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Norman F. Cantor (born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1930, died in Miami, Florida, United States on September 18, 2004) was a historian who specialized in the medieval period. His sound scholarship was embodied in an accessible style with narrative drive, which made his major textbook, The Civilization of the Middle Ages the most widely-read overview of medieval history.
Cantor studied history at the University of Manitoba and received his B.A. in 1951. He went on to get his master's degree in 1953 from Princeton University. Cantor spent a year as a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford and received his doctorate from Princeton in 1957.
After teaching at Princeton, Cantor moved to Columbia University from 1960 to 1966. He was a Leff professor at Brandeis University until 1970 and then was at SUNY Binghamton until 1976, when he took a position at University of Chicago for two years. He finished his career at New York University, where he was emeritus professor of history, sociology and comparative literature, and retired in 1999.
Select bibliography of Cantor's publications
- The Medieval World 300-1300
- Perspectives on the European Past
- The Civilization of the Middle Ages (a revision of his earlier Medieval History: the Life and Death of a Civilization 1963)
- How to Study History (with Richard I. Schneider), 1967, a textbook that lays out fundamental methods and principles, including the uses of primary and secondary sources.
- The English
- Western Civilization: Its Genesis and Destiny
- The Meaning of the Middle Ages
- Inventing the Middle Ages : The Lives, Works and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century, 1991, a historiography of views of the Middle Ages, in twenty vitae of seminal historians and other shapers of contemporary perception, including C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien: "Any bright American college sophomore who today takes a good survey course on medieval history has a better understanding of the components of the medieval world than anyone who wrote before 1895" wrote Cantor.
- Medieval Lives
- Medieval Society, 400-1450
- Twentieth Century Medieval Culture
- In the Wake of the Plague: The Black Death and the World It Made, 2001
- The Last Knight: The Twilight of the Middle Ages and the Birth of the Modern Era, 2004 (The subject is John of Gaunt)
- Alexander the Great, to be published in 2005
Cantor published a memoir in 2002, Inventing Norman Cantor: Memoirs of a Medievalist.
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