What is honor? Is it the same as reputation? Or is it rather a sentiment? Is it a character trait, like integrity? Or is it simply a concept too vague or incoherent to be fully analyzed?
In the first sustained comparative analysis of this elusive notion, Frank Stewart writes that none of these ideas is correct. Drawing on information about Western ideas of honor from sources as diverse as medieval Arthurian romances, Spanish dramas of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the writings of German jurists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and comparing the European ideas with the ideas of a non-Western society—the Bedouin—Stewart argues that honor must be understood as a right, basically a right to respect. He shows that by understanding honor this way, we can resolve some of the paradoxes that have long troubled scholars, and can make sense of certain institutions (for instance the medieval European pledge of honor) that have not hitherto been properly understood.
Offering a powerful new way to understand this complex notion, Honor has important implications not only for the social sciences but also for the whole history of European sensibility.