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Sean Wilentz has become our generation’s foremost historian as public intellectual, positioning himself as a blend of Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. and Richard Hofstadter, the historical giants of the mid-20th-century era of consensus. Wilentz, however, lives in what another thoughtful historian, Daniel T. Rodgers, has called an ‘age of fracture’.
Rewriting Magic is an unusual monograph both in its style and in its content. It is the latest publication in the Magic in History series by Penn State University Press. The Press started issuing this series more than two decades ago, and it has become by now a flourishing and exciting enterprise with nearly 20 titles including monographs, text editions and collections of essays.
I recall the moment when I first encountered the existence of the so-called Corwin amendment of 1861. It happened by chance in an undergraduate political science class on constitutional law. The textbook contained a brief synopsis of the rediscovery and revival of the 27th amendment, ratified in 1992 some two centuries after its congressional adoption.
Karen Baston’s book is more than a revision of her Ph.D. It moves significantly beyond her thesis to open up fascinating new perspectives on the neglected subject of the place of the Scottish legal profession in Scottish public culture during the European Enlightenment of the 18th century.
In early modern England sleep was a ritualized form of devotion, a means of staving off illness, a source of solace, and marker of sociability. In short, it was both a physical and cultural practice.
As Martin Heale states at the very beginning of The Abbots and Priors of Late Medieval and Reformation England, ‘the importance of the late medieval abbot needs no particular emphasis’. This was a group of men with responsibility for the spiritual and material wellbeing of thousands of monks and canons.
So often, intellectual history is about inheritances. Historians study what is passed down from one age to the next. This has often led to the problem that we tend to focus on what is more familiar, engaging, or at least recognisable, and leads us to ask: why study that which has not left an inheritance?
Eli Rubin has written a wonderful book that does not just tell a fascinating story about an important but much neglected subject, but also manages to link this story to much broader historiographical, and indeed ontological, questions about the intersections between space, on one hand, and power, time and lived experience on the other.
Padraig Lenihan, The Last Cavalier: Richard Talbot (1631-91), Dublin, UCD Press, 2014, 268 pages, €40, ISBN 9781906359836.
This book deals with the history of the city of Ravenna, near Italy’s north eastern coast, in the period between the fifth and the 11th centuries AD. It comprises an excellent introduction by the editors and 15 chapters of varying lengths. It is well illustrated and has a very useful index, not always the case with edited volumes.