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New Medieval Books: Emperors, Philosophers, Mystics, Bandits and Guilds

Five new books about the medieval world, taking us from the Byzantine Empire to fields of Japan.

The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire, c.400 – 1492 (Revised Edition)

Edited by Jonathan Shepard

Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 978-1-107-68587-1

Excerpt: Many roads lead to Byzantium, ‘the New Rome’, and guidance comes from dozens of disciplines, including art history and archaeology, theology and expertise in stone inscriptions, coins or handwriting. Indeed, those general historians who act as guides have themselves often majored in other fields, such as ancient Greece and Rome, the medieval west, the Slav or Mediterranean worlds, and even the Italian renaissance. The surest fact about the elusive ‘New Rome’ is that it lasted over a thousand years, albeit with a fifty-seven year dislocation from 1204. Across this millennium, the questions of how, why and where the empire survived, receded, and (most importantly) revived as a more or less functioning organism – and as an idea – underlie this book.

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Medieval Philosophy: A Multicultural Reader

Edited by Bruce V. Foltz

Bloomsbury Academic
ISBN: 978-1-4725-8039-9

Excerpt: The Western Latin tradition is just one member of the quarternity consisting of Eastern (Byzantine) and Western (Latin) Christianity, along with Jewish medieval philosophy and Islamic philosophy. Each of these great traditions has its own history, themes, and emphases. They often fruitfully interacted with one another. Nevertheless, the four traditions need to be presented not in terms of these interactions (especially when these are viewed only from a Western perspective), but on the basis of their own inner dynamisms, as this anthology sets out to do.

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The Great Cistercian Mystics: A History

By Bernard McGinn

Crossroad Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-8245-5150-8

Excerpt: Our concern here is not with the Cistercian reform as a whole, but with one segment of it – its contribution to Western mysticism. It has sometimes been said that the first two decades of Cistercian life were primarily concerned with monastic reform, so that it was not until the time of Bernard and his contemporaries (ca.1125-1150) that ew can speak of Cistercian mysticism. It seems to me an exaggeration to push this distinction too far, because there is evidence of a strong commitment to the contemplative life among the foundational documents, albeit these have been re-written in the decades after 1120.

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Akuto and Rural Conflict in Medieval Japan

By Morten Oxenboell

University of Hawai’i Press
ISBN: 978-0-8248-7264-9

Excerpt: By the middle of the thirteenth century, a new danger seems to have materialized in full force for the estate holders: mentions of groups of so-called akuto suddenly appeared in a large number of sources from most provinces in central Japan, where they were said to have robbed, killed, and laid waste to everything from small peasant homesteads to huge monastic estates. For about a century their violent attacks across the country seem to have deeply frustrated both local and absentee landlords, who produced hundreds of reports and petitions to the imperial court in Kyoto or the shogunate in Kamakura asking for military assistance against these groups. Then the akuto disappear almost completely from our sources in the second half of the fourteenth century.

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The European Guilds: An Economic Analysis

By Sheilagh Ogilvie

Princeton University Press
ISBN: 978-0-691-13754-4

Excerpt: Does this really matter? Establishing the facts is important for their own sake. But do these particular facts have wider implications? Why should we care about an institution that, as we shall see, has not existed anywhere in Europe since 1883? Does it really matter what we think about European guilds? Yes – as this book will show. Guilds are important for understanding wider economic and social questions: the sources of sustained economic growth, the relationship between market and non-market institutions, the benefits and costs of social capital, the economic effects of networks, the causes of social exclusion and inequality, the economics of discrimination, and the determinants of institutions themselves.

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