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James Muldoon has brilliantly synthesized a great deal of recent research on relations between Europeans and people beyond Europe in medieval and early modern times. In doing so he has brought remarkable clarity and texture to issues of identity and hybridity that stood near the heart of cross-cultural encounters. --Jerry Bentley, University of Hawaii
James Muldoon addresses themes of hybridity and identity through the vehicle of European expansion and conquest in the Middle Ages. He presents expansion through its ultimate effect: the formation of distinct cultural identities uniting the conquering and conquered cultures. Focusing primarily on the interaction between the English and the Irish, Muldoon finds two new cultural identities being created. The first consists of the degenerate English, those who adopted the indigenous way of life. The second consists of the wild Irish who adopted some English cultural and religious traditions (for example, converting to Christianity). These groups form a middle people, having adopted enough new traditions to emerge neither English from England nor traditionally Irish.
These new identities provide a path toward understanding the frontier experience elsewhere, as Muldoon discusses how expansion involves negotiating new ways of living with new peoples. This interpretation of expansionist cause-and-effect is further supported and grounded by examinations of the relationships among the New Christians, Jews, and Muslims in expansionist Spain as well as those between British colonialists and White Indians in British North America.
Muldoon breaks new ground in bringing all of these examples into a single framework where he discusses and interprets what has happened along all frontiers of European expansion. Throughout, he offers subtle insights and establishes concepts useful to the study of the complicated processes of cross-cultural encounters.
James Muldoon is an invited research scholar at the John Carter Brown Library