The Prophetic Sense of History in Medieval and Renaissance Europe
The essays here collect the author’s further researches since the publication of her pathbreaking Influence of Prophecy in the Later Middle Ages in 1969. In part stimulated by responses to the book, they also show the extent to which the field then opened up has now expanded. In the last forty years a cultural shift in the meaning of ‘history’ has brought to the forefront an interest in how people have charted their future by the signs given in their historical heritage. Both pessimistic and optimistic readings of history meet in medieval Western Europe and colour the thought, art, even the politics of the Renaissance. In particular, the powerful vision of Joachim of Fiore activated a reading of history which culminates in a flowering of a ‘third age’. These essays attempt to portray some of the strange and moving shapes which thronged the imagination as men and women looked to their prophetic future.