Public lecture: Uses, misuses and abuses of historical periodization
The lecture will address the problem discussed in the last book by the great French historian, Jacques Le Goff. Middle Ages could be considered as the prime example of a historical periodization, not related to the reign of a great ruler (“the Augustan age”) or a dynasty (“the age of the Carolingians”), but to a more general set of cultural and political features. By designating a “media aetas” between themselves and “Antiquity”, the glamorous golden age they strove to resurrect, Petrarch and other humanists invented a tripartite periodization which survives till our days., and provided ample opportunity for modern historians from Burckhart and Huizinga to Kristeller, Panofsky, Ullmann, and Peter Burke to debate nuances of periodization. More recently two new frontlines have been also opened: that of “late Antiquity” and “early modernity”.
What can these periodizations be used for? Where are their shortcomings? Can one detect typical misuses?