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Exile has long been central to our understanding of certain Early Modern topics. The flight of English Protestants, and then Catholics, to the Continent in the 16th century, or the exodus of Huguenots (many to England and Ireland) after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th, are perhaps the best known examples to UK audiences.
In 1372 Renatus Malbecco, a Milanese ambassador, arrived in Avignon for a meeting with Pope Gregory XI. His embassy was evidently unwelcome: he was ‘received with insults’ and promptly sent away. An observing diplomat recounted this event in a couple of terse lines. A little over a century later it was the turn of Ludovico il Moro of Milan to dismiss a visiting envoy.
We have here two very different books utilizing two very different approaches to essentially the same period of history in Europe. And while the differences are enormous, each is excellent in its own way and both are major contributions to the historiography of Europe in the first half of the 20th century.
The history of the European Wars of Religion from the Crusades onward has provided fertile ground for study by historians, philosophers, and theologians of all ideological persuasions. The period from the 1520s forward particularly has served as the subject of an astonishing amount of research – with no discernable chronological gap in the historiography.
The Andalusian jurist Abū Bakr al-Ṭurṭūshī (d. 1126) was once asked whether or not it was permissible to eat cheese imported into Alexandria from the Christian territories along the northern coastline of the Mediterranean. The question clearly intrigued al-Ṭurṭūshī, since he went to considerable lengths to research the subject before issuing his final response.
At the end of Miklos Banffy’s entertaining panoramic novel of pre-WWI Hungary, the protagonist Count Balint takes a final tour of Transylvania before joining his regiment. It is a personal and private farewell to his childhood home and to a whole generation of Hungarian nobles, of which Balint/Banffy was highly critical.
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.
Historical scholarship has experienced a number of ‘shifts’ over the last three decades, with traditional concerns about politics and economics increasingly vying with newer ‘cultural-historical’ questions around language, meaning and subjectivity. Other innovations, such as spatial and transnational approaches to history, have also come to the fore.
This book, a collection of essays and articles ranging from 1963 to 2008, is published at an opportune moment, the year of the 500th anniversary of Francis I’s accession on 1 January 1515, a year marked by conferences, exhibitions and, indeed, bizarre re-enactments such as that of the battle of Marignano at Amboise and Romorantin.
The 70th anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazi regime and of the liberation of the camps led to a renewed interest in the Nazi rule over much of Europe and, even more so, in the Holocaust. Unsurprisingly, a number of new studies were and still are being published, many of which discuss the meaning that the Holocaust holds for us today.