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“Give Me Back My Son!”

Eleanor of Aquitaine, Emotion Talk, and the Gendering of Political Rhetoric

Linda E. Mitchell

Abstract

Medieval women, according to theorists whose positions were informed by standard classical tropes, suffered from an “excess” of emotion, which barred them from positions of political authority. Eleanor of Aquitaine—queen, countess, and mother of kings—belies this categorization. As a political actor, especially in defense of her own territories and as regent of her sons’ kingdom of England, Eleanor deployed emotional expressions strategically in order to elicit patronage and support from other political leaders. Although many historians have discussed the career of Eleanor of Aquitaine, most emphasize her anomalous position, based on the presentation of her made by contemporary chroniclers such as Roger of Hoveden and Ralph de Diceto. Unlike her husband, Henry II, whose emotional outbursts usually resulted in disaster—vide the Becket debacle—Eleanor’s use of emotion reinforced her position of authority and was underscored by her claim of legitimate emotional distress as mother and as regent.

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An Intellectual Genealogy of the Revolt against “Esprit de Système”

From the Renaissance to the Early Enlightenment

Jeffrey D. Burson

Abstract

This article suggests the further resituating of the origins of the early European Enlightenment in what William J. Bouwsma has called the “waning Renaissance.” The waning Renaissance was more than simply a Neoplatonic reaction first against humanism and second against a moribund Aristotelianism. Instead, it bequeathed to the early Enlightenment a chastened, initially less optimistic humanism among scholars whose work prepared the way for the eighteenth-century aversion to system-building, and a greater respect for meticulously circumscribed, useful certainties. This article argues that the “waning Renaissance” derived from the increasingly pervasive perception by writers that eclectic systems fusing Hermeticism, scholasticism, and humanism represented an overweening confidence in the ability of humankind to perfect the natural and human orders. In diverse ways, this article contends that the reactions to such overconfidence by John Calvin, Francis Bacon, the Paduan Aristotelians, and Galileo foreshadowed early Enlightenment skepticism and empiricism.

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L’heure du laitier ou la contestation

Résistance, anticolonialisme et nouvelle gauche sur une « petite théorie » de Claude Bourdet

Fabrice Usman

Abstract

Dans les années 1940-1950 en France, trois types de guerres structurent le débat politique : guerre mondiale, guerre froide, guerre de décolonisation. De l’opposition à ces conflits émergent la Résistance, la nouvelle gauche et l’anticolonialisme. Claude Bourdet (1909-1996), responsable du plus grand des mouvements de la Résistance intérieure, Combat, leader de la nouvelle gauche, et l’un des journalistes anticolonialistes français les plus importants de l’après-guerre, est un organisateur singulier de ces luttes. À travers ses activités et ses textes, et en s’appuyant sur la notion de contestation qu’il propose, cette étude démontre la cohérence politique et morale de sa « résistance intellectuelle », concept que l’auteur définit en ces termes : une critique raisonnée du pouvoir légal, étatique et institutionnel, une dénonciation organisée des abus et injustices actuels, et une aptitude à proposer des alternatives rationnelles.

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Migration to the “First Large Suburban Ghetto” in America

Korean Immigrant Merchants in South Central Los Angeles in the 1980s

Chanhaeng Lee

Abstract

In this article, I argue that Korean immigrant merchants were active agents who opened small businesses in South Central Los Angeles in order to overcome a range of disadvantages faced in American society. From a structural point of view, Korean immigrant merchants constituted a middleman minority group that played the dual role of “oppressed and oppressor” in the suburban ghetto. Although these merchants made efforts to maintain civil relations with their African American customers, they were often treated with hostile attitudes largely because of the exploitative relationship that existed between the two groups. However, I maintain that Korean American journalists and scholars have not only misunderstood the identity of the middleman minority as an innocent buffer but have also erroneously estimated that race relations with African Americans in Los Angeles were better than those in other areas of the United States.

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Richard Bessel

Abstract

The argument put forward by Steven Pinker that violence has been in decline and that “we have been getting kinder and gentler” rests to a considerable degree upon data concerning violent events, in particular homicide and deaths on the battlefield. In discussing such data for the modern period, this article questions their reliability and, in particular, their comparability over time. Pinker’s argument may be stronger with respect to a growing public sensitivity toward many forms of violence, not least sexual violence, for which there is considerable evidence. However, the relationship between changing public sensibilities and changing levels of actual violent acts remains difficult to determine.

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The Complexity of History

Russia and Steven Pinker’s Thesis

Nancy Shields Kollmann

Abstract

This article finds Steven Pinker’s argument for a decline of violence too Eurocentric and generalizing to fit all cases. Study of the early modern Russian criminal law, and society in general, shows that different states can develop radically different approaches to violence when influenced by some of the same factors (in this case Enlightenment values). The centralized Muscovite autocracy in many ways relied less on official violence and exerted better control over social violence than did early modern Europe, while at the same time it supported violence in institutions such as serfdom, exile, and aspects of imperial governance. Violence in the form of capital punishment declined but many aspects of social and official violence endured. Such a differentiated approach is explained by the state’s need to mobilize scarce human and material resources to survive and expand.

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Randolph Roth

Abstract

Steven Pinker’s Better Angels of Our Nature defends Norbert Elias’s “civilization thesis”: the idea that violence has declined gradually in human societies over the millennia. As history, however, Pinker’s defense is flawed. First, the data gathered by historians do not show long-term declines in individual or collective violence. Second, the historical forces that Pinker believes have suppressed violence can also increase violence, depending on historical conditions. And third, neurology, endocrinology, and primatology may contribute more in the long run than evolutionary psychology to the understanding of the history of human aggression.

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Editorial

A Message from Senior Editor Linda E. Mitchell

Edited by Linda E. Mitchell

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Getting Medieval on Steven Pinker

Violence and Medieval England

Sara M. Butler

Abstract

Steven Pinker’s view of the Middle Ages as an era of hyperviolence, in which governments engaged in democide and civilians lived in terror, is not supported by the evidence. By analyzing Pinker’s sources for the medieval period and providing a clearer understanding of the difficulties involved in extracting statistical data from medieval England’s criminal justice system, this article hopes to demonstrate that Pinker’s thesis about the civilizing process is not tenable. While the medieval world was violent, we cannot definitively say just how violent it actually was, and whether it was any more or less violent than we are today.

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Daniel Lord Smail

Abstract

The Better Angels of Our Nature makes a bold contribution to the deep history of human violence. By laying out a framework for understanding this history, Steven Pinker has provided an important point of departure for all future scholarship in this area. Pinker’s depiction of violence in medieval Europe, however, includes serious misrepresentations of the historical reality of this period; his handling of the scholarship on medieval Europe raises doubts about his treatment of other periods. This article also offers a brief review of recent psychological literature that suggests that subjective well-being is historically invariant. In light of this review, I argue that Better Angels is best understood not as a work of history but as a study in moral and historical theology, and recommend that the history of violence should feature the cognitive experiences of victims rather than aggressors.