The study of nationality (a term used to designate historically and constitutively diverse nations) poses a number of acute methodological, historical, and philosophical problems.
It is a brave man who would take on the job of writing a history of Germany and the Holy Roman Empire between 1493 and 1806. Many historians would maintain that neither Germany nor even German national consciousness (certainly not German nationalism) existed during this period; as for the Holy Roman Empire, there is a long-running dispute over what it actually amounted to.
In this monumental and densely-packed book on Germany identity in the later Middle Ages – the only monograph of on the subject in any language, the author informs us – Len Scales gives us a new view of Germany and the empire that is sure to be of great importance for medieval historians’ perceptions of the empire, of Germany, and of the forces behind the shaping of identity.
Rachel Duffett has written a fine social history of British rank and file soldiers, or rankers, and their experiences of food during the Great War. She states, ‘The ranker’s relationship with food was a constant thread, woven throughout his army experience … every day, wherever he was, a man needed to eat’ (p. 229).
A number of scholars have recently examined the ways in which Italians participated in, supported and/or resisted the Fascist project of radically transforming politics, society, and the citizens’ private sphere, including the transformation of the boundaries between private life and the public arena.
It is possible today to admire reconstructions of medieval kitchens at several historical monuments across Europe. Many of these displays have been carefully researched and tend to provide a fascinating insight into aspects of everyday life in the Middle Ages.
Over 40 years ago, Robert Darnton proposed to evaluate the Enlightenment from its authors’ perspectives. After all, he observed, they were ‘men of flesh and blood, who wanted to fill their bellies, house their families, and make their way in the world’.(1) But with what did they fill their bellies, and when, and how much?
Thicker than Water is an impressive book, both in terms of its quality and its size. At over 400 pages, it presents a daunting challenge to the reviewer with its wide-ranging discussions of the literature on families and sibling relationships which span the disciplines of sociology, history and psychology, as well as the fields of literature, poetry and film.
Nuremberg in the later Middle Ages was one of the most prominent cities in central Europe: a free Imperial city, the location of the imperial regalia and the place where Imperial Diets were held, it was also a wealthy centre of economic life, one of the largest cities in German-speaking Europe, and an important manufacturer of many industrial products, in particular weapons.
Michel Foucault famously described sodomy as an utterly confused category. The same could be said for marriage, especially during the Middle Ages, as the two studies under review demonstrate. Like sodomy, marriage is a category traversing several fields – law, culture, religion – that bites into people’s flesh.