On 1500

Authored by: Elizabeth A. R. Brown

The Medieval World

Print publication date:  February  2018
Online publication date:  February  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138848689
eBook ISBN: 9781315102511
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315102511-48

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Abstract

Why 1500? My title might easily have featured other dates that historians have used to designate the end of what they term ‘the Middle Ages’. The date itself is relatively unimportant. The subject I shall treat I consider far more significant: the barriers to understanding created by periodizing the past, and especially by dividing ‘the Middle Ages’ from ‘the Renaissance’. Rather than confining myself to generalization, I shall deal with three specific clusters of topics: first, kingship, nobility, and lordship; second, property-holding and loyalty; and third, the development of historical-mindedness and historical perspective. I shall argue that the development of each of these phenomena has been badly distorted by the traditional separation between ‘Middle Ages’ and ‘Renaissance’. At the end I shall propose a solution of sorts – or at least a certain solace and encouragement for the future. But first I should like to write a few words about the dates that have been assigned to the ‘end of the Middle Ages’ – and those assigned to the era’s beginning. Then, having briefly considered some general problems raised by periodization, I shall try to explain how, in practice, periodization has affected comprehension of the three topics I have selected for scrutiny.

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