The retelling of history – a window on our own time

One of the interesting aspects of reading texts that deal with human history is what these texts tells us about our own time (or the time when they were originally written). Currently I’m reading Gender in the Early Medieval World. It consists of a number of essays written during the early 2000’s by different scholars, and they cover different aspects and themes.

The ‘world’ means, in this context, Europe proper and the Middle East. As the term ‘medieval’ generally is applied to the nations and cultures that succeeded the Roman empire this is an accurate term but to me the ‘world’ is rather larger than that, so that I think the editors show their Eurocentric world view.

Our present values also show through in the implicitly – maybe even unconsciously – made judgements on gender roles during the times discussed. Not that I disagree. But a value judgement is a value judgement, no more no less, and just as we perceive times past our time will in turn be looked down upon – there are no moral absolutes, just as there is no fixed path to civilisation, or an apex of said.

So, halfway through the book I feel like I’m watching a meta-philosophical argument trying to repair damages done by previous generations; putting salve and plasters on an academic agenda which has previously excluded the impact of the hidden society – e.g. those not male and politically and economically empowered – on the evolving cultures, societies and nations.

This willingness to see history as something more than an enumeration of years and important kings, masters and wars is interesting. When this approach was discussed in the 1970’s it was perceived as a Marxist agenda, and thus suspect. Or – this is at least what I remember from my years in compulsory school (from ages 7-15, at the time).

Just let’s hope that academia in general is ready for a more, let’s say, holistic approach to their topics. It is certainly long overdue.
If they manage academia might at last be of some relevance to the civil society.
(Not that this is what some of them remotely wants, but that is a whole another discussion.)

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