Life and death

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

Closing the parenthesis

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

Takeovers and mediation

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

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. … More

Resistance to novelty

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

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 … More

Utopias and apocalypses

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

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 … More