Category Archives: History links

History Carnival XXI

History Carnival edition 21 is now up over at CLEWS: The Historic True Crime Blog (by Laura James). This interesting blog, which I discovered only now, focusses on the history of crime and criminals. In browsing through some of Laura James’ other posts, I could not yet find any ancient criminals discussed, but do check out fascinating posts like The Very Nutty Professor (poisoned chocolate–now that is one professor you don’t want on your bad side).

Latest edition of Carnivalesque is up

Previously I have mentioned the History Carnival, which (twice a month) pulls together interesting posts on a variety of history related topics in various historical periods. Another regular carnival is Carnivalesque, which alternates between ancient / medieval and early modern topics in historical study. They often touch on the history of religions in the process. The most recent Carnivalesque (#10) is hosted by Sharon Howard (U. of Wales) at Early Modern Notes.

An early modern history blog, and the value of blogging for research

As we move our way from medieval to early modern Christianity in one of my classes, I thought I’d mention an interesting blog that focusses on the early modern period (though not on Christianity specifically). Sharon Howard (post-doctoral fellow at the U. of Wales), who also hosts the Early Modern Resources site, has her blog on Early Modern Notes.

In a recent post she discusses why she blogs as an academic, as well as the value of blogging for research (much of which rings true to me). She writes, in part,

Blogging research lets you develop the very first drafts of ideas. Bits and pieces that don’t yet amount to articles (or even conference papers), but they may well do some day. And something else, sometimes: last year I was having trouble thinking up any new ideas at all, but blogging old ideas, often attached to new sources, meant that I kept writing, if only a few hundred words a week, without having to worry about it being original or impressive. And now, because it’s all archived and easy to find, I can look back over some of that work and see potential themes, little seeds of ideas that are worth working on, start to make them grow. . . Another thing: writing for a slightly different audience than in the usual academic contexts. This is an amazing opportunity to reach out.”

I also really enjoy the broader audience thing.

UPDATE: Jim Davila and Instapundit point to an online article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on academic blogging.

Among other things, the author of the article, Henry Farrell, notes that perhaps the majority of academic bloggers “see blogging as an extension of their academic personas. Their blogs allow them not only to express personal views but also to debate ideas, swap views about their disciplines, and connect to a wider public. For these academics, blogging isn’t a hobby; it’s an integral part of their scholarly identity. They may very well be the wave of the future.”

I was recently interviewed for an article, “Academics take up blogging,” in our local Thursday Report here at Concordia U, where you can see some of my basic thoughts on academic blogging.

Menocchio, the peasant, on cheese and maggots (Reformations 4)

View other posts in the late-medieval and reformations series.

Carlo Ginzburg’s classic social historical study of an obscure peasant living in Italy provides a fascinating window into popular culture during the late medieval and reformation periods. Menocchio, a peasant miller who considered himself among the poor and yet was also literate at a basic level, was put on trial in Italy during the later inquisitions, church run court-cases against heresy (in the late 1500s). As one witness put it, Menocchio “is always arguing with somebody about the faith just for the sake of arguing – even with the priest” (Ginzberg, p. 2). His well-documented testimony and the perspectives of other peasants and priests on his views (from the court records) provide a picture of an independent thinker who was nonetheless in some respects reflecting a deeper stream of medieval popular religion, as Ginzburg argues.

Quite captivating is Menocchio’s view on creation, his cosmogony, which draws on the analogy of putrefaction:

I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. The most holy majesty decreed that these should be God and the angels, and among that number of angels, there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time, and he was made lord, with four captains, Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael” (Menocchio as cited by Ginzburg, pp. 5-6 )

The inquisitorial judges just could not get their minds around these elaborate and imaginative ideas of a relatively uneducated peasant. The angels emerged like worms in rotting cheese? God was created as one of these angels? Where did you come up with this stuff, and why do you insist on continually sharing your strange ideas with others (was the sentiment)?

More on Menocchio and popular religion later, which you can also read about in Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (trans. by John and Anne Tedeschi; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992 [1980]).

