A natural starting point for any attempt to know a past society
is its histories—the texts with which its members recorded what had
happened and was happening in their world. Many precious witnesses
of this kind have survived from medieval Europe...
Karl Marx linked the structure of production to the formation of
institutions. According to Marx, religion is like any other social
institution in that it is dependent upon the economic realities of
a given society, i.e., it is an outcome of its...
“Who are you?” A simple question sometimes requires a complex
answer. When a Homeric hero is asked who he is (e.g. Iliad
7.123 ff.), his answer consists of more than just his name; he
provides a list of his ancestors. The history of his family is
Material objects play a role in all religions. Jewish women
light candles for the Sabbath; Christians sprinkle or douse bodies
with water to baptize; Hindus offer coconuts and clarified butter
to images of the gods and goddesses; the ancient Incas...
Reliquaries were designed as receptacles for tiny bundles of
sacred stuff such as handfuls of dust, pebbles from Biblical sites
in the Holy Land, tiny fragments of the hair, clothing, and even
bone of those deemed to be saints and martyrs by the...
Jihadism today has a strong transnational and anti-Western
character, but this was not always the case. The first jihadists
were revolutionaries who fought in their home countries against
their respective governments from the 1940s onward. Only in...
In 2004, a Member of the Classics section of the School of
Historical Studies I was chatting with told me that some badly
burnt papyri dating from the sixth century had been found in a
church during excavations at Petra in Jordan. Modern
From the very beginning of its existence, the Muslim world
practiced and developed an elaborate legal system meant to control
and to judge all aspects of life . . . This system, known as
sharia, was based on the Qurʾān, an immutable divine
Occidentalism, as defined by Avishai Margalit, George F. Kennan
Professor in the School of Historical Studies, is a modern
phenomenon, a dehumanizing picture of the West, painted not only by
its enemies but in fact propagated from within....