This volume examines the antagonism between tradition and innovation in the Middle Ages. There were lines of thought which presume adherence to authoritative examples, but also believe in the purposefulness of history, in that, starting from an original state, there is a succession of redemptive actions, threats of danger and promises of happiness, and at times even the expectation of an ideal final state. New processes, new skills, new knowledge, new ethical attitudes and new forms of co-existence are seen as representing progressive steps which do not cease in the present and are directed towards the promise of future happiness. This view was, however, confronted with those which bemoaned change as a deviation from past ideals and as a decline, and which held that the present and future could only be improved through recourse to tried and tested states legitimised through tradition. There was, therefore, the legitimation through tradition, but at the same time there was a commitment to innovation, which was judged to be an improvement. The image of dwarves who stand on the shoulders of giants, but are thus able to see farther, demonstrates the dichotomous attitude of the Middle Ages. The volume presents papers from a variety of disciplines involved in medieval studies.
The papers focus on views of time and change, technological invention, the accumulation of goods and profit, reform and innovation in communities and the state, the increase in knowledge, innovation in art and literature, and the possibilities and boundaries of progress in human knowledge.