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With a few exceptions, the inhabitants of this city were Christians. The infidels were in possession of the citadel, however, and treated the rest of population according to their own good pleasure. (My emphasis)

A History of Deeds done beyond the Sea — William Tyre, c1180, translation unknown

In this sentence, what is the meaning of "their own good pleasure"? Is it a positive one or a negative one?

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Without more information, I would assume that "their own good pleasure" has a negative connotation in this sentence.

I assume this based on the use of the word infidel, which is almost always negative.

Thus, I would read the original sentence as:

With a few exceptions, the inhabitants of this city were Christians. The infidels were in possession of the citadel, however, and treated the rest of the population according to however the infidels wanted to.

And being infidels, as elucidated above, I would assume that the treatment had been negative.

However, I suspect that the original piece of writing is a case of history being written by the victors or at least being "colored" by the victors as "infidels" is usually a very strong word precisely because of its negative implications.

My point is that perhaps people had not been treated as poorly as we're led to believe, but without more first-hand information and further research, we may never know.

And as an aside, it may help to post the original source material in the future so that people may better understand the context.

  • Oh, I'm so glad @Andrew Leach edited your original post for you and inserted the original source material. – Teacher KSHuang Dec 20 '16 at 10:31
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    How sad that’s not a wholly unreasonable analysis. Does the attribution to William Tyre justify the assumption that the passage itself, rather than the author, intended a negative meaning?. ‘according to their own good pleasure’ means roughly ‘as they saw fit…’ which in and of itself no more implies ‘as badly as they saw fit…’ than ‘as well…’ However, does anyone doubt that the conclusion ‘ "their own good pleasure" has a negative connotation’ in that sentence comes solely from the assumption that ‘infidels’ necessarily means ‘muslims’ necessarily means ‘people who do bad things’? – Robbie Goodwin Jan 3 '17 at 22:50
  • @RobbieGoodwin I understand the point you're trying to make, but my assumption isn't that infidels means Muslims, but simply that infidels is "a pejorative term used in certain religions for those who do not believe the central tenets of one's own religion, are members of another religion, or are not religious" ("Infidel," Wikipedia), the same citation I had made within my original answer. In fact, no one had mentioned anything about Islam or Muslims until you had brought it up. – Teacher KSHuang Jan 4 '17 at 7:51
  • Thanks Teacher. No one mentioned poor treatment until you brought it up… including William. Despite his victor’s leisure, … Deeds done Beyond the Sea says nothing of maltreatment in that city, Marash, last fought over c1146. Since he chose not to use, for instance, ‘… grim/gross/ghastly pleasure’ the deduction of misery solely from the word ‘infidel’ stands on thin ice. In itself ‘their own good pleasure’ remains neutral and Saracen rules tended to treat infidel immigrants with toleration, not persecution. – Robbie Goodwin Jan 5 '17 at 0:05
  • @RobbieGoodwin If seems to me that your comment should be an answer in its own right. – Teacher KSHuang Jan 5 '17 at 7:59

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