03 August, 2015

Maddox Reviews Wood, The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages

Ian Wood. The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Reviewed by Melanie Maddox

In The Modern Origins of the Early Middle Ages, Professor Ian Wood of Leeds University writes with noble erudition about the time period from the Fall of Rome to the early Middle Ages (AD 300-700) and considers how scholars have viewed the role of the time period in shaping Europe. Part of the book’s lofty goal is to respond to Charles Clarke, the United Kingdom’s former Education Secretary (2002-2004). The preface references a quote attributed to Clarke as saying “I don’t mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes but there is no reason for the state to pay for them” (vii). In response, Wood vehemently disagrees and states that indeed pre-modern history is important. Most particularly when one considers how it has been “exploited” through the centuries to describe disturbing events or to prove or disprove historical views (vii-viii). In fact one only has to turn on the evening news to see terms like barbaric, medieval and crusaders being used to describe troubles in the Middle East. This is just one way in which one can see the past being ill-used (vii). READ THE FULL REVIEW AT MEDIEVALLY SPEAKING