The enduring charm of hybridity

In at least one respect, we’re not too far away from the Middle Ages, and that’s in our cultural bend towards hybridity. I’m not taking about hybrid cars, or maybe I am. One question historians very rarely ask is: what’s in a hybrid? Sure, the word is familiar enough, and it conjures up images rangingContinue reading “The enduring charm of hybridity”

Of individuals and crowds

News travelled very slowly in the past. Just as it took months for individuals to reach distant lands, so did news reports reach different individuals and communities with significant retardation. In premodern Europe, oral information circulated more speedily than written reports. In the medieval period, necrologues travelled quickly from one monastic community to another. BeforeContinue reading “Of individuals and crowds”

Censorship doesn’t work

That the pen is, if not mightier than the sword, than perhaps just as lethal was something humanity understood rather quickly. The history of writing is also the history of censorship because writing has always been a question of power, and power always leads to control, to distinctions between those who have it and thoseContinue reading “Censorship doesn’t work”

Lost in ‘translatio’

You only get to invent the wheel once. This basic principle works in engineering as well as in art. Culture is a wheel in motion, and what was created, doesn’t get recreated, even when it gets lost. It is merely rediscovered and updated. The long cultural shift from Antiquity to the Middle Ages (as weContinue reading “Lost in ‘translatio’”

Defacing and destroying

Throughout history, we’ve preserved as well as destroyed the relics of the past. The cultural heritage is the result of deducting destruction from preservation. Books and stained glass on the left, ashes and rubble on the right. The Reformation destroyed the Catholic capital of Europe. Political regimes have destroyed the political capitals of the past.Continue reading “Defacing and destroying”