cultural aestethics, you wouldn’t be wrong.

And YES, gimme those (wo)man-at-arms.

But really, though, I think it would be very cool, for it would spread awareness about the topic of historical invisibilization.

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By the way, I understand if you don’t want to answer me. This could be a very looong discussion. And life is full of Age of Empires to play…

I would prefer they fixed the game crashes and freezes first. a third of games are unplayable because someone gets dropped out or the game freezes/crashes

Gbetos don’t make sense in a Middle Ages Game and they weren’t Malian.


There never were any “Women-at-Arms” in any significant number.
Even in the most gender-integrated modern armies in the world (Israel, South Korea) women generally chose to either avoid military life, or leave it sooner.

In the Middle Ages, most women that had strenuous labour life, had a high chance of dying at childbirth. This is the most important reason why women were discouraged from the physical hardships of military life, as they would be more useful for the war effort, in bearing future soldiers, than in dying on the battlefield.


Lol, I totally agree, but we know they’ll continue to add new content anyways, so…

Really? Didn’t know that!

They didn’t come into existence until the late 1600s and existed until the 1900s.

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I agree that society discouraged women from fighting, and in many cases women didn’t want to participate anyways. But how usual is it that ideological models don’t end up meeting with what real people do? Did all noblemen spend their whole lives fighting? Did all of them remain loyal to the end to their kings, to their faith? Did all noblemen really impose justice on their lands, did they never kill family or friends to get a higher status? Did all peasants live their whole lives working their land and paying their tributes just as the church and the nobles wanted, or did they resist? Did serfs never escape from their lands?

If we accept all that, why can’t we accept that probably most women did what they were “supposed to”,
but a few tens of thousands didn’t? Going to war wasn’t always seen as a death sentence: Holy Wars could get you to Heaven, and some wars could help you socially ascend, or at least escape from your ruthless lord… so, why wouldn’t some women want to do those risky things too, if the reward could be as big? Why wouldn’t any woman want to go help their husband or their son in battle, or even replace them?

Again, I’m not saying that their involvement was HUGE, I’m saying that there probably were more women that we think there were, and given that written sources were authored by people who, in many cases, were trying to show an idealized picture of society, it’s very possible that they tended to invisibilize the participation of a lot of people. Just think that battles were the instances were many noblemen could show their worth, maybe even being rewarded for their bravery or whatever: there almost no traces of “plebeians” in those fights, they weren’t deemed important of being mentioned, so why wouldn’t they also hide women participation?.

Women simply did not fight in any significant number, specially not in field battles.
Men overpower women by a lot, and have inbuilt suicidal tendencies when it comes to military action, which is why they usually accomplish missions they should not.

This thread is either bad bait, or bad History, none of which are forgivable in this day and age.


Not really you can just give the female villager sounds for the current units and vola.
Not like there were different armor for men and women.

Wanting female soldiers is all nice and all, but this is the game where looking at most units isn’t enough to know whether they are Mayan, Ethiopian or Malay. So one could argue some of them might as well be female without the need to change aspect for that matter 11

Funnily enough they did just that for female flemish militia but even then the difference is quite hard to tell, you pretty much need to stop your whole army and examinate them one by one to find which one are women.


Old ES graphics guys thought of this and didnt give joan a helmet so she looks female.rest of her armor is historically accurate.

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Where did you read that thing about suicidal tendencies? And again, most men overpower women, but also well armored nobles overpower peasants, and yet peasants fought too, most grown men overpower teenagers, and yet teenagers fought too, most soldiers overpower dogs, and yet dogs were used too, and for that matter atomic bombs overpower soldiers, and yet we see more soldiers fighting that we see atomic bombs being dropped.
The problem with your statements is that you seem to believe that some kind of biological rationality is what drives societies, when in many many cases isn’t.

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Well, that’s a good point, maybe voices would be enough (and easier).

Altough maybe for the Feudal Age models… they don’t wear much armor, so they should make female models for them, I guess.