This first chapter sets out different approaches to the question of what survived in western Europe from the later Roman Empire, after its central institutions had ceased to exist in the mid-fifth century. How far and in what ways did the practices of Roman governmentality – notably taxation – survive and persist into the post-Roman world? The chapter next considers the emergence, to use a neutral term, of peoples with different ethnic labels in that post-Roman world – Goths, Lombards, Franks – and different theories of ethnic formation. Who were these people, and how can textual and material (archaeological) evidence identify them? Finally, the chapter considers the ‘glue’ that held late antiquity together and gave it coherence: Christianity, and the balance between centralization and regional difference in the Latin Church of Rome.
The revival of the Western Empire in the tenth century in the German-speaking lands east of the Rhine, no longer in the Western Frankish heartlands of the Carolingian Empire, was described by contemporaries as its ‘translation’, and it is this new empire of the Ottonian Reich that is the subject of the fourth chapter. It considers first the nature of that empire as an extremely decentralized polity, a form of governmentality thoroughly different to other medieval conceptions of a ‘state’, and then turns to the way in which the late emergence of Germany as a united nation-state has conditioned, as nowhere else in Europe, the study of its medieval origins: the idea that Germany was on a ‘special path’ (Sonderweg). It considers then the identity of this empire, examining the idea of imperial ‘renovation’ and of the relationships that it constructed to its Carolingian and Roman precursors. Finally, it examines the relationship of Ottonian government to its Church, once seen as the tool through which it exercised power in the absence of any recognizable state structures; and to the real vibrancy of the Ottonian Church, evident in the great waves of monastic reform and in its resplendent manuscript culture.
This chapter begins with an extended discussion of what it means to speak of ‘vikings’, arguing in favour of the term being used in the lower case as a designation of a particular occupation, not as a catch-all ethnic label. It considers the associated issues with the source material: the absence of early medieval Scandinavian written texts, which requires a reliance on external perceptions of the vikings recorded in non-Scandinavian sources. After these prolegomena, it considers the evidence for social-political organization in Scandinavia and in areas of Scandinavian settlement, notably in the British Isles. It examines the question of the assimilation and/or acculturation of these new settlers, and the formation of regional identities among them. Finally, it considers the material evidence of pagan religiosity and of the gradual Christianization of viking Scandinavia.
The first tentative indications that times were changing came in the 1960s and, more particularly, the 1970s. The sustained civil rights protests of these years contributed to growing interest by scholars in examining the strategies of protest and accommodation adopted by African Americans in earlier periods. The daily lives of black slaves in the antebellum South became an especial focus for academic study. Historian Daniel Leab's line of enquiry typified what by the 1980s had become a dominant trend in studies by cultural historians, namely to explore the origins, character and significance of stereotyped depictions of African Americans in US popular culture. The 1990s saw both rapid and unprecedented developments in the academic study of popular culture. In part this interest can be seen as reflecting the cult of celebrity that enveloped the leading stars of sport, music, film and television entertainment at the close of the century.
The group of historians now known as the Annales 'school' has produced some of the most exciting innovations in twentieth-century history writing. This chapter discusses the development, changes, and specific criticisms of the works of Annales historians. The study of mentalités has been viewed as the Annales' means of addressing the objectivity-subjectivity dilemma that historians continually confront. The Annales historians' search for underlying structures, their attempt at total history and their use of the methods and subjects of the social sciences has led to a great expansion of the subjects of history. With their examination of mentalité, they have furnished the historical profession with a new mode of reconstructing the past. Their work encouraged the 'turns' to social history and from social history to cultural history, to micro-history, world history, and environmental history, as well as to the history of emotions.
In the second half of the nineteenth century there were many parallels between the disciplines of history and anthropology. Both employed an empiricist methodology. This chapter briefly outlines the main currents of thought in anthropology. It examines the influence of two specific approaches that were to be fertile ground for historians: everyday life and symbolic anthropology, and ethnohistory. In the context of these approaches to history research and writing, the chapter also examines the key concept of 'ethnicity'. Two schools of thought within anthropology emerged in Britain and the United States. These schools were characterized respectively as social anthropology and cultural anthropology. Ethnohistorians particularly seek to bring into view the experiences and perspectives of indigenous and minority peoples in colonial contexts. One of the significant achievements of ethnohistory has been to approach all those engaged in cultural encounter as active agents who jointly determined the outcome.
The 1980s engagement of historians with poststructuralism was referred to as the 'cultural turn', and this began as an involvement mainly with the linguistic theories. This chapter discusses the main ideas of poststructuralism. For historians, many poststructuralist topics and methods of investigation are a legacy of the work of Foucault. Much of Foucault's work engaged with the marginalized groups in society. Foucault broke from earlier histories in his rejection of meta-narratives, overarching theories of human development through time, and of historical continuity. Foucault has also been widely criticized for historical inaccuracies. The chapter provides an extract from the City of Dreadful Delight, which is characteristic of poststructuralist history, to show the intersection of knowledge and power, and the subversive and contradictory nature of popular discourse.
This chapter presents some concluding thoughts on black civil rights discussed in this book. During the 1950s and 1960s the spread of more liberal attitudes and values, reflected in the rise of Martin Luther King and the post-war Civil Rights Movement, inspired scholars to investigate the African American past. Scholarly debate on the African American experience from the 1890s through to the early 1920s gathered momentum with fresh studies on the spread of racial segregation and black migration to the cities. The rise of feminism and growth in popularity of women's history in the closing decades of the twentieth century prompted academic researchers to pay more attention to the issue of gender in all periods of African American history. Whether writing about the 1890s or the 1980s historians began to recognize the importance of class divisions in African American communities and the civil rights struggle.
This chapter presents some concluding thoughts on the exploration of historical theories. It includes William Sewell's and Joan Wallach Scott's discussions of their intellectual journeys to demonstrate the way in which individual historians, as well as schools of history, develop in their thinking and practice over time. Scott and Sewell contextualize their development, consider what drove the changes in their historical practice, and reveal something of their own historical subjectivities. Global history and world history seem likely to continue to attempt to break through a previously Eurocentric view of the world. Global history authors, considering a longer time span, have included 'natural history' as well as human history. A trend to considering the history of the environment, perhaps triggered by anxieties about climate change, extends the natural history approach. Historians have continued to develop new approaches, so that historiography is continually invigorated.
The blossoming of interest in black history since the 1950s was directly linked to the rise of Martin Luther King and the post-Second World War Civil Rights Movement. The advances achieved in desegregation and black voting rights since the 1950s suggested that this was a destination that King's children, and African Americans as a whole, would ultimately reach. In the inter-war years there were indications that some scholars were willing to examine the more depressing realities of black life, most notably in a series of academic studies on lynching. The book discusses the approach of Du Bois to the academic studies on black migrants from a sociological perspective. When African American history began to command more serious attention in the mid-1960s, the generation of historians who had had direct personal experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War began to reach the age of retirement. The book also examines the achievements of race leaders like Malcolm X and Stokely Carmichael, the Black Power Movement and Black Nationalism of the 1960s. In a 1996 study, political scientist Robert C. Scholarly debate on the African American experience from the 1890s through to the early 1920s gathered momentum with fresh studies on the spread of racial segregation and black migration to the cities. The rise of feminism and popularity of women's history prompted academic researchers to pay attention to the issue of gender in African American history. Stereotyped depictions of African Americans in US popular culture are also discussed.