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.