On the Legacy of The Life and Passion of William of Norwich
From the Writ Large Podcast
Writ Large is a Lyceum original podcast about the books that changed the world. In each episode, host Zachary Davis interviews one of the world’s leading scholars about one book that shaped the world we live in—whether you’ve heard of it or not. These conversations look beyond plot summaries to unpack a book’s context, creation, and initial impact, and reveal its lasting influence on the ideas of today.
There is only one surviving copy of The Life and Passion of William of Norwich, but its story continues to haunt us. When 12th-century monk Thomas of Monmouth learned of a young boy’s murder in his community, he accused his Jewish neighbors of the heinous crime. Over the course of two decades, he wrote a seven-volume conspiracy theory, building out the accusation and cementing it in history. Stanford professor Rowan Dorin discusses the book’s creation and its challenging legacy.
From the episode:
Rowan Dorin: It’s easy to look at these accusations, and to look at anti-Jewish and antisemitic tropes, and to sort of see these things as being eternal because, you know, they pop up everywhere, they get invoked so often, they get sort of brought up in so many places. So it’s easy to see these things and to forget that they really do have a history, that each of these accusations, each of these tropes, each these stereotypes, you know, emerges in a particular time and place and context.
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Rowan Dorin is Assistant Professor of History at Stanford University.