To a political historian, little is more important than politics (in the broad sense, as in the case of this book, incorporating religious division and the Reformation), and a book about a parliament is pre-eminently political.
The challenge in writing a comparative review of Kate Lowe’s fine study of early modern Italian convents Nuns’ Chronicles and Convent Culture with Sarah Dunant’s gripping novel Sacred Hearts is to find ways of making sense of the experience of reading both beyond stating the obvious.
Michel Foucault famously asserted that sexual identity was a modern invention, remarking, ‘The sodomite had been a temporary aberration; the homosexual was now a species’.(1) For Foucault, the vocabulary and specificity of modern sexual identity were largely formulated under the impetus of 19th-century sexology.
In his new book Steven Pinker, psychologist at Harvard University, sets out to fundamentally alter our understanding of the trajectory of violence from pre-historic times to the present. He takes issue with the widely held perception that the most recent past, the 20th century, was an age of large-scale bloodshed and genocidal slaughter.
The idea of an age of absolutism has lately fallen out of fashion, for several reasons. The word absolutism was coined only in the 19th century and the concept of a generic absolutist model can easily obscure significant differences between various monarchical states.
Hitherto, the historiography of ‘city-states’ has in general not been comparative, preferring to focus on one city, or one region, rather than taking a European perspective.
Two decades ago Francis Fukuyama gained widespread attention, and some notoriety, with the argument that the modern world had reached the end of history. Of course, he did not mean that history as a flow of events would cease. What he did mean was that history as successive stages of society had reached its final level. There is no future regime beyond modern democracy and capitalism.
The History of Parliament is widely recognised as a monumental scholarly achievement. Since its origins in the dreams of Josiah Wedgwood in the early part of the 20th century, and then its establishment as a charitable trust in 1940 (with government funding from 1951), it has produced a voluminous output.
The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine appears at a critical moment for medical history; in a period when its practitioners are being forced to re-evaluate their aims and agendas in the face of shifting funding priorities and disciplinary angst. Just a few years, one leading medical historian publicly declared that medical history was ‘dead’, or was at least heading that way.
The study of nationality (a term used to designate historically and constitutively diverse nations) poses a number of acute methodological, historical, and philosophical problems.