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How did the world of nation-states come about? What happened to the world of empires that preceded it? How did the transition take place and how inevitable was it? These may seem (and indeed are) old questions.
The second publication to appear in Routledge’s Rulers of the Latin East series, Simon John’s new book charts the career of Godfrey of Bouillon, a person who was, as the author notes, ‘by any estimation … a significant historical figure’ (p. 1).
This study situates itself in the context of recent efforts to chart the emergence of the historical profession and the development of national historiographical traditions on a comparative basis.
One might be forgiven for thinking that British defence policy between the Napoleonic era and the outbreak of the First World War was always geared towards a large, continental commitment.
Into the relatively small pond of English-language work on the early modern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Finnish historian Miia Ijäs has launched a monograph, based on her doctoral dissertation, which will be received with interest.
For many of us, the ongoing carnage in Syria is a self-evident humanitarian crisis. We do not need to be convinced that the children drowning at sea, the women and men, young and old, begging for entry into any country that will accept them are worthy of our help.
Why would a hardened band of foreign jihādi warriors agree to work for a self-proclaimed leader of the Christian world – especially one militantly opposed to Islam, who kept his own Muslim citizens under close surveillance? And why would such a ruler choose to keep that particular type of professional killer in his personal employ?
Despite their presence in the popular imagination and their undoubted importance in the narrative of medieval history, the Crusades have for a long time sat apart from mainstream medieval historiography. Traditionally, the Crusades themselves are as peripheral in the minds of historians of Europe as they were geographically.
It is dangerous for historians to know the future. The seductive power of seeing ‘how it all came out’ too often warps the way the process of change in the past is understood and can result in the classic version of a Whiggish view of history. Among the examples of this that can be cited is the way the Polish-Lithuanian union has been evaluated.
The rise of the Atlantic world as a framework for understanding early modern and 18th-century Britain has been one of the most significant historiographical developments of the last 25 years.