As L. P. Hartley famously remarked in The Go-Between (1953), ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. This was more prescient than he knew, for most of the English-speaking world now seems to view the past not merely as foreign but as totally alien – diverting at times, perhaps, but utterly irrelevant to them and their lives.
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.
Cultures of Knowledge: An Intellectual Geography of the Seventeenth-Century Republic of Letters / ed. Howard Hotson
Network studies are fashionable today, both in the sciences and in the humanities, witness the ever-increasing research grants, books, articles, and calls for papers about knowledge exchange that circulate globally. Scientists working in artificial intelligence, engineering, statistics, and computational linguistics have been doing network analysis for a long time.
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.
The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe, 1769-1794 / eds. Simon Burrows, Mark Curran, Vincent Hiribarren, Sarah Kattau, Henry Merivale
Simon Burrows proclaims the database that he and a team of researchers from the University of Leeds published last June as ‘a wonder to behold’, and indeed it is wonderful. Entitled The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe, 1769–1794.
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.