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The title of A History of Borno, Trans-Saharan African Empire to Failing Nigerian State has two ambiguities. Situated in the Sahel, Borno did not span the Sahara. It was Trans-Saharan by being linked culturally and economically to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, rather than to the Atlantic. Whether the failing state is Nigeria or Borno is also unclear.
Today it seems almost customary to apologise for writing another book on the events between 1941 and 1945 that came to be known as the Holocaust, Shoah, or the Genocide of the Jews.(1) The explosion of scholarship since the late 1980s has filled entire libraries with information on the Holocaust and established a basic chronology.
As is often the case with (in)famous remarks attributed to prominent personages, there is some doubt about whether Winston Churchill ever did describe the traditions of the Royal Navy as comprising ‘nothing but rum, sodomy, prayers and the lash.’ Churchill himself reputedly denied that he had, confiding to his private secretary that ‘I never said it. I wish I had’ (p. 1).
History has not been kind to the reputation of Pope Honorius III (1216–27).
Many years ago, J. H. Overton drew a fine line between Non-Jurors on the one hand and Jacobites on the other. The former, according to Overton, were ‘in no active sense of the term Jacobites’ because they were ‘content to live peacefully and quietly without a thought of disturbing the present government’.
For generations of historians, the fall of the Christian-held city of Acre to the Mamluk forces of al-Ashraf Khalil in 1291 brought about the end of the crusading era.
It is acceptable to like bishops again. Perhaps this change in the historiographical weather (would it be too much to label it an ‘episcopal turn’?) is not so much a result of the opening up of new sources, but a reflection of academics’ own positions in the wider world. The 1970s and 1980s fixed us with a standard of bishops as intolerant heresy hunters and seekers-out of deviancy.
Questions of conspiracy and collusion loom large in these modern times. Historically, the revelation of obfuscated, ephemeral crimes has often tested the integrity of a state’s judicial apparatus. An investigating body may trace elaborate webs of influence and create exacting chronologies of events to test the veracity of witnesses’ testimonies.
Francis Young’s Magic as a Political Crime in Medieval and Early Modern England makes an important contribution to both the historiography of political culture in medieval and early modern England and the historiography of magic. This book develops ideas from Young’s previous monograph English Catholics and the Supernatural, 1553–1829.
This is the eight volume of the series on the archbishops of Canterbury, which began life with Ashgate and has now passed to Routledge, and Michael Hughes’ book does not disappoint. Randall Davidson is the third of the 20th century archbishops to be so treated (the 2015 volume on Michael Ramsey was the work of this reviewer), and the book adopts a similar approach to the others.