Despite their presence in the popular imagination and their undoubted importance in the narrative of medieval history, the Crusades have for a long time sat apart from mainstream medieval historiography. Traditionally, the Crusades themselves are as peripheral in the minds of historians of Europe as they were geographically.
We have here two very different books utilizing two very different approaches to essentially the same period of history in Europe. And while the differences are enormous, each is excellent in its own way and both are major contributions to the historiography of Europe in the first half of the 20th century.
Exile has long been central to our understanding of certain Early Modern topics. The flight of English Protestants, and then Catholics, to the Continent in the 16th century, or the exodus of Huguenots (many to England and Ireland) after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th, are perhaps the best known examples to UK audiences.
Over the past year more than 600,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean and Southeast Europe to seek asylum in the European Union.(1) While countries such as Germany have been incredibly welcoming in offering these refugees protection (with an increase of 155 per cent from 2014–15), others – most notably the United Kingdom – have been reluctant to open their border
The Andalusian jurist Abū Bakr al-Ṭurṭūshī (d. 1126) was once asked whether or not it was permissible to eat cheese imported into Alexandria from the Christian territories along the northern coastline of the Mediterranean. The question clearly intrigued al-Ṭurṭūshī, since he went to considerable lengths to research the subject before issuing his final response.
It is hard to write a genuinely new and intellectually stimulating book about Henry Kissinger, one of the most studied and debated figures in the history of American foreign relations. That Greg Grandin has done so is to his great credit.
The history of the European Wars of Religion from the Crusades onward has provided fertile ground for study by historians, philosophers, and theologians of all ideological persuasions. The period from the 1520s forward particularly has served as the subject of an astonishing amount of research – with no discernable chronological gap in the historiography.
In 1372 Renatus Malbecco, a Milanese ambassador, arrived in Avignon for a meeting with Pope Gregory XI. His embassy was evidently unwelcome: he was ‘received with insults’ and promptly sent away. An observing diplomat recounted this event in a couple of terse lines. A little over a century later it was the turn of Ludovico il Moro of Milan to dismiss a visiting envoy.
Historical scholarship has experienced a number of ‘shifts’ over the last three decades, with traditional concerns about politics and economics increasingly vying with newer ‘cultural-historical’ questions around language, meaning and subjectivity. Other innovations, such as spatial and transnational approaches to history, have also come to the fore.
Susan Pedersen’s title misleads. The unwary might think that it deals generally with the League and imperialism, centring on the well-known paradox that an institution created primarily to ensure stability in Europe was undermined and then effectively destroyed by its failure to stop imperialist aggression in Asia and Africa.