Monthly Archives: June 2017

“Intimate Outsiders”? Parallel Rhetorics of Exclusion; 16th Century Rome and Today

by Dr. Emily Michelson, University of St. Andrews This article (Past & Present 235) took shape in a world that has now faded: I started it with a different set of intellectual priorities, and at a stage of my life that has since ended. But for all that, its value is greater in the new world it now inhabits. When it began, this was almost, though not quite, a vanity project. When I first discovered the lone volume of conversionary sermons to be published in the 16th century, I was hard pressed to ignore it. I was not only finishing a book on Italian sermons and preachers grappling with interdenominational angst during the Reformation, but I had also studied Jewish rabbinic texts for a couple of years before pursuing a PhD. The conversionary preacher, Evangelista Marcellino (I knew him from his other sermons) walked lines I could recognize, though in a far different context. For a while I wanted to avoid writing about conversionary sermons. It seemed too pat and inevitable for someone with my training, and too narrow a step from my first book. But more and more examples of conversionary sermons turned up, and so did records of the Christians […]

Imperial nostalgia, aesthetics, and the contemporary ‘everyday’: thoughts on Everyday Empires and selective historical memory

by Rob Fitt, University of Birmingham A week on from the Everyday Empires conference I was sat in that most British of institutions, a pub. My thoughts turned to writing this post and what had stuck in my memory about the case studies that were presented. I glanced to the bar and noticed that union flag bunting adorned the top shelf, above the pub’s logo of a cow made somehow more British with the addition of a hat. I recalled an interview I had read prior to the conference between two historians of empire, discussing the contemporary resonance of the British empire in a country under going a pre-Brexit existential crisis. Much has been written recently about the role of ‘imperial nostalgia’ in the decision to leave the European Union; of plucky little Britain able to punch, independently, above its weight in the realm of global affairs. To suggest that a half-remembered nostalgia has such direct causation is of course short sighted, but the arguments for its acting as a contributing factor in the referendum on EU membership are compelling. What struck me about the interview in question was the argument that Brexit represented a ‘harder cultural turn’ from a […]

“What Kind of Faith?” The Enlightenment, Politics and Original Sin

by Dr. Matt Kadane, Hobart and William Smith Colleges There is a connection between original sin and the Enlightenment that I didn’t consider in my article, and it relates to politics, a category that consumed little of Pentecost Barker’s attention. That omission, however, shouldn’t be taken to minimize original sin’s political implications, especially because of how much they linger. A columnist in The New York Times recently wrote, for example, that he began to understand the motives of rural Trump voters when he set them alongside a speech by a Baptist minister and former Republican congressman from Oklahoma, J. C. Watts. “‘The difference between Republicans and Democrats,” Watts asserted, “is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good…. Democrats believe that…we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong—not us.1 Admittedly, not everybody on the right, or what currently passes for it, would agree. Theresa May was asked in a recent interview in the New Statesman if she believes in original sin given that conservatives, as the interviewer explained, have generally […]