Identified by the Romantics as one of the golden ages of European nations, the Middle Ages were often contrasted with a modernity associated with civilisational, moral, and spiritual decline. In the Romantic culture, the medieval was simultaneously the past ‘we’ and the exotic and strange ‘other’ that remarkably differed from the present. As one of the countries in which 19th-century Romanticism exerted its influence, Portugal was no exception to this phenomenon. In this paper, we examine how Portuguese 19th-century and 20th-century intelligentsia inserted this Romantic view of the Middle Ages in a narrative on the nation’s historical course, from its rise and apogee to its alleged decline and downfall. As we will see, this narrative persisted well after the period commonly associated with Romanticism, influencing discourses and practices from different social and political agents during the 20th century.
Marsilius of Padua (ca. 1287-1342), a political theorist often considered a precursor of modern democracy, found a striking resonance with at least some scholars of both the Third Reich and the communist German Democratic Republic. What attracted these different authors and what interpretation of Marsilius’s theory did they, respectively, present?
In the decades after the year 1900, historical criticism was introduced and applied as the general method within the science of history in Scandinavia. Leading historians, and medievalists in particular, argued that the study of history should and could be unbiased, i.e. free from distortion, preconceptions, political, or religious propaganda. With a few exceptions these historians represented a homogenous group and academic normativity: they were all Scandinavians, educated and active at academic institutions, and with similar networks. In addition, they belonged to the Lutheran state church of their country and therefore in some sense functioned as state officials. In this paper, I will reflect upon how some famed Scandinavian medievalists in their own research describe and approach ‘otherness’ as represented by Jews and Catholics. Did they manage to keep it unbiased, or did they in fact contribute to underpin contemporary stereotypes of these groups?