The Pope and the Plague

by Frans van Liere. In 1348, a terrible epidemic arrived in Avignon. It had spread from Italy, but its origins were somewhere in Central Asia, on what is now the border between Xinjiang and Kyrgyzstan. For the next seven months, the Black Death ravaged this small city on the Rhone river in southern France, and …

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Recovering Lost Stories

by Frans van Liere The story of the Four Sons of Haymo was widely popular in the late middle ages and Renaissance, especially in France and in the Low Countries, where I grew up. As a boy in school, I learned a song about the “Vier Heemskinderen” (as it is called in Dutch), and their …

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Building Community among the Ruins

by Frans van Liere. In my last entry for Historical Horizons, I wrote about how archaeology can be a tool for colonialism. For the Palestinian inhabitants of the village of Silwan, the Israeli archaeological park of the “City of David,” situated right in their West Bank village, bears a clear message: you don’t belong here; …

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Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the City of David

by Frans van Liere. More than any history book, archaeology can create a powerful sense of the past. At the same time, just like history, archaeology can be used and abused for political purposes. It can create a sense of national or ethnic identity, or exclude others from that identity. This past summer, when my …

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Lessons from My Grandfather

by Frans van Liere. Last week, I received an e-mail from a former student. “Professor, I'm really struggling with fear, and I've been looking to history in order to understand how it may repeat itself in the very near future. […] I'd love to hear some of your wisdom on what we as citizens can …

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The New Barbarism

by Frans van Liere. “A furore normannorum, libera nos domine.”[1] The Lindisfarne Gospels is one of the most beautifully illuminated Gospel books today in the possession of the British Library. It attests to the flourishing Christian culture that once was the hallmark of the monastic communities in Northern England in the seventh century. The intellectual …

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