Joseph P. Huffmans Family, Commerce and Religion in London and Cologne: Anglo-German Immigrants, c.1000-c.1300: (Cambridge 1998) is the most recent contribution to a burgeoning field of historical scholarship, i.e. the study of Anglo-German relations in the Middle Ages. Over the last fifteen years a number of studies have appeared on the subject.
For the first fifteen years after the end of the Second World War, the Nazi persecution and mass murder of the Jews of Europe was rarely the subject of public debate or historical analysis. Only after the Eichmann trial did the term ‘Holocaust’ gain widespread acceptance.
During the medieval period the Benedictine abbeys of Westminster and Saint-Denis were major centres of religion, politics and power, while serving as the site of royal shrines and burials.
In spite of the time period implied in her subtitle, Ann Thomson’s book covers debates about the materiality of the soul from 1650 to the early 19th century. She deals with a vast range of thinkers – primarily in England and France, but also in the Netherlands.
Most medievalists would be able to cite an example of the close parallels in symbolic thinking about the city and world in the Middle Ages, whether along the lines of ideas of Rome as caput mundi or Augustine’s Two cities.
Ever since R. I. Moore published his The Formation of a Persecuting Society in 1987, we have increasingly come to understand medieval society in terms of its treatment of its ‘others’: Jews, lepers, heretics and so forth.(1) New bureaucratic structures starting in the 11th century established themselves by persecuting these minorities.
Reviewing this book is a challenge. The ‘handbook’ genre falls somewhere between that of an encyclopedia and that of the textbook but without the overall coverage, both of topics and details, of the former nor the communications-driven ‘narrative arc’ of the latter.
Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment is an unusual work. Little more than an extended essay, its brevity and lucidity belie the complexity and force of its central thesis. Whilst there is no doubt that the book represents an important historiographical intervention, it is rather harder to explain why or where it does so.
Jane Lead and the Philadelphian Society are not particularly well known figures to most scholars of late 17th- and early 18th-century religion. Born in 1624, Lead experienced a spiritual awakening aged 16. On Christmas Day 1640, while her family danced and celebrated, she was overwhelmed with a ‘beam of Godly light’ and a gentle inner voice offering spiritual guidance.
For many of us, the ongoing carnage in Syria is a self-evident humanitarian crisis. We do not need to be convinced that the children drowning at sea, the women and men, young and old, begging for entry into any country that will accept them are worthy of our help.