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  • Finding Europe: Discourses on Margins, Communities, Images ca. 13th-ca.18th Centuries
  • Edward D. English
Anthony Molho, Diogo Ramada Curto, and Niki Koniordos, eds.Finding Europe: Discourses on Margins, Communities, Images ca. 13th–ca.18th Centuries.New York: Berghahn Books, 2007. x + 407 pp. index. illus. $89.95. ISBN: 978–1–84545–20807.

This collection was the product of meetings of the European University Institute (EUI) in Florence in 2003 and 2004. The resulting fifteen essays were further enriched by workshops for journalists and secondary-school instructors run by the Academy of European History, also housed at the EUI. In the book' s two introductions, Anthony Molho and Diogo Ramuda Curto explain the objectives of the meetings as efforts to explore a number of discourses from Europe' s past between 1400 and 1800. While seeking to avoid a teleological approach, neat historical periodizations, and simplistic essentialist or constructionist approaches, the editors and authors seek to recognize in the European past positive accomplishments, without failing to acknowledge hideous activities such as the Holocaust, the inquisitions, and imperialism. They have an explicit and admirable [End Page 953] political motivation: to cultivate a better historical understanding of this past, and then to bring that understanding to bear on the questions and problems of a rather gloomy European present.

Just how were a unifying European identity and its character understood, imagined, and yearned for in discourses on Europe' s own margins, communities, and images, both of Europeans and of outsiders? Clearly such fragile values as tolerance, fraternity, rationality or modern science, the rule of law, democracy, lay control, individual liberty, and justice in the workings of capitalism and the class struggle thrived at various moments. Because these model values are presently under attack by religious and political figures and movements of all stripes, this book is a particularly useful collection.

The diverse essays are grouped under three topics: first, the drawing and policing of margins, secondly the formations, disciplining, and functioning of communities, and lastly the modeling, transmission, and circulation of specific images and practices. The contents of all tend to overflow into one another, and some are more easily related to the editors' overall objectives.

In part 1, Giovanni Ricci discusses disguised ransomed slaves, false converts, and real and pretend Turks, all manipulating fluid identities and appearances in attempts to belong. André Stoll studies the internal "orientals" dwelling in Semitic Spain between 1492 and 1613 who tried to present themselves as good members of society. Giulia Calvi looks at the ethnographic presentations and understandings of the gendered bodies, dress or costumes, marriage customs, and family behaviors of peoples at the margins of Europe in the sixteenth century. Stuart Clark relates European understandings of demonology, classical paganism, popular superstitions, idolatry, and various forms of magic to emerging ideas about the cultures and religions of the newly encountered peoples outside Europe.

In the second part, Francesca Trivellato deploys cosmopolitan merchant correspondence, primarily by dispersed Sephardic Jews, to demonstrate the importance of personal trust and public reputation in the proper and successful functioning of free and impersonal markets and quasi-heroic and diverse merchant communities. Florike Egmond disentangles a natural history community of scientific scholars networked around the great botanist Carolus Clusius (1526–1609). Rita Costa Gomes explores the narrow elites that formed a varied and complex galaxy of princely, royal, papal, and ecclesiastical courts that followed a common idiom. Robert Wokler describes the community of travelers that evolved around the Grand Tour. Janet Coleman follows with the most sophisticated and the most relevant essay on ideas about social integration, the individual, and the common good of a community. Pietro Costa then suggests that the shared traditions of the interpretation and discourse of the ius commune could form a basis for formulating an integrated concept of Europe. Angela De Benedictis concludes this section by looking at justness of crime, violence, and rebellion in relation to ideas about promoting and protecting what was perceived as the common good from fourteenth century Florence to seventeenth-century Switzerland.

The last four essays of the collection on images are based on more systematic [End Page 954] and particular discursive traditions. Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, building on her...


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pp. 953-955
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Archived 2009
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