Constructing the Middle Ages

Historiography, Collective Memory and Nation-Building in Luxembourg


Recognising the importance of the Middle Ages as a vital point of reference in the construction of national identities, this challenging book examines the remarkable role played by the period in the grand duchy of Luxembourg. This country is representative of the close relationship between historicism and nation-building in modern Europe. Tracing the fortunes of four pivotal figures from their own lifetimes to the present, this book uncovers how they each entered collective memory and came to play a key role in a national narrative of history. The analysis includes the foundation myth of Sigefroid and Melusine, the posthumous career of Countess Ermesinde and King John of Bohemia’s transformation into a national hero.
Borrowing some of its theoretical framework from the study of lieux de mémoire, this wide-ranging book crosses disciplinary boundaries and addresses not only historical writing, but also literature, the visual arts, and popular culture.
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Biographical Note

Pit Péporté is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Luxembourg. He is co-author of Inventing Luxembourg (Brill, 2010) and has co-edited Renaissance? Perceptions of Continuity and Discontinuity in Europe c.1300-c.1550 (Brill, 2010).

"This book is a mine of information for anyone interested in the history of medievalism. By highlighting the intercultural crossings between Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, and France, Péporté follows indirectly the histoire croisée approach. His findings will be of great value to scholars of Europe's entagled history." – Stefan Goebel, in: Speculum 88/2 (April 2013), pp 565-566
"Le projet qu'il a mené à son terme impressionne non seulement par son ambition mais aussi par son audace. Partant du constat que l'écriture du passé a fatalement quelque chose de factice, l'historien s'est émancipé des subdivisions traditionnelles de sa discipline pour parcourir, avec un sens critique aiguisé, près d'un millénaire de littérature historique." – Vincent Artuso, in: woxx 1178 (31 August 2012)
"Für [...] Pit Péporté, der sein Buch über die „Konstruktion des Mittelalters“ mit diesem Beispiel aus jüngster Vergangenheit beginnt, ist die Debatte über die nationalen Qualitäten des mittelalterlichen Wappentiers ein gutes Beispiel, wie Geschichte, hier in Gestalt einer traditionellen Symbolik, von einem nationalen Diskurs instrumentalisiert werden kann." – Jean-Louis Scheffen, in: Télécran, June 2012, pp. 134-137
"[A] worthy addition to the growing literature on »inventing« historical memory [...]." – James M. Murray, in: , February 2012

List of Illustrations and Tables

1. Historiography
2. Collective Memory and Lieux de Mémoire
3. The Structure of this Book

Chapter One. Sigefroid: The Founding Father
1. The First Count of Luxembourg
2. The Forgotten: Conrad I
3. Sigefroid the Builder of the Castle
4. Sigefroid the Builder of the City
5. Sigefroid as a Legendary Figure
6. The Origin of the Nation
7. The Millennium of Luxembourg in 1963
8. Losing Importance
9. Conclusion

Chapter Two. Melusine: The Mythological Origins
1. A Medieval Myth and its Purpose
2. The Emergence of the Legend in the Local Context
3. Facets of a National Myth.
4. Conclusion

Chapter Three. Ermesinde: The Connecting Link
1. The Liberal Leader
2. The Pious Princess
3. Towards a National Trinity
4. A Shared Memory
5. The Forgotten: Limburg
6. Conclusion

Chapter Four. John of Bohemia: Constructing a National Hero
1. The Birth of the Hero
2. The Rise of a Local Hero
3. The Creation of a National Hero
4. The three-fold basis of the national myth.

Chapter Five. John of Bohemia: The Vicissitudes of a National Hero
1. Mort pour la France
2. The Dynasty’s Favourite
3. The Last Days of the Nationalist Icon?
4. Alternative Memories
5. The European champion
6. The Forgotten: Sigismund
7. Conclusions



All those interested in medievalisms, historiography, nation-building, as well as the history of Luxembourg and the Low Countries.