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Miles Pattenden

Miles Pattenden

Miles Pattenden is Director of Core Events at The Europaeum, Oxford. He was previously a Research Fellow in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at ACU. He specialises in the history of the Catholic Church and his books include Pius IV and the Fall of the Carafa (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Electing the Pope in Early Modern Italy, 1450-1700 (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Miles Pattenden reviews ‘How the World Made the West: A 4,000-year history’ by Josephine Quinn

June 2024, no. 465 27 May 2024
Decolonising has reached the classics. Complexity, diversity, and entanglement are in. Greece and Rome are, well, out. The movement to ‘reclaim’ Antiquity began with noble aims: to emancipate the ancients from the prism of politics and war through which we like to see them, to emphasise the role of technology and trade in their lives, and to make women and people of colour visible among them a ... (read more)

Miles Pattenden reviews ‘Forbidden Desire in Early Modern Europe: Male-male sexual relations, 1400-1750’ by Noel Malcolm

May 2024, no. 464 22 April 2024
Do gay men have a history – and, if so, what is it? Historians have grappled with such questions ever since Michel Foucault first published his History of Sexuality in the 1970s. The stakes are high because they are political: at root, they contest nature versus nurture. We know that men who have sex with other men have existed in every past society. But were those men the same as modern homosex ... (read more)

Miles Pattenden reviews ‘Emperor of Rome: Ruling the ancient Roman world’ by Mary Beard

March 2024, no. 462 23 February 2024
Those Roman emperors were a funny lot: Nero with his lyre, Caligula with his speedy horse; Elagabalus with his whoopee cushion (what japes he played on guests who came to dinner!). Mary Beard’s new book spills the tea on all the well-known eccentric autocrats who ruled the Roman world. And what a bunch of oddities they were. Hard to believe that they could have wielded so much power so effective ... (read more)

Miles Pattenden reviews 'The Pope at War: The secret history of Pius XII, Mussolini, and Hitler' by David I. Kertzer

March 2023, no. 451 26 February 2023
Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII (1876–1958), bears the dubious distinction of being the twentieth century’s most discredited Catholic – and also the millennium’s most controversial pontiff. The case against Pius, prosecuted most famously by John Cornwell (‘Hitler’s Pope’), is that he aided and abetted, or at least did nothing to prevent, the Nazi regime’s unprecedented crimes agains ... (read more)

Miles Pattenden reviews 'Not Far from Brideshead: Oxford between the Wars' by Daisy Dunn

November 2022, no. 448 25 October 2022
Oxford is not what it was once. We scholars swot too hard. Even the Bullingdon has lost its brio. It’s hardly surprising that this Age of Hooper has ushered in a cottage industry of aesthetes’ nostalgia, for many sense that the time when students could still be boys, and boys could be Sebastian Flyte, was just more fun. No reports, recorded lectures, or Research Assessment Exercises to interru ... (read more)

Miles Pattenden reviews 'The Invention of Power: Popes, kings, and the birth of the West' by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita

October 2022, no. 447 29 September 2022
We live in an age that worships data. If Covid-19 has taught us nothing else, it is that arguments advanced via assertions of statistical significance are practically impervious to criticism. Naturally, quantitative-minded academics have become the high priests of this religion, and they now seem to think they are the authorities on everything. When they cynically use trendy tools to legitimise wh ... (read more)

Miles Pattenden reviews 'Maria Theresa: The Habsburg empress in her time' by Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, translated by Robert Savage

June 2022, no. 443 25 May 2022
Few Australians today will have heard of the Empress Maria Theresa (1717–80). And yet this queen of Hungary and Bohemia, archduchess of Austria, ruler of Mantua and Milan, who was also grand duchess of Tuscany and Holy Roman Empress by marriage, bestrode the eighteenth-century stage like a dumpy colossus. The mother of some sixteen children, she styled herself as matriarch for a nation, while th ... (read more)

‘Father Stu: The consolations of a calling’ by Miles Pattenden

ABR Arts 09 May 2022
What makes a man choose to be a Catholic priest? The cynical and snide these days might bring up an unhealthy interest in other people’s children. And yet, historically, the calling to the cloth has often been a noble one, as likely an impulse driven by spiritual yearning and zeal for social justice as mere careerism or a flight from normative sexuality. The Catholic Church, which faces a crisis ... (read more)

‘Benedetta’: Paul Verhoeven’s ‘convent life gone wrong’

ABR Arts 07 February 2022
Catholicism gets a bad rap when it comes to sex these days. The Church fixates on condoms and abortion. It isn’t always big on homosexuality either. Paul Verhoeven’s ‘historically inspired’ film, on one level, explores the hypocrisies that arise from such callow credos: the religious renounce the flesh but flagrantly eroticise spiritual and interpersonal relationships. Carnal obsessions ab ... (read more)

Miles Pattenden reviews 'To Kidnap a Pope: Napoleon and Pius VII' by Ambrogio A. Caiani

May 2021, no. 431 27 April 2021
To kidnap one pope might be regarded as unfortunate; to kidnap two looks like a pattern of abusive behaviour. Ambrogio A. Caiani tells the story of Napoleon’s second papal hostage-taking: an audacious 1809 plot to whisk Pius VII (1742–1823) from Rome in the dead of night and to break his stubborn resolve through physical isolation and intrusive surveillance. ... (read more)