Medieval & Renaissance History

Reconstructing Seapower

Andrew Lambert— In the late 1880s, American strategist and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan coined the term “sea power” by purposefully splitting the word “seapower,” a direct translation of the Greek thalassokratia, to sustain his agenda. The Greek word had been used by Herodotus and Thucydides to describe states which were

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The Lives of Beowulf

Stephen Mitchell— It’s something of a miracle that any of our ancient literary masterpieces survived the downfall or shift of civilizations, since they all might easily have been lost. Of Heraclitus’s profound insights, we have only tantalizing fragments. Of Sappho’s nine books, there remain just four poems and scattered verses

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Knowing How to Win at Acre

John D. Hosler— The oracle at Delphi advised, “Know Thyself,” and the rock band Rage Against the Machine screamed, “Know Your Enemy.” Which is more important for winning a war? Or rather, is it both? Military historians are keenly interested in the extent to which armies knew and understood the abilities

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Creating “William the Bastard”

David Bates— The fact that William the Conqueror’s parents, Robert, duke of Normandy from 1027 to 1035, and Herleva, were not married according to the rules of the Christian Church has over the years massively influenced interpretations of his life, his prospects, and his personality. It has been transmitted across

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What is Religion?

Richard Holloway— As with many useful words, symbol comes from Greek. It means to bring together things that had come apart, the way you might glue the bits of a broken plate together. Then a symbol became an object that stood for or represented something else. It still had the idea of

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Pride Month Bookshelf: LGBTQIA+ History, Cultural Studies, and Literature Beyond June

Presenting our Yale University Press Pride Month reading list—because celebrating #Pride2017, learning from the history of the movement, championing stories and contributions of LGBTQIA+ individuals, and working each day to insist on equal and fair treatment of queer communities should extend far beyond June. Homintern: How Gay Culture Liberated the Modern World by Gregory

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The Office of the Coroner and the Birth of the Modern English State

Matthew Lockwood— The image of the detective is a familiar one to modern eyes. Contemporary culture is rife with crime dramas, police procedurals, and medical investigations. Searching for the origins of this ubiquitous cultural type in the Anglo-American world, few would delve deeply into the past, pinpointing instead the nineteenth

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Notions of Common Law in Medieval Islam

Mohammad Fadel— The great western scholar of Islamic law, the late Joseph Schacht, famously characterized Islamic law as a “jurist’s law,” by which he meant to draw scholarly attention to the central role that scholars of the law—the fuqahāʾ (s. faqīh)—played in the formulation of Islamic law in contrast to

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Podcast: A Brief History of the Reformation

Noted historian and author Carlos Eire breaks down some of the myths about Martin Luther and the Reformation and provides an insightful look at the history of the Catholic and Protestant religions from medieval to modern times. Subscribe: iTunes Stitcher

Women and (Soft) Power: Jackie Kennedy and Blanche of Castile

Lindy Grant— Last night I went to see the new film Jackie, in which Natalie Portman gives a searing portrait of Jacqueline Kennedy in the immediate aftermath of her husband’s death. It made me think of the similarities and differences between Jackie Kennedy and Blanche of Castile, the queen of France who lived

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