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The Mirror of the Medieval: An Anthropology of the Western Historical Imagination

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Volume 29

Making Sense of History

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The Mirror of the Medieval

An Anthropology of the Western Historical Imagination

K. Patrick Fazioli

208 pages, 4 figures, 2 maps, 2 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-544-0 $135.00/£99.00 / Hb / Published (May 2017)

ISBN  978-1-78920-830-6 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (September 2020)

eISBN 978-1-78533-545-7 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit  Buy the eBook! $34.95info on epub formatRequest a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“In this remarkable book, K. Patrick Fazioli performs an adroit and long-overdue unmasking…[His] spirited critique of the politics of scholarly ignorance is the real core of his compelling study, and one that has enormous resonance for those who are concerned with the persistence of racist rhetoric in Western political life today.” • Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI)

“As an archeologist who specializes in the Eastern Alpine region and works in the United States, Fazioli is well placed to develop a refreshing critical perspective that underlines the implications of the practical use of the concept of the medieval from a quasi-globalized perspective… Fazioli’s book is certainly thought-provoking and inspiring.” • Contributions to the History of Concepts

“[This book] marks a vital and welcome contribution to interdisciplinary engagement, connecting academic »communities of practice« that really should be in closer, if cautious, conversation. One can only hope that more anthropologists will follow Fazioli’s call for an ‘anthropology of historicity’ and, in particular, for greater consideration of the ideological stakes underlying the production of historical knowledge about medieval Europe. Perhaps, then, through such cross-disciplinary dialogue, medieval historians might begin to repay their long-standing debt to anthropology.” • Francia-Recensio

“Instead of yet another book about the use and misuse of archaeology or medievalism for political purposes, The Mirror of the Medieval takes the far more difficult path of asking why the Middle Ages are so easily hijacked and misunderstood, approaching the subject from the perspective of anthropology. This is an ambitious, highly original, and persuasive book that belongs on the shelf of any anthropologist, historian, or individual interested in the Middle Ages.” • Florin Curta, University of Florida

“Fazioli clearly and comprehensively deals with the interactions of the past, historical research, and the popular imagination. He fluently combines the methods of history, anthropology, and archaeology in a way that is relevant for all three fields as well as the general public.” • Sebastian Brather, Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg


Since its invention by Renaissance humanists, the myth of the “Middle Ages” has held a uniquely important place in the Western historical imagination. Whether envisioned as an era of lost simplicity or a barbaric nightmare, the medieval past has always served as a mirror for modernity. This book gives an eye-opening account of the ways various political and intellectual projects—from nationalism to the discipline of anthropology—have appropriated the Middle Ages for their own ends. Deploying an interdisciplinary toolkit, author K. Patrick Fazioli grounds his analysis in contemporary struggles over power and identity in the Eastern Alps, while also considering the broader implications for scholarly research and public memory.

K. Patrick Fazioli is an Associate Professor in the Department of Humanities and Co-Director of the Global Honors Program at Mercy College (NY). He has published on a wide array of topics including ceramic technology, social identity, landscape archaeology, the history of anthropology and archaeology, and critical thinking.

Subject: History: Medieval/Early ModernTheory and MethodologyArchaeology
Area: Europe


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