It is 50 years since Edward Thompson introduced historians to the phrase, the idea, the reality of 'the condescension of posterity'.(1) And while Thompson restricted his lens to the poor and forgotten of late 18th- and early 19th-century Britain, for a number of years a small number of historians, John Barrell notable among them (2
As Richard Steele opined in one 1712 edition of The Spectator, a predilection for portraiture in post-Reformation England was something both recognised and respected by the journalist and his peers: ‘No nation in the world delights so much in having their own, or friends’, or relations’ pictures; whether from their national good-nature, or having a love to painting, and not being encou
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.
‘The Sitwells belong to the history of publicity rather than of poetry’, famously pronounced F. R. Leavis in New Bearings in English Poetry (1932).
Karen Overbey’s monograph is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the weighty collection of (predominantly antiquarian) archaeo- / art-historical studies focusing on medieval Irish relics and reliquaries, a healthy proportion of which is judiciously consolidated and summarised throughout the book.
Although photography was introduced to India soon after its 1839 European invention, it was not until 1857 that the new technology proliferated in the subcontinent. In Zahid R. Chaudhary’s heavily illustrated study, focused on colonial photographic practices following the Sepoy Revolt by Indian recruits (1857–8), this proliferation is central.
As Jan Rüger suggested in his 2011 review article ‘Revisiting the Anglo-German antagonism’, since 2000 almost every aspect of the history of Anglo-German relations has been reassessed and re-examined as a story not of increasing and inevitable antagonism, but of a much more complex process.
One can hardly imagine that several decades ago the concept of spolia did not yet indicate a field of widespread research in the history of architecture, art and archaeology. The title of this volume with 12 essays and a fascinating introduction, points to this change in research focus, since the value of reuse of objects and materials has not always been recognized.
Useful Cinema begins on the perfect point, with the observation that films today ‘appear everywhere’, from ‘iPhone to Imax, from blog inserts to Jumbotrons’, so ‘becoming integral to our experience of institutional and everyday life’.
As L. P. Hartley famously remarked in The Go-Between (1953), ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there’. This was more prescient than he knew, for most of the English-speaking world now seems to view the past not merely as foreign but as totally alien – diverting at times, perhaps, but utterly irrelevant to them and their lives.