The Devil's Historians: How Modern Extremists Abuse the Medieval Past

Front Cover
University of Toronto Press, 2020 - Middle Ages - 208 pages
"The Middle Ages are all around us, not just in history class, but in the world's most popular video games, in reenactments, at renaissance faires, and on HBO's Game of Thrones. But not all uses of the past are for innocent entertainment: Ku Klux Klan members still call themselves "knights" and "wizards"; neo-Nazis wear Viking symbols next to their swastikas; and white supremacist terrorists try to brand themselves as heroic "crusaders." This is not incidental. In fact, myths about the medieval world have been used for centuries to justify some of the most toxic ideologies and the worst human rights abuses in history. In this book, Amy S. Kaufman and Paul B. Sturtevant examine the long, dark history of "The Devil's Historians"--people who manipulate and use myths about the medieval past to promote discrimination, oppression, and murder. Tracing the fetish for "medieval times" behind toxic ideologies like nationalism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, misogyny, and white supremacy from European imperialists right up to the present-day "alt-right," Kaufman and Sturtevant show us that the Middle Ages have been twisted for political purposes ever since they came to a close. The Devil's Historians also casts aside the myths of an oppressive, patriarchal medieval monoculture and reveals a medieval world you may not have learned in school: one that is diverse, thriving, courageous, and compelling, and far more complex than those who want to bring us back to the Middle Ages would have you believe."--

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


Weaponizing History
Foundational Myths
2 Nationalism and Nostalgia
3 The Clash of Civilizations
4 White Supremacist Knights
5 Knights in Shining Armor and Damsels in Distress
6 Medievalism and Religious Extremism
The Future of the Medieval Past
Further Reading

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2020)

Amy S. Kaufman is a scholar of medieval studies and popular culture.

Paul B. Sturtevant is Editor in Chief of The Public Medievalist and a Visitor Research Specialist at The Smithsonian Institution.

Bibliographic information