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.
Presented as the record of a small colloquium held in 2013 to honour the contribution of Lord Jonathan Sumption to the study of the Hundred Years War, this volume consists of some 18 papers (three of which are in English) on the theme of routiers and mercenaires operating in France during the Hundred Years War.
Tim Snyder’s ambitious Bloodlands set out to place the murderous regimes of the Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union in their overlapping European contexts.
Why would a hardened band of foreign jihādi warriors agree to work for a self-proclaimed leader of the Christian world – especially one militantly opposed to Islam, who kept his own Muslim citizens under close surveillance? And why would such a ruler choose to keep that particular type of professional killer in his personal employ?
Louis VIII, king of France from 1223 to 1226, is not a monarch who has drawn significant attention from historians. His reign of just three years stands trapped between the nearly 43-year reign of his father, Philip Augustus, and the nearly 44-year reign of his son, Louis IX (later Saint Louis). Louis VIII inevitably draws somewhat unfavourable comparison with his predecessor and his heir.
Despite their presence in the popular imagination and their undoubted importance in the narrative of medieval history, the Crusades have for a long time sat apart from mainstream medieval historiography. Traditionally, the Crusades themselves are as peripheral in the minds of historians of Europe as they were geographically.
Andrew Tompkins’ book, Better Active than Radioactive!, sets out to examine anti-nuclear protest in the 1970s in a comparative framework. His focus on anti-nuclear activists in France and West Germany leads him to argue that transnational cooperation and interconnection in the anti-nuclear movement was much more marked that we traditionally assume.
One of the most memorable and unsettling works of historical fiction to appear in the last 15 years is Louis de Bernières’ Birds without Wings, which tells the stories of the inhabitants of Eskibahçe, a fictional village in the Ottoman Empire, in the years before, during and after the First World War.
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.
Peace. A small, but powerful word. Even today, defining it is a quandary, as it can be applied in many different ways according to a variety of contexts. Kumhera’s comprehensive book tackles the act of making peace in late medieval Italy. He highlights and analyses its diverse meanings and implications, and the impact of these various realisations of ‘pax’ for medieval society.