Inventing the Middle Ages: The Lives, Works, and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century

By Norman Cantor

A deconstruction of the presuppositions of the Middle Ages through the twentieth century’s prominent medievalists who created them.

ISBN: 9780718896690


The Middle Ages, in our cultural imagination, are besieged with ideas of wars, tournaments, plagues, saints and kings, knights, lords and ladies. In his era-defining work, Inventing the Middle Ages, Norman Cantor shows that these presuppositions are in fact constructs of the twentieth century. Through close study of the lives and works of twenty of the twentieth century’s most prominent medievalists, Cantor examines how the genesis of this fantasy arose in the scholars’ spiritual and emotional outlooks, which influenced their portrayals of the Middle Ages. In the course of this vigorous scrutiny of their scholarship, he navigates the strong personalities and creative minds involved with deft skill.

Written with both students and the general public in mind, Inventing the Middle Ages provided an alternative framework for the teaching of the humanities. Revealing the interconnection between medieval civilisation, the culture of the twentieth century and our own assumptions, Cantor provides a unique standpoint both forwards and backwards. As lively and engaging today as when it was first published in 1991, his analysis offers readers the core essentials of the subject in an entertaining and humorous fashion.

Additional information

Dimensions 254 × 156 mm
Pages 480

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About the Author

Norman Cantor (1929-2004) was a prominent medievalist, and was Dean of the College of Arts and Science at New York University from 1978-81, retiring as Professor Emeritus of History, Sociology and Comparative Literature in 1999. He was known for bringing history to life through his fluent and accessible writing style.


Preface and Acknowledgements

1. The Quest for the Middle Ages
2. Law and Society: Frederick William Maitland
3. The Nazi Twins: Percy Ernst Schramm and Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz
4. The French Jews: Louis Halphen and Marc Bloch
5. The Formalists: Erwin Panofsky and Ernst Robert Curtius
6. The Oxford Fantasists: Clive Stephen Lewis, John Ronal Revel Tolkien, and Frederick Maurice Powicke
7. American Pie: Charles Homer Haskins and Joseph Reese Strayer
8. After the Fall: Michael David Knowles and Étienne Henry Gilson
9. The Once and Future King: Richard William Southern
10. Outriders: Johan Huizinga, Eileen Edna Power, Michael MoisseyPostan, Carl Erdmann, and Theodor Ernst Mommsen

A Core Bibliography in Medieval Studies