Companions and handbooks to various periods or problems of history are currently all the rage. This one is the 37th in its own publisher’s series, which ranges from the whole sweep of a continent’s or a nation’s history (such as Latin America, or Japan) to much more restricted periods or problems of current scholarly interest.
‘Earth, earth, do not cover our blood and do not keep silent’.
In 1722 a German travel-writer and political economist named Ernst Ludwig Carl published a three-volume Traité de la richesse des princes et de leurs états: et des moyens simples et naturels pour y parvenir.
It is a bold historian who, in the 21st century, still advertises, even as subtitle, a history of ‘Germanic Europe’ in the late Middle Ages. Evidently alarm bells were sounding in the author’s own ears, as he uses his first page (p. viii) to insist that ‘this book does not revive discredited racist notions based upon a supposedly pristine Germanic antiquity’. And nor does it.
What is a ‘Companion’ for?
This large edited volume on the history of post-1945 Europe is one of the latest additions to the extensive and steadily growing series of Blackwell Companions to History, whose volumes cover a wide range of fields in British, European, American, and World history.
Political biography has a relatively minor part in medieval and renaissance Venetian historiography when compared to other European states – such as England – or Italy’s other major republic in the period, Florence.
Medieval Italian cities have frequently been the focus of international historical research. The particular qualities of the elites that emerged here were notably stressed by Marino Berengo in his classic book on the history of European towns.(1)
The late Middle Ages are a challenging period to survey and synthesise. Any attempt to summarise their complexity, chaos, and dynamism within a restricted publisher’s word limit and at the same time provide an effective textbook for undergraduates is fraught with issues of coverage, comprehensiveness, and accessibility.
Wasteland with Words is a very welcome addition to the small number of academic books about Iceland’s modern history available in English. The few other works on modern Icelandic history are largely written in Icelandic for local consumption.