Two opposing views of the future in the Middle Ages dominate recent historical scholarship. According to one opinion, medieval societies were expecting the near end of the world and therefore had no concept of the future. According to the other opinion, the expectation of the near end created a drive to change the world for the better and thus for innovation. Close inspection of the history of prognostication reveals the continuous attempts and multifold methods to recognize and interpret God’s will, the prodigies of nature, and the patterns of time. That proves, on the one hand, the constant human uncertainty facing the contingencies of the future. On the other hand, it demonstrates the firm believe during the Middle Ages in a future which could be shaped and even manipulated. The handbook provides the first overview of current historical research on medieval prognostication. It considers the entangled influences and transmissions between Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and non-monotheistic societies during the period from a wide range of perspectives. An international team of 63 renowned authors from about a dozen different academic disciplines contributed to this comprehensive overview.
Matthias Heiduk, Klaus Herbers, Hans-Christian Lehner, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.