Although this book is not very long (109 pages, not counting appendices and index), it might be characterized in multiple ways. First, it is important, making a valuable addition to the literature on medieval prisons. Interestingly, medieval prisons have not attracted a great deal of scholarly attention.
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.
I must admit that, at the outset, the prospect of reviewing yet another book on the history of spices was not particularly alluring. In recent years there have been several such accounts, part of a succession it seems – or currently, an avalanche – of ‘food history’ books.
It is a bold historian who, in the 21st century, still advertises, even as subtitle, a history of ‘Germanic Europe’ in the late Middle Ages. Evidently alarm bells were sounding in the author’s own ears, as he uses his first page (p. viii) to insist that ‘this book does not revive discredited racist notions based upon a supposedly pristine Germanic antiquity’. And nor does it.
This book is dedicated to Edward M. Peters, well known to medievalists for his wide-ranging work in many fields, often closely related the law and the illicit.
The publisher’s blurb for Marilyn Dunn’s new book claims that it is ‘the first work on the subject to combine a historical approach with insights provided by ethnography and anthropology’. As is often the case with publisher’s statements, this is something of an exaggeration.
In 1994 I published a now widely cited and highly regarded volume entitled Immigration, Ethnicity and Racism in Britain, 1815–1914 (1), which, at the time, faced critical comment.
In March 1208 Pope Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against Raimon VI, count of Toulouse, and the ‘Provençal heretics’ supposedly infesting the comital lands between the Garonne and Rhöne Rivers. All those ‘signed with the cross’ were offered the same rights and privileges as crusaders journeying to the Holy Land.
What is a ‘Companion’ for?
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.