The Georgetown Chivalry Initiative

What it is

The Georgetown Chivalry Initiative was established in 2005 as an activity of the Project for the History of Care.  The purpose of the Georgetown Chivalry Initiative is to examine the ideas of chivalry and chivalric honor as elements of the history of care; explain the impact of the tradition of chivalry and chivalric honor on the ethos and ethics of care; provide historical inquiries into the ways in which the ideas/practices of chivalry and honor shaped the four modern professions: military, clergy, medicine, and law; and indicate the importance of these ideas for the future of ethics. 

Director and Advisors:

Warren T. Reich, who is Distinguished Research Professor of Religion and Ethics and founding Director of the Project for the History of Care at Georgetown University, is Director of the Georgetown Chivalry Initiative.  He is assisted by an Advisory Committee of professors at Georgetown University who represent the following disciplines: the history of the crusades; literary history; the history of medicine; the history of ethics; and the history and ethos of religious orders of knights. 

The Book on Chivalry and Care:

The principal activity of the Georgetown Chivalry Initiative is preparation of a book titled Chivalry, Honor, and Care.  Co-editors of the book are Warren Reich and Jonathan Riley-Smith, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge, and one of the foremost historians of the crusades.  The purpose of this book is to discover, describe, and interpret the ideas, goals, motivations, ethos, ethics, and practices of chivalry understood as care.  Following publication of the book described above, The Georgetown Chivalry Initiative will host an international conference on Chivalry, Honor, and Care. 

The Need for the Book:

The need for the book on Chivalry, Honor, and Care arose as a result of the work of the Project for the History of Care at Georgetown University.  The Care Project discovered that chivalry, which has had important and influential links with ideas and practices of care, has been almost completely overlooked in contemporary ethical, professional, and social inquiries related to care.  The Georgetown Chivalry Initiative and the book that it is now preparing will examine the care that was idealized, codified, and combined with notions of honor in chivalric rules and narratives; probe the contradictions found, for example, in religious crusaders’ anomalous combination of loving care and violent destruction of heathens; and will explain the relevance of chivalry and honor for the modern professions.

The Project for the History of Care:

The purpose of the Project for the History of Care is to retrieve from intellectual history the rich traditions and meanings of care that have been antecedent to contemporary moral notions of care.  The Project is examining diverse sources for purposes of understanding the many meanings of care; they include ancient mythology, religious traditions, the history of philosophy, world literature, the writings of psychologists and sociologists, and contemporary political philosophy.  The institutional sponsor of the Project for the History of Care is Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  A generous grant from The Lilly Endowment to Georgetown University made it possible to establish the Project for the History of Care and to do the preliminary research that led to the Georgetown Chivalry Initiative.  Additional funding is being sought for the Georgetown Chivalry Initiative, an activity of the Project for the History of Care.