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If it is hard to write a book review, then it is much harder to make a book. Anthony Grafton's latest monograph, Inky Fingers, puts the difficulties of labour at the centre of this engaging study of book production in early modern Europe and North America (the latter included despite the expected limitations of the subtitle).
‘Artificial intelligence (AI)’ is a loaded term, rife with connotative contradiction that inspires debate, disagreement, and disillusion. But what is AI, really? How have our expectations of computational capability, and even a robot Armageddon, come to be? Why does it matter how we talk about increasingly sophisticated technology, not just in expository prose, but also in fiction?
The sub-branch of history that is known by the ambiguous (and frightening to undergraduates, cats, and many mainstream academics) name “historiography” seems to be undergoing a Renaissance at the moment.
Jonathan Scott, Professor of History at the University of Auckland, in his recent book, How the Old World Ended (2019), has provided an intellectual bridge between the early modern period and the modern world, which was born out of the Industrial Revolution.
A lack of institutional documentation has rendered it difficult for scholars of early modernity to reconstruct the significance of apostasy from Judaism before the Council of Trent (1545-1563). As such, the reasons behind the conversion of Jews to Catholicism, especially in Renaissance Italy, remain understudied to this day.
The Birth of Modern Belief is seriously good. It is erudite, insightful, and cogent; but, above all, it enables us to think hard about the relationship between our past and our present.
The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy presents itself as an important and innovative book in the panorama of the contemporary historical research of the Renaissance.
France is a land of roadside crosses. Most of these date from the 19th and 20th centuries, ‘planted’ during Roman Catholic revival missions, or as thanksgivings and memorials for liberation from war or adversity. Planting crosses is a very old tradition.
Historians are good at putting objects in their place. Details about context, manufacture, use, abuse, meaning, significance, decay, and so on are layered so that an object itself becomes a carrier of its moment in history. Putting material back into the fabric of history itself enriches that history.
The renewed focus of many historians on post-Reformation English Catholicism in the last few decades has meant that the expatriate English Catholic community in Continental Europe, which produced and preserved many of the records of the English Catholic community, is often a main source of evidence.