Author Spotlight: Mike Markowitz

Here is another "Author Spotlight"! Learn about one of our authors, Mike Markowitz, who first contributed a short article in Medieval World: Culture & Conflict (MWCC.2) titled "The Coinage of Kyivan Rus: Byzantine Models and Local Adaptations." 

What have you contributed to Medieval World: Culture & Conflict?

A published article on coinage of Kyivan Rus’ and a forthcoming article on coins of the Normans in Sicily. I hope to contribute future articles on my main area of interest, the Eastern Roman (“Byzantine”) empire.

Tell us a bit about your background as an historian. What edge do you think it gives you as an author and as an historian?

In high school, I had the benefit of a truly inspirational Latin teacher, and at the University of Rochester, NY, I took courses with many superb history professors. In graduate school at the University of California, Irvine, I learned how to use a great research library. More than 25 years ago I became a serious collector of Byzantine and Late Roman coins, an interest which has given me a second career. As a contributing writer on ancient and medieval coinage for with over 150 published articles, I have tried to keep my writing and research skills sharp.

You can find my work here:

Do you have a favourite event or figure or object from Middle Ages?

My favourite medieval objects, which I have visited many times, are the lovely chalice of Abbot Suger in the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, and the magnificent Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters in New York City.
You can read more about them here: 

What sparks your initial interest in writing an article? 

I like to write about subjects that I do not know in great depth, because that forces me to learn new things. As a writer, my task is to explain as clearly as possible, to readers, who may not have much background in history, or numismatics, or archaeology, how a particular topic fits into the grand sweep of human experience.

Tell us a bit about your research and writing process. What research do you usually undertake for your articles? What is the perfect environment/circumstance for you to write?

Numismatists have a saying: “Buy the book, before you buy the coin.” When beginning research for a new article, I try to find out what the best, most authoritative published references are on the topic, whether in hard copy or online. I spend a lot on books, often finding the best bargains from small secondhand book dealers. I work on an iMac laptop, ideally outdoors when the weather is fine, under a favourite tree.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

The delightful historical novels of Eileen Stephenson, who combines a solid grasp of Byzantine history, with deep insight into the experience and feelings of women:

What book(s) on medieval history and culture would you recommend to our readers? Why?

• Norman Cantor, ed. The Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. New York (1999) has proven endlessly useful to me in my work.
• John Julius Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Years (1989), The Apogee (1993), The Decline and Fall (1996). This three-volume set, by a gifted storyteller, is the best introduction to this vast and challenging history. The one volume abridgment (A Short History of Byzantium, 1998) hits the main points.
• Lynn White, Jr. Medieval Technology and Social Change. Oxford (1962) is a controversial, ground-breaking, and highly influential work of masterful scholarship.

Photo credit: George Paul Csicsery

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