New Medieval Books: From Dracula to Isabella

Five new books, spanning from Egypt at the beginning of the Middle Ages, to Italy at the end.


By Matei Cazacu, translated by Nicole Mordarski, Stephen W. Reinert, Alice Brinton, and Catherine Healey

ISBN: 978-90-04-34725-0

Publisher’s Overview: Originally published in French in 2004, Matei Cazacu’s Dracula remains the most authoritative scholarly biography of the Wallachian prince Vlad III the Impaler (1448, 1456-1462, 1476). Its core is an exhaustively researched reconstruction of Dracula’s life and political career, using original sources in more than nine languages. In addition Cazacu traces Dracula’s metamorphosis, at the hands of contemporary propagandists, into variously a bloodthirsty tyrant, and an early modern “great sovereign.” Beyond this Cazacu explores Dracula’s transformation into “the vampire prince” in literature, film and folklore, with surprising new discoveries on Bram Stoker’s sources for his novel. In this first English translation, the text and bibliography are updated, and readers are provided with an appendix of the key sources for Dracula’s life, in fresh and accurate English translations.

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Visions of Sainthood in Medieval Rome: The Lives of Margherita Colonna by Giovanni Colonna and Stefania

Translated by Larry F. Field

University of Notre Dame Press
ISBN: 9870268102029

Excerpt: Margherita Colonna (ca.1255-80) belonged to one of medieval Rome’s most powerful families. She led a dramatic life of ardent visionary piety, memorialized in two compelling hagiographic texts written shortly after her death. She was even belatedly beatified by the Catholic Church in 1847. Yet Margherita and the texts that record her life remain very little known, even to specialists. This volume offers the first English translation of her two “lives” and a dossier of associated documents, with the goal of making them accessible to scholars, students, and a wider reading public.

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Getting Rich in Late Antique Egypt

By Ryan E. McConnell

University of Michigan Press
ISBN: 978-0-472-12291-2

Publisher’s Overview: Papyrologists and historians have taken a lively interest in the Apion family (fifth through seventh centuries), who rose from local prominence in rural Middle Egypt to become one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Eastern Roman Empire. The focus of most scholarly debate has been whether the Apion estate—and estates like it—aimed for a marketable surplus or for self-sufficiency. Getting Rich in Late Antique Egypt shifts the discussion to precisely how the Apions’ wealth was generated and what role their Egyptian estate played in that growth by engaging directly with broader questions of the relationship between public and private economic actors in Late Antiquity, rational management in ancient economies, the size of estates in Byzantine Egypt, and the role of rural estates in the Byzantine economy.

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Caliphate: The History of an Idea

By Hugh Kennedy

Basic Books
ISBN: 9780465094387

Excerpt: What is Caliphate? What does the term mean? What is the history of the idea? Is it an ancient irrelevance, only interesting as a voice from a past which is safely consigned to history? Or is it a concept that we can interpret and use today? In this book I shall try to answer these questions. The concept of caliphate has had many different interpretations and realizations through the centuries, as we shall see, but fundamental to them all is that it offers an idea of leadership which is about the just ordering of Muslim society according to the will of God. Some have argued that the caliph is the shadow of God on earth, a man whose authority is semi-divine and whose conduct is without blame; many more would accept that the caliph was, so to speak, the chief executive of the umma, the Muslim community, an ordinary human with worldly powers, and there is a wide spectrum of ideas in between. All are informed by the desire to see God’s will worked out among all Muslims.

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Isabella d’Este: Selected Letters

Edited and translated by Deanna Schemek

Iter Press
ISBN: 9780866985727

Excerpt: Selected from nearly sixteen thousand manuscript letters, the writings published here emanated over a period of fifty years from the chancery of Renaissance Italy’s most prolific female correspondent, Isabella d’Este (1474-1539). Isabella was born into the elite class that ruled Europe through bonds of kinship, marriage, and military service. As the firstborn child of Ercole I d’Este, second duke of Ferrara and Eleonora d’Aragona, princess of Naples, she married Francesco II Gonzaga, fourth marchese of Mantua in 1490. By that marriage she became marchesa of that city-state, co-governing it until after Francesco’s death in 1519 and then operating in the background when their son, Frederico II, assumed power.

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