'There is no man or movement’, according to the late Emmet Larkin, ‘that can be intelligibly discussed apart from the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland’.
Officially, the designated revolution that took place in historical theory since the Second World War is that of the so-called ‘linguistic turn’. But as the postmodernist era in historical theory begins to fade, one begins to wonder if the real revolution in post-war historical theory actually consisted of the rise of memory studies.
This is a welcome translation of an important book. Arlette Jouanna’s studies of the French nobility in its relations with the monarchy and the 16th-century Wars of Religion give her the breadth of vision and contextual knowledge necessary to offer new insights into perhaps the single most famous event of these wars.
The significance of ransoming has long been recognised by students of medieval chivalry and diplomacy. Seen as key to the development of an international aristocratic ethic that mitigated some of the worst excesses of medieval combat the ransom system led to a pan-European conception of a chivalric brotherhood.
Jonathan Jeffrey Wright’s The ‘Natural Leaders’ and their World is an important contribution to the history of Belfast as well as to the broader subjects of Ulster liberalism and Presbyterianism.
The work of Mary Carruthers is well known to students of medieval culture. Her Book of Memory charted discussions of memory from antiquity to the late Middle Ages, treading in the footsteps of Frances Yates in arguing that memory was not just another concept in the minds of medieval writers, but a conceptual motor for the organisation and motivation of thought.
In 1920, Sir Lionel Abrahams, an Assistant Under Secretary of State at the India Office, likened India’s finances in Britain to ‘rivers running into a lake on one side and so many rivers running out of the lake at the other side’.
This review was written in early June, and coincided with the anniversary of D-Day. The annual commemoration of this event, accompanied this year by new television documentaries as well as the replaying of iconic films, is yet another reminder of the important place the Second World War still occupies in British culture as well as history.
The period of medieval intellectual history covered by this book, primarily the 12th and 13th centuries, is one that has received considerable attention for well over a century. The main question, then, is what does Ian Wei bring to this subject that has not been done before, or how has he reshaped it? The answer is he has done much in both respects.
Michel Foucault famously described sodomy as an utterly confused category. The same could be said for marriage, especially during the Middle Ages, as the two studies under review demonstrate. Like sodomy, marriage is a category traversing several fields – law, culture, religion – that bites into people’s flesh.