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Why the Middle Ages Matter: Medieval Light on Modern Injustice

Why the Middle Ages Matter: Medieval Light on Modern Injustice

Edited by Celia Chazelle, Simon Doubleday, Felice Lifshitz, Amy G. Remensnyder

Routledge, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-415-78065-0

Publisher’s Description: The word “medieval” is often used in a negative way when talking about contemporary issues. Why the Middle Ages Matter refreshes our thinking about this historical era, and our own, by looking at some pressing concerns from today’s world, asking how these issues were really handled in the medieval period, and showing why the past matters now. The contributors here cover topics such as torture, marriage, sexuality, imprisonment, refugees, poverty, work, the status of women, disability, race, political leadership and end of life care. They focus on a variety of regions, from North Africa and the Middle East, through Western and Central Europe, to the British Isles.

This collection challenges many negative stereotypes of medieval people, revealing a world from which, for instance, much could be learned about looking after the spiritual needs of the dying, and about integrating prisoners into the wider community through an emphasis on reconciliation between victim and criminal. It represents a new level of engagement with issues of social justice by medievalists and provides a highly engaging way into studying the middle ages. All the essays are written so as to be accessible to students, and each is accompanied by a list of further readings.

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Articles

1. Crime and Punishment: penalizing without prisons, by Celia Chazelle
2. Social Deviancy: a medieval approach, by Guy Geltner
3. End of Life: listening to the monks of Cluny, by Fred Paxton
4. Marriage: medieval couples and the uses of tradition, by Ruth Mazo Karras
5. Women: The Da Vinci Code and the fabrication of tradition, by Felice Lifshitz
6. Homosexuality: Augustine and the Christian closet, by Mathew Kuefler
7. Sexual Scandal and the Clergy: a medieval blueprint for disaster, by Dyan Elliott
8. Labor: insights from a medieval monastery, by Martha Newman
9. Disability?: perspectives on bodily difference from the Middle East, by Kristina Richardson
10. Race: what the bookstore hid, by Maghan Keita
11. Refugees: views from thirteenth-century France, by Megan Cassidy-Welch
12. Torture and Truth: Torquemada’s ghost, by Amy Remensnyder
13. Class Justice: why we need a Wat Tyler Day, by Peter Linebaugh
14. Leadership: why we have mirrors for princes but none for presidents, by Geoff Koziol

Reviews

Glenn W. Olsen – “The goal of the present book is to engage the contemporary reader by showing how various things considered unjust today were handled by our medieval predecessors.” See the full review from The Medieval Review

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