Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 August 2020
As suggested by our previous volume, which is devoted to discrimination in medievalism (studies), politics are never far from such displays of prejudice. Even when bigots are not professional politicians, they often act politically in deploying the Middle Ages to attract followers. In tracing their biases to medieval beliefs, aligning themselves with medieval heroes, or condemning their enemies as medieval barbarians, they frequently distort the past in whatever ways and to whatever degree will best serve their purposes in the present and/or future. Indeed, they sometimes invoke a patently false middle ages in the very course of condemning any correction as “fake.”
Nor have scholarly discussions of such acts been entirely free of politics. Beyond the tactical maneuvering inherent in any attempt to sway opinion, highly political ideologies have often come into play when academics have discussed how the Middle Ages have been or should be treated, particularly with regard to traditionally privileged or persecuted communities. In accord with recent trends throughout higher education, many scholars have condemned one or more forms of discrimination in medievalism, but other academics have conspicuously avoided or even defended such biases, and, at least in the eyes of some critics, far too few educators have frequently and vigorously condemned those defenders and/or the medievalists they protect.
In calling for submissions to this volume of Studies in Medievalism, I therefore felt compelled to ask:
How exactly have professional and amateur politicians misconstrued, mangled, and manipulated the Middle Ages and to what end? How have politics influenced the development of medievalism and/or study of it? In what sense, if any, is it possible to have medievalism (studies) without politics? How might medievalism otherwise be deployed in professional or amateur politics?
Perhaps owing to the extraordinary combativeness in other, highly public attempts to answer such questions, few submitters addressed how these questions might apply directly to them and/or their colleagues. Instead, the essays in this volume's thematic section concentrate on the ways in which medievalism has been manipulated by politicians and other public figures to promote their followers’ and/or own interests.