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‘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?
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.
Hannah Barker’s book is a thorough and engaging evaluation of late medieval slave trading practices in the Mediterranean. The tile is taken from the 15th-century recollection and denunciation of an Alexandrian slave market by Felix Fabri, a German friar (p. 209).
Married Life in the Middle Ages offers a refreshing approach to medieval marriage. Elisabeth van Houts focuses on the social and emotional sides of marriage rather than viewing marriage through a legal or institutional lens. Two aspects of van Houts’ book set it apart from others.
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.
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 history of the western European family has been an area of interest for social and cultural historians for several decades with the late medieval and early modern period central to debates about continuity and change in family life. An aspect of family life that has received little attention is the common experience of remarriage and living in a stepfamily.
It is impossible to understand any human society without exploring its emotional rhythms, from the most dramatic to the most subtle. For too long, historians have ignored this simple truth… Yet in the Middle Ages, emotions were everywhere.
‘In me,’ wrote Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg in the early 11th century:
This is an extremely ambitious, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring book.