Ginzburg was among the pioneers of “microhistory“, a type of social history which focusses attention on detailing what we can known about one particular individual, family or village, for instance. You can read an online interview with him about microhistory and his work on the witches’ sabbat here.

Another social historian that engages in microhistory is Natalie Zemon Davis, well known for her book on The Return of Martin Guerre: Imposture and Identity in a Sixteenth-Century Village (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). As you may know, Martin Guerre’s story was also made into a film (in French, 1982) followed by a less historically-injected Hollywood version called Sommersby (1993), which was instead set in post-Civil War America (rather than a 16th century French village).

Menocchio, the peasant, on cheese and maggots (Reformations 4)

View other posts in the late-medieval and reformations series.

Carlo Ginzburg’s classic social historical study of an obscure peasant living in Italy provides a fascinating window into popular culture during the late medieval and reformation periods. Menocchio, a peasant miller who considered himself among the poor and yet was also literate at a basic level, was put on trial in Italy during the later inquisitions, church run court-cases against heresy (in the late 1500s). As one witness put it, Menocchio “is always arguing with somebody about the faith just for the sake of arguing – even with the priest” (Ginzberg, p. 2). His well-documented testimony and the perspectives of other peasants and priests on his views (from the court records) provide a picture of an independent thinker who was nonetheless in some respects reflecting a deeper stream of medieval popular religion, as Ginzburg argues.

Quite captivating is Menocchio’s view on creation, his cosmogony, which draws on the analogy of putrefaction:

I have said that, in my opinion, all was chaos, that is, earth, air, water, and fire were mixed together; and out of that bulk a mass formed – just as cheese is made out of milk – and worms appeared in it, and these were the angels. The most holy majesty decreed that these should be God and the angels, and among that number of angels, there was also God, he too having been created out of that mass at the same time, and he was made lord, with four captains, Lucifer, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael” (Menocchio as cited by Ginzburg, pp. 5-6 )

The inquisitorial judges just could not get their minds around these elaborate and imaginative ideas of a relatively uneducated peasant. The angels emerged like worms in rotting cheese? God was created as one of these angels? Where did you come up with this stuff, and why do you insist on continually sharing your strange ideas with others (was the sentiment)?

More on Menocchio and popular religion later, which you can also read about in Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (trans. by John and Anne Tedeschi; Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992 [1980]).

Ginzburg was among the pioneers of “microhistory“, a type of social history which focusses attention on detailing what we can known about one particular individual, family or village, for instance. You can read an online interview with him about microhistory and his work on the witches’ sabbat here.

Another social historian that engages in microhistory is Natalie Zemon Davis, well known for her book on The Return of Martin Guerre: Imposture and Identity in a Sixteenth-Century Village (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983). As you may know, Martin Guerre’s story was also made into a film (in French, 1982) followed by a less historically-injected Hollywood version called Sommersby (1993), which was instead set in post-Civil War America (rather than a 16th century French village).

Online resources for late-Medieval Christianity and the Reformations (Reformations 3)

ONLINE PRIMARY SOURCES

OTHER RESOURCES

NOTE ON USING THE INTERNET FOR STUDYING THE HISTORY OF RELIGIONS: Internet sites are not all equally valuable and reliable when it comes to historical information, and it is not always easy for everyone to distinguish which ones are reliable. Above I have limited myself primarily to sites which collect together or link sources from the time period we are studying (“primary sources”) and to sites with ties to legitimate educational institutions or produced by professors. This means that they will be relatively reliable. However, at this point in history, the internet is never a substitute for doing proper reading and research in primary sources, journal articles and books.

Other posts in the late-medieval and reformations series.

Online resources for the study of the Christian Apocrypha and “Gnosticism” (NT Apocrypha 9)

ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS ONLINE

RESOURCES ON CHRISTIAN APOCRYPHA AND GNOSTICISM

RESOURCES ON SPECIFIC APOCRYPHAL WRITINGS

ONLINE DOCTORAL DISSERTATIONS ON APOCRYPHAL WRITINGS

(Thanks to Tony Chartrand-Burke [Atkinson College, York U.] for sharing with me the links he had already found in connection with his course on gnosticism).