Skip to content

Response to Review no. 495

This is a full and complimentary review and I am very happy to have received it.

The reviewer and I obviously disagree on whether the terms ‘colonialism’ and ‘racism’ can be applied to the medieval period. Although this is too big an issue to be dealt with conveniently here, may I point out my discussions of these issues in my book The Making of Europe (1993), especially pp. 236–42 (‘The growth of racism in the later Middle Ages’) and pp. 306–14 (‘Medieval and modern colonialism’). On the related but separate problem of the term ‘race’, there is a special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies on ‘Race and Ethnicity in the Middle Ages’ (vol. 31.1, 2001), in which I argue that ‘it must be possible to reclaim the word race from the racists’, and in which and William Jordan of Princeton emphatically disagrees: ‘the concept of race will confuse and obscure more than it illuminates’. A conference was held at Tel Aviv University in December 2005 on ‘Racism in Western civilization before 1700’ and there are plans to publish the proceedings.