Life and death

Languages don’t die, they simply evolve, creating new idioms and generating new forms and variants. The death of a language…

Closing the parenthesis

In his book ‘Les Démons’, Simon Liberati writes that good letters will return to our society when we’ve exhausted the…

Takeovers and mediation

Just as a culture’s committment to literacy has made it nearly impossible for people to live their lives outside the…

Coming on top

History doesn’t have time for housekeeping and tidying up. History is messy and expedient. A city’s ruins are another’s foundations.…

Resistance to novelty

Nearly all pre-modern societies were loathe to experiment, try new things and embrace novelties. A measure of how modern we…

I can’t read this!

In one of his letters, the 14th-century Italian poet and proto-humanist Petrarch complained that he found it hard to read…

Utopias and apocalypses

A telling distinction between the distant Renaissance and the familiar 21st century is the popularity of utopian thinking during the…

A dictatorship of letters

There were many dictators in late medieval Europe, but not the kind of dictators you’d expect. Not the autocratic rulers…