It is surprising how frequently books appear on the subject of Adam, Eve and the Garden of Eden. The already extensive bibliography in this volume could easily be doubled or trebled (1), but it has to be said that this is a fascinating, original and impressive contribution to what we might term protoplastic studies.
King Henry VIII’s quarrel with the papacy over the annulment of his almost 24-year marriage to Catherine of Aragon is familiar to both popular and historical audiences. What is less well known is that papal interference in royal marriages dates as far back as the Carolingian era, although the tools popes used to defend the indissolubility of marriage evolved over time.
The name Medici is almost inextricably interlinked with the city of Florence and the idea of the Renaissance in both popular and scholarly imagination. The family dominated the Florentine republic politically for the better part of the 15th century and became, first, dukes of Florence and, then, grand dukes of Tuscany in the 16th.
We all now realise that fascism was a very serious business indeed, and historians have been treating it seriously for some time, even its maligned claim to be totalitarian. Historians have also moved way beyond the still lingering popular perception that Italian Fascism was somehow less radical, less totalitarian, less ‘fascist’ than German Nazism.
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.
In 1859, after decades of religious turmoil in Europe, the Vatican was faced with shocking allegations against one of its convents in Rome. Princess Katharina Von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a German princess, claimed that the convent she had entered, Sant’ Ambrogio, practised a forbidden cult, and that the novice mistress, Maria Luisa had tried to kill her by poisoning.
The cotton industry is fundamental to the development of global capitalism and broadly shaped the world we live in today. It is therefore important to realise the extent to which this depended on the militarisation of trade, massive land expropriation, genocide and slavery.
Both as a historical focus and as a narrative vehicle of ‘otherness’, the depiction of technological marvels has often seemed tantalizingly vague. In Orientalist scholarship à la Said, it also ended up being ultimately irretrievable across the mutually reinforcing mirrors of East and West.
Early in his study of radio in the USSR, Stephen Lovell quotes Rick Altman: ‘new technologies are always born nameless’ (p. 2). New technologies, that is to say, do not arrive with a self-evident purpose, and are understood initially relative to what already exists.
It is dangerous for historians to know the future. The seductive power of seeing ‘how it all came out’ too often warps the way the process of change in the past is understood and can result in the classic version of a Whiggish view of history. Among the examples of this that can be cited is the way the Polish-Lithuanian union has been evaluated.