Steven Pinker’s view of the Middle Ages as an era of hyperviolence, in which
governments engaged in democide and civilians lived in terror, is not supported by the
evidence. By analyzing Pinker’s sources for the medieval period and providing a clearer
understanding of the difficulties involved in extracting statistical data from medieval England’s
criminal justice system, this article hopes to demonstrate that Pinker’s thesis about
the civilizing process is not tenable. While the medieval world was violent, we cannot definitively say just how violent it actually was, and whether it was any more or less violent
than we are today.