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Posts Tagged ‘Donald Kagan’

Donald Kagan, one of the big names in the study of Thucydides over the past few decades and certainly the key Thucydidean scholar as far as the general English-speaking public is concerned, has finally retired at the age of 80, and marked this with a characteristically trenchant lecture and interview in the Wall Street Journal (my laptop is currently refusing to do cut’n’paste for no very good reason, so can’t simply post the link, but it was posted online on April 26 and on p. A11 of the April 27 edition). I have never met him, as he politely declined an invitation to come across to Bristol to speak on the grounds of health, and was away from Yale when I gave a lecture on Thucydides and the idea of history there (or, as I prefer to imagine, decided to boycott such subversive post-modern European nonsense). However, I owe him a great deal; quite simply, I suspect that I would not have got funding for my Thucydides research project if I had not been able to emphasise in the proposal the fact that a leading Thucydides scholar was also writing militaristic polemics like While America Sleeps, invoking Thucydidean tropes to legitimise a turn to a more aggressive, if not downright imperialistic, US foreign policy; behold, I was able to say, the contemporary relevance of  Thucydides and hence the importance of understanding how this text has been co-opted for political ends! (At any rate in the US; if I’d been running this project on the other side of the Atlantic, I imagine that by now I’d have negotiated a few deals with foreign policy think-tanks and military education establishments and would have the whole Impact thing sewn up by now, rather than desperately trying to persuade one or two schools that it would be really good for their teaching of Citizenship to take account of some Thucydides, hitherto with little success. But that’s a side issue). (more…)

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