Eric Christiansen

A continent on a learning curve

Welshmen will know what Le Goff’s name means. To mediaevalists it conveys not only Smith, but all that is gracious, gilt-edged, and grandfatherly among French historians. Or, as one of the blurbs puts it, rather unkindly, ‘He is among France’s “great” historians.’ That means great in the special sense of an institutionally sanctified professor doomed in old age to confer imprimaturs on the work of others, to employ a ‘team’ of research assistants for his own, and to compose ponderous pensées such as ‘Today comes from yesterday and tomorrow emerges out of the past.’

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