The official website for BBC History Magazine interviewed our colleague, Prof. Nicholas Paul. Read Prof. Paul’s comments below:
Confronted with the message, propagated by both the European and Anglophone extreme right and Islamic jihadist groups, that we live in an age of renewed conflict between Islam and the west, many people may understandably conclude that we have inherited an ancient legacy of holy war. We have – though not in the way that many imagine.
The legacy of the crusades today is not due to the continuity over time of any medieval crusading institution. After all, the crusade indulgence offered by the church – a central element of the architecture of these holy wars – had effectively disappeared by the 17th century. Surviving crusading orders, such as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, are now devoted to charitable work. And no modern state, whether in Spain, the Baltic or the eastern Mediterranean, can trace its origins to the ‘crusader states’ established by medieval conquests. Too much historical water – reformation, revolution, global exchange, the rise and fall of empires, the shock of modernity – has passed under the bridge for any modern community to still bear marks of crusading violence.
The legacy of the crusades is, nonetheless, powerful, primarily because of the passions and predilections of 19th- and 20th-century Europeans. They found in the crusades a useful past through which they sought to understand their own world of overseas empires, warring nations and rapid social change. These modern observers constructed a storehouse of popular images and stories – such as the epic encounter of Richard I and Saladin during the Third Crusade – and used them to make claims about morality and collective identity.
Western Europeans took these images and attitudes abroad – for example, in 1898, when Kaiser Wilhelm II re-enacted the conquest of Jerusalem and rebuilt Saladin’s tomb at Damascus, laying a gilt bronze wreath (later taken by TE Lawrence and now displayed in London’s Imperial War Museum). It was in this modern context that a new historical memory of the crusades was constructed – one that stripped away fundamental elements of crusading history and is easily co-opted by those who would make a ‘clash of civilisations’ seem habitual and inevitable.
Prof. Yuko Miki, the recent recipient of the American Historical Association’s Wesley-Logan Prize for the outstanding book in African diaspora history, discussed Race & Citizenship in Latin America alongside Fordham Law Professor Tanya Hernandez. The Maloney Library’s Behind the Book Series organized this event.
Prof. Saul Cornell and Dr. Nicole Hemmer discussed the history and politics of impeachment. In case you missed it or want re-watch it, you can re-catch their fascinating exchange here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPy_rDyLfow
You can follow Prof. Saul Cornell on Twitter @SaulCornell
Prof. Nana Osei-Opare was interviewed by Starr FM, a Ghanaian based radio station, about his thoughts on the historic Africa-Russia Summit in Sochi.
You can follow Prof. Nana Osei-Opare on Twitter @NanaOseiOpare
Glauco Schettini’s article, “Confessional Modernity: Nicola Spedalieri, the Catholic Church and the French Revolution, c.1775-1800,” published in Modern Intellectual History (Cambridge University Press), reconsiders the Catholic reaction to the French Revolution and more broadly to the emergence of what we usually term “modernity.”
The article focuses on Nicola Spedalieri’s On the Rights of Man (1791) and on the debate that its publication sparked in Italy and beyond. The outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the polarization of public opinion between the supporters of the new regime and its relentless opponents convinced Spedalieri (1740-95), a well-reputed Catholic theologian, of the need to find a via media between these two extremes. Assuming the re-Christianization of the postrevolutionary world as his goal, Spedalieri argued that some aspects of revolutionary political culture (representative institutions, the idea of a social contract, the notion of human rights) were acceptable from a Catholic standpoint as long as the revolutionaries, in turn, agreed to abandon secularization and to uphold the traditional confessional organization of the state, recognizing Catholicism as the official state religion. It was not modernity itself, Spedalieri claimed, that should be rejected, but secularization, for a different modernity from that conceived by the revolutionaries was possible—a confessional modernity, combining revolutionary politics and confessional states. Far from gaining immediate acceptance, Spedalieri’s ideas were harshly criticized during the 1790s and then set aside by the triumph of reactionary Catholicism during the Restoration. However, they resurfaced later in the nineteenth century and ultimately played a decisive role in the development of the church’s attitudes toward modern culture, for they carved a path for Catholics to fight secularization from within and to reshape modernity accordingly.A free online version of the article is available here.
Comments Off on Graduate Student, Glauco Schettini, publishes in the Journal of Modern Intellectual History
In her new book, Kirsten Swinth, Ph.D., associate professor of history, examines misperceptions of American feminism’s past. From failed promises of women “having it all” to the contemporary struggle for equal wages for equal work, Swinth’s book exposes how government policies often undermined tenets of the movement known as “second-wave feminism,” which took place from 1960s through the 1970s.
The book, Feminism’s Forgotten Fight: The Unfinished Struggle for Work and Family (Harvard University Press, 2018), argues that second-wave feminists did not fail to deliver on their promises; rather, a conformist society pushed back against far-reaching changes sought by these activists. The book’s arc begins with the intimate sphere of the family in the 1950s and then moves on to larger societal changes where two-income families became the unavoidable economic norm.
“My focus is on the story of a broad feminist vision that wasn’t fully realized,” said Swinth. “There were a lot of gains generally, but the movement also generated an antifeminist backlash so that most of the aspirations, like a sane and sustainable balance for work and family, were defeated.” (Full article available at link below)