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Intersecting Art and History: The Story of Early Globalism in ‘Tales Things Tell’

‘Tales Things Tell: Material Histories of Early Globalisms is a scholarly work that presents new perspectives on the histories of connectivity between Africa, Asia, and Europe prior to the Mongol conquests of the thirteenth century. Authored by Finbarr Barry Flood and Beate Fricke, the book has been published by Princeton University Press on November 21, 2023, with a listing price of $55.00/£45.00.


The central thesis of the book revolves around the archival value of mobile artifacts and images for reconstructing historical narratives typically reliant on written sources. Flood, serving as the director of Silsila: Center for Material Histories, and Fricke, a professor of medieval art at the University of Bern, utilize their expertise to examine objects and materials that traversed political and sectarian boundaries. These items acted as conduits for the transfer of aesthetic, economic, and technological knowledge during the period stretching from the sixth to the thirteenth centuries.

Tales Things Tell is enriched with case studies that span various forms of craftsmanship, including metalwork, stone reliefs, manuscript paintings, and items made from organic materials like coconut and rock crystal. These objects, which traveled as commodities, gifts, or even as booty, are analyzed for their role in the dissemination of iconographic and technical knowledge across different cultures.

The publication challenges conventional narratives based on written records. It aims to demonstrate the historical significance of portable objects in mediating the mobility of concepts and skills. By doing so, it provides a fresh understanding of the exchanges that took place between medieval Islam and Christendom, and across the broader regions of Europe and the Indian Ocean, thus offering a unique perspective on early globalisms.

Finbarr Barry Flood is renowned for his contributions to the field, including his previous work, “Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval ‘Hindu-Muslim’ Encounter.” Beate Fricke brings her own authoritative voice to the study, with notable publications such as “Fallen Idols, Risen Saints: Sainte Foy of Conques and the Revival of Monumental Sculpture in Medieval Art.”

Topics: Tales Things Tell book review, material histories of Africa Asia Europe, Pre-Mongol global connections artifacts, Finbarr Barry Flood new publications, Beate Fricke medieval art scholarship, artifacts as documents of history, portable objects in medieval trade, cross-cultural exchanges pre-13th century, art history archival value objects, Tales Things Tell Princeton University Press

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