Black Legacies: Race and the European Middle Ages

Posted in Books, Europe, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs on 2014-09-28 20:18Z by Steven

Black Legacies: Race and the European Middle Ages

University Press of Florida
2014-09-02
192 pages
6×9
Cloth ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-6007-1

Lynn T. Ramey, Associate Professor of French
Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee

Black Legacies looks at color-based prejudice in the medieval and modern texts in order to reveal key similarities. Bringing far-removed time periods into startling conversation, this book argues that certain attitudes and practices present in Europe’s Middle Ages were foundational in the western concept of race.

Using historical, literary, and artistic sources, Lynn Ramey show that twelfth- and thirteenth-century discourse was preoccupied with skin color and the coding of black as “evil” and white as “good.” Ramey demonstrates that fears of miscegenation show up in all medieval European societies. ¬†She pinpoints these same ideas in the rhetoric of later centuries. Mapmakers and travel writers of the colonial era used medieval lore of “monstrous peoples” to question the humanity of indigenous New World populations, and how medieval arguments about humanness were employed to justify the slave trade. Ramey even analyzes how race is portrayed in films set in medieval Europe, revealing an enduring fascination with the Middle Ages as a touchstone for processing and coping with racial conflict in the West today.

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