Michael Wintle: The Black Magus

Culture and languages

Michael Wintle, Professor Emeritus in Modern European History, University of Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam: "The Black Magus: How the story of the Three Kings led to a Eurocentric world-view in the Renaissance period".

1 Jun 2022
15:15 - 17:00

Högre seminariet and Tidigmoderna seminariet.

Michael Wintle:

As a means of ordering the world in a spatial sense, the continents – or parts of the world – have existed since Ancient times. In terms of their cultural meaning, since the Renaissance the concept of the continents has become a way of promulgating a Eurocentric hierarchy of spaces and races.

Somewhere in the pre-modern period, these innocuous geographical labels began to be used by Europeans to differentiate between civilizations, with Europe at the top. One important contributor to this gradual transformation was the portrayal in paintings and other visual media of the story of the Adoration of the Kings at the birth of Christ.

In the early fifteenth century the junior, youngest king suddenly became black, and took on stereo-typically ‘African’ features; the other two Magi often represented Europe and Asia. Helped by this development, a hierarchy of the continents emerged, and became one of the bases for the establishment of Eurocentrism, which has continued to this day.

Chair: Philip Lavender.
The seminar will be held in English.