The fertility of medieval history writing

The medieval period was a lab experiment in history writing. The historiographical legacy of classical antiquity had been rich, but the types and methodologies of history-writing developed between around 500 and 1500 CE were not only more vast, but also formative for how history was to be written in the West. To the ancient canonicalContinue reading “The fertility of medieval history writing”

The wasteland of popular history

Every author has to walk a fine line when writing a book. Fiction requires the creation of a hall of mirrors, or illusions hiding the cluttered backstage where the authors work their tricks. Many writers of non-fiction who deal in ideas and persuasion need to make sure they target the right audiences and don’t upsetContinue reading “The wasteland of popular history”

The paradox of myths

If you subscribe to Karl Popper’s famous ‘paradox of tolerance’, you should consider its corollary, what I would call, the ‘paradox of myths’. According to Popper, the pursuit of tolerance has the strange effect of nurturing intolerance as the way by which tolerance is made possible. We see this perverse principle in action in relationContinue reading “The paradox of myths”

Immanent self-flagellation

If there is one statue that very few are keen to bring down, it’s that of modernity. Between Charles Taylor, Gaston Bachelard and Bruno Latour, the mythology of the modern age, its certainties, Supreme Scientific Court, incontestable faits faits (forged facts, Bachelard), its ‘Constitution’ (Latour) and ‘immanent frame’ (Taylor) is exposed, disassembled and shown forContinue reading “Immanent self-flagellation”

The iconoduly of iconoclasm

There is no outside text, Jacques Derrida once wrote, and immediately the waters of deconstruction flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty years. The project of iconoclasm hasn’t started with the tumbling and defacing of statues in the wake of the George Floyd murder. Nor should iconoclasm be considered solely as a reaction againstContinue reading “The iconoduly of iconoclasm”

Opening the Overton windows on the Middle Ages

How do you turn an unthinkable idea into one that everyone can accept, one that becomes a cultural commonplace? Not quickly, is one answer. Another answer is by squeezing it through the Overton windows. The Overton window is a concept named after Joseph Overton which tries to explain the political acceptability of a policy atContinue reading “Opening the Overton windows on the Middle Ages”