Thinking Medieval

Thinking Medieval
Marcus Bull

The “Middle Ages” is one of those historical labels that was invented to be debated over by historians. The only other period I can think of to compare it with is the Enlightenment, and even that wasn’t nearly as messy. Marcus Bull’s little book offers a good introduction to the study of the Middle Ages, highlighting some of the various ways there have been of responding to the medieval world, of interpreting, reinterpreting, and misinterpreting its meaning. In so far as Bull has a particular angle to play up it’s that the people of the Middle Ages were “not like us at all” — the principle of “alterity.” I have my doubts, as I do with the assertion that it’s this very otherness and diversity of the past that makes the study of it particularly relevant to our own time. But then I’m disposed toward seeing coherence and consistency, and I still grant Bull has a valid point. It’s hard to think who, outside of the university, such a book is aimed at, but for aspiring students of any historical period it will be of interest.