This book was launched with great fanfare, a high number of editorial reviews from prominent academics, interviews, invited talks, web commentaries, and reviews in the mainstream media, including the Guardian, New Statesman, New York Times, The Scotsman, Economist, and Foreign Affairs.
In the wake of Douglass North’s theories on institutions and economic growth, the last two decades have seen various kinds of medieval and early modern institutions increasingly regarded as factors aiding in, rather than obstructing, the transformative processes that eventually led to modern industrial capitalism in the 19th century.
The writing of history – any history – is shaped by the intellectual environment in which it is written, and by the preoccupations of its writers. As Christopher Tyerman acknowledges in his prefatory remarks, ‘writing history is not a neutral revelation but a malleable, personal, contingent, cultural activity’ (p. xi).
The English Parish Church through the Centuries is an interesting example of how digital media can be used to improve and enhance our understanding of the past.
This is a book which could very easily slip under the radar of most historians. Even had they noticed the title, and had their curiosity piqued by the sub-title, after checking the academic discipline of the author (Julian Rivers is Professor of Jurisprudence at Bristol University) many might well have decided that this book was probably of no professional interest to them.
To a political historian, little is more important than politics (in the broad sense, as in the case of this book, incorporating religious division and the Reformation), and a book about a parliament is pre-eminently political.
Michel Foucault famously asserted that sexual identity was a modern invention, remarking, ‘The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species’.(1) For Foucault, the vocabulary and specificity of modern sexual identity were largely formulated under the impetus of 19th-century sexology.
In his new book Steven Pinker, psychologist at Harvard University, sets out to fundamentally alter our understanding of the trajectory of violence from pre-historic times to the present. He takes issue with the widely held perception that the most recent past, the 20th century, was an age of large-scale bloodshed and genocidal slaughter.
Two decades ago Francis Fukuyama gained widespread attention, and some notoriety, with the argument that the modern world had reached the end of history. Of course, he did not mean that history as a flow of events would cease. What he did mean was that history as successive stages of society had reached its final level. There is no future regime beyond modern democracy and capitalism.
The History of Parliament is widely recognised as a monumental scholarly achievement. Since its origins in the dreams of Josiah Wedgwood in the early part of the 20th century, and then its establishment as a charitable trust in 1940 (with government funding from 1951), it has produced a voluminous output.