Sunday, March 19, 2017

Fallen Glory by James Crawford

Here & Now's Meghna Chakrabarti talks to James Crawford about the book:
There is no question that we invest our greatest structures and constructions with personalities. We care about buildings – some- times, perhaps, more than we care about our fellow human beings. We shout with joy when we raise them up; we weep with sorrow when we destroy them. And, of course, we do continue to destroy them – buildings young and old, all over the world.
Even the longest human life barely exceeds a century. How much more epic are the lives of buildings, which can endure for thousands of years? Unlike the people who made them, these structures experience not just one major historical event, but a great accumulation of them, in some cases stretching all the way from the prehistoric era to the present day. In its lifetime, the same building can meet Julius Caesar, Napoleon and Adolf Hitler. What human could claim the same? If we let them, buildings have the potential to be the ultimate raconteurs. These are some of their stories.
Read entire article here @ Here & Now (note: I especially liked his view on GeoCities - former free website hosting site)
Review by Robert Douglas Fairhurst @ The Telegraph
Review by Stuart Kelly @ The Scotsman

Monday, March 13, 2017

Book: The Prince In Splendour

If preparing Christmas dinner in your household seems exhausting, spare a thought for the Royal kitchen of Henry III.

Over Christmas in 1251, he and guests tucked into 830 deer, 200 wild boar, 1,300 hares, 385 pigeons and 115 cranes – and that was just the wild game menu.

Such lavish affairs are recorded by Woodbridge historian Richard Barber in his book, The Prince in Splendour: Court Festivals of Medieval Europe.

As well presented as the events it describes, the 280-page book examines medieval court festivals in all their grandeur.

“One of the things I like about medieval history is that there are very few primary sources of record,” said the author.

Read entire article by Tom Potter @ East Anglian Daily Times

Death and the Afterlife in Byzantium

This interdisciplinary study provides an in-depth analysis and synthesis of hagiography, theological treatises, apocryphal texts and liturgical services, as well as images of the fate of the soul in manuscript and monumental decoration. It also places the imagery of the afterlife, both literary and artistic, within the context of Byzantine culture, spirituality, and soteriology. The book intends to be the definitive study on concepts of the afterlife in Byzantium.

Read more here @ Yale News

Triple Biography of Byzantium

Historian Bettany Hughes is a fine storyteller and the triple biography of Byzantium, Constantinople and Istanbul is world history enmeshed in one desirable location. From the Greeks at Byzantium about 600BC to the Romans at Constantinople in AD300 to the Muslim city of the 1500s onwards and the Istanbul of modern Turkey, the layers of history are excavated in fine detail.

Along the way dozens of intruders found their way to this spot, which guards the entrance to the Black Sea. Persians, Vandals, Goths and the Crusaders all made their mark at various times and the modern city bears traces of them all. The author digs deep to find what they left behind and explain where the signs of the city's centuries of invasion can be found.

Read rest of review by Jim Sullivan here @ Otago Daily News

Monday, March 6, 2017

Bastards and Thrones in Medieval Europe

Author Sara McDougall talks about her current book: Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, 800–1230
Today we use the term “bastard” as an insult, or to describe children born to non-marital unions. Being born to unmarried parents is largely free of the kind of stigma and legal incapacities once attached to it in Western cultures. Nevertheless, it still has associations of shame and sin. This disparagement of children born outside of marriage is widely assumed to be a legacy of Medieval Christian Europe, with its emphasis on compliance with Catholic marriage law.
The stigmatization as 'bastards' of children born outside of wedlock is commonly thought to have emerged early in Medieval European history, but Sara McDougall demonstrates that until well into the late twelfth century a child's prospects depended more upon the social status and lineage of both parents than of the legitimacy of their marriage.

Read More Here @ OUP Blog - Bastards & Thrones in Medieval Europe

Cosmos and Community in Early Medieval Art

Review by Daniel Aloi of Cornell University in the Cornell Chronicle
In his new book, “Cosmos and Community in Early Medieval Art,” assistant professor of the history of art and visual studies Benjamin Anderson presents the first comparative study of cosmological art between 700 and 1000 A.D. and details what distinguished such imagery in each of three cultural spheres – the Frankish empire of Western Europe, the Byzantine empire and the Islamic empire in the Middle East. As each of the medieval cultures diverged from their Greco-Roman roots and established their own artistic traditions, cosmic imagery provided continuity, though the images’ local meanings varied widely.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Heroines : Powerful Indian Women of Myth and History

The book makes a case for revising notions of courage and heroism through the portraits of eight powerful women from mythology and history.With the purpose of keeping patriarchy intact; mythologies and histories are popularized and retold via state controlled media at the mass entertainment level and reflections of women characters are generally more negative than positive. 

Women of history and mythology are depicted as weak, emotive, obedient, submissive while qualities like courage, endurance, wisdom and physical strength has been associated with masculinity. The book challenges these stereotypes and makes a case for women heroism through the narratives of Draupadi, Radha, Ambapali, Raziya Sultan, Meerabai, Jahanara, Laxmibai and Hazrat Mahal.

The book is an inspiring read for anyone interested in women histories. It not only details the lives of the legendary women, but also describes its relevance in contemporary context through an analysis of its reception and circulation in cultural and political narratives today. 

Read review by Biraj Mehta Rathi here @ The Free Press Journal

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Barbara Newman reviews ‘Anna Komnene’ by Leonora Neville

Byzantium also produced a female historian, Anna Komnene (1083-c.1155). Her Alexiad, with its deliberately epic title, is considered an invaluable source for the reign of her father, Emperor Alexios Komnenos. Like most Byzantine histories, it is a tale of wars, conspiracies and heresies. Anna could describe a battle as vividly or refute a heretic as scornfully as any of her male peers. Western historians prize her account of the First Crusade, the only eyewitness view from Byzantium, in which she portrays the Norman adventurer Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemond with horrified fascination. In a period that witnessed the gradual loss of Asia Minor to the Turks, the emergence of Venice and Pisa as maritime powers and the formulation of holy war ideologies in western Christendom and Islam, our knowledge of the Byzantine response to these changes comes largely from the Alexiad. Like all histories, it has its gaps and silences, but also its odd inclusions, such as an excursus on Aristotelian philosophers in the capital. Anna herself would commission the first commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics.

Continue Reading More Here:

See Also:
Anna & the First Crusade @ De Re Militari

Three Sisters, Three Queens

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Philippa Gregory, the little-known story of three Tudor women who are united in sisterhood and yet compelled to be rivals when they fulfill their destinies as queens.

When Katherine of Aragon is brought to the Tudor court as a young bride, the oldest princess, Margaret, takes her measure. With one look, each knows the other for a rival, an ally, a pawn, destined—with Margaret’s younger sister Mary—to a unique sisterhood. The three sisters will become the queens of England, Scotland, and France.

United by family loyalties and affections, the three queens find themselves set against each other. But as they experience betrayals, dangers, loss, and passion, the three sisters find that the only constant in their perilous lives is their special bond, more powerful than any man, even a king.

Read More Here @ Three Sisters, Three Queens