Posts Tagged ‘globalisation’

What can Thucydides tell us about the current state of global politics and the likely direction of future developments? As I’m writing a book for Princeton UP called What Thucydides Knew, it does suit me very well that people keep asking this question – even if they then keep offering the same tedious answers. I struggle to see, for example, what contribution this morning’s op ed in the New York Times makes to our understanding of anything, beyond the fact that it’s a Colonel in the People’s Liberation Army trotting out boilerplate Thucydides Trap stuff about tensions in the South China Sea, rather than one of the usual suspects.

It’s a bonus, therefore, when someone offers a new and potentially interesting take on the question, even if I disagree with a lot of it.* (more…)

Read Full Post »

As mentioned at the end of my last post, I spent several days last week at a conference in Serbia on Imperialism and Identity at the Edges of the Roman Empire – perhaps appropriately, held at a conference centre in the middle of nowhere, with no bar, twenty minutes’ walk from the nearest supermarket, reminding us what it must have been like to be stationed on the Roman frontier in the early days before the local culture began to change and familiar foodstuffs (tea, proper coffee, beer…I mean, wine, olive oil and garum) became more readily available… (more…)

Read Full Post »

Students of the ancient economy are all too familiar with the situation of being in the middle of a debate and slowly realising that the entire thing has been operating at cross purposes without anyone noticing. Most often, this is because discussion focuses on substantive matters, with questions of theory and interpretative frameworks pushed firmly into the background or ignored altogether; it’s perfectly possible even for someone like me to talk about a topic like Roman bakeries for some time before it becomes clear to me, if not to my interlocutor, that we’re agreeing on a specific point on the basis of diametrically opposite assumptions and conceptions. I must admit that my usual reaction to this situation is to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable; it feels quite rude and aggressive to switch the discussion to the theoretical or methodological level, like a dubious rhetorical move or illegitimate exercise of academic authority – and that’s almost certainly how it would be received; at any rate that’s how it felt whenever the late Keith Hopkins did it to me when I was a PhD student – but at the same time I fervently believe that you can’t do history properly without examining your preconceptions, considering the broader implications of your ideas and so forth, and so I feel I ought to say something to make it clear that we’re agreeing just on this point, not on everything else.


Read Full Post »