‘Structure’ is still an unfashionable word in history. Since the late 1980s, ‘post-structuralism’ (or, more commonly, its elastic cousin postmodernism) has seemed to dominate much historical writing and methodology. The ‘linguistic turn’ has sharpened historians’ attention to the power of language.
The thesis and value of Andrew Elliott’s new study of ‘medieval film’ are neatly encapsulated by his reminding us at the end of the book’s preface that, in the medieval tradition, the Grail quest involved asking, not answering, the right questions.
In Remembering the Road to World War Two Patrick Finney (a student of 20th-century international history, history and theory, and collective memory) writes an impressive and informative account, not of the origins of the Second World War, but of the way historians and others have remembered those origins.
No one would deny that Pompeii, the city destroyed by the forces of nature – as when, in the words of the poet Leopardi, ‘an overripe tomato falls on an anthill’ – has attained the status of an archetype, outpacing even Atlantis (whose story must now be explained to the unfamiliar in terms of the fate of Pompeii).
How should we live? Roman Krznaric, in The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, tackles a question as old as civilization itself from a position more fundamental than philosophy, religion or psychology offer on their own. This position is historical.
At a time when billboards have been driven around London urging illegal immigrants to ‘go home’, when photographs of the arrests of those suspected of breaching their visas were being tweeted by the Home Office (with the hashtag #immigrationoffenders), and when 39,000 texts stating ‘go home’ have been sent to suspected overstayers, the publication of Tony Kushner's The Battle of Britishness
This book achieves two aims: to locate the Great War in the history of the 20th century, and to show how, as the 20th century unfolded, our understanding of the meaning and significance of the Great War changed as well.
Four years ago I published a review in this journal of a book on The Origins of Racism in the West.(1) I would like to begin the analysis of the volume by Bethencourt in the same way in which I began my piece on The Origins of Racism in the West, i.e.
Introducing a 1996 translation of Alain Corbin’s now seminal work on the history of scent, The Foul and the Fragrant, Roy Porter lamented that ‘today’s history comes deodorized’.(1) As Jonathan Reinarz shows in this historical synthesis of recent work on the history of smell, Porter’s complaint has since been enthusiastically answered.
‘“Chris’mas, we allus had plenny good sumpin’ t’eat, an’ we all got tegether an’ had lots er fun,”’ stated Rias Body, an ex-slave from Alabama, to a Federal Writers’ Project interviewer.