Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘historiography’

See Part One here.

July A month of very conflicted emotions. On the one hand, back in Berlin; on the other hand, Brexit. On the one hand, the remarkable pleasure to be gained from the Ablehnung of a Ruf, and an opportunity to reflect on the sheer weirdness of German academic appointment processes; on the other hand, Brexit, and the thought that a job in Germany might be no bad thing. On the one hand, some actual research into cheap translations of Thucydides (though not in a REF-able publication, unless the rules change dramatically in the near future); on the other hand, my most-read post of the year on, you guessed it, Brexit(more…)

Read Full Post »

Death. Death. Crisis. Death. Crisis. Death. Death. That was 2016, that was. Good riddance, apart from the uneasy feeling that it may have been just the overture, and next year we won’t have the all-too-brief comic relief of England v. Iceland to cheer us up.

It’s all been very serious German novel. One of the themes on the blog this year has been the avoidance, if not fervent denunciation, of crass historical analogies, so I’ll save my next discussion of Volker Kutscher’s excellent Krimi series set in 1920s and 1930s Berlin [pervasive atmosphere of impending doom and dramatic irony] until the Tom Tykwer adaptation starts next year, by which time I may have caught up with the latest volume. Rather, I’ve been reminded all too often of Jenny Erpenbeck’s brilliant Aller Tage Abend (and I still dislike the English title End of Days without having a good alternative suggestion), in which the central character dies again and again – as a baby, as a teenager, at various stages of adulthood – with a constant dialectic between the hopeful counterfactual (if only this, then she would have lived…) and the inevitability of death, against a backdrop of twentieth-century horrors. That was 2016, that was… (more…)

Read Full Post »

As Marx wrote in the 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, more or less: People write history, but they do not write it just as they please; not under conventions chosen by themselves, but under conventions directly encountered, given and handed down. Especially once the publisher starts weighing in about what readers expect from heavyweight-yet-accessible attempts at encapsulating entire periods of time… (more…)

Read Full Post »

I should say from the beginning that this is not the sort of defence of Arron Banks that’s likely to carry much weight with any hypothetical future popular tribunal considering charges of willful destruction of the prosperity and well-being of the British people. Further, my immediate reaction to his original “True the Roman Empire was effectively destroyed by immigration” tweet was a typical kneejerk academic one – something along the lines of “yes, why don’t we revive Tenney Frank’s ‘Race Mixture in the Roman Empire’ while we’re at it?” – followed by an attempt at getting #BanksHistory trending on Twitter, and I don’t think that was entirely wrong. At the same time, there is something about the way that the battlelines in Banks versus Beard ended up being neatly drawn between ‘ignorant right-wing billionaire combining memories of schoolboy history and Gladiator with current ideological prejudices’ and ‘heroic authoritative Professor just fighting for Truth’ that makes me feel a little uncomfortable.* (more…)

Read Full Post »

How long was the Twentieth Century? If you spend most of your time studying classical antiquity, that may sound like a trick question, but since Eric Hobsbawm published Age of Extremes: the short twentieth century in 1994, the idea that the 19th Century persisted until the shattering of the European political order in 1914 (not a new idea, of course; it’s found in Stefan Zweig’s Die Welt von Gestern, for a start) and the 21st Century began in 1989 with the collapse of Soviet communism has been widely recognised as a useful discussion point, if not as a definitive reading. There’s been a flurry of debate on this issue in the last week, with blogs on the topic from Brad DeLong and Branko Milanovic, plus multi-faceted exchange on the Twitter.* (more…)

Read Full Post »

The legend of the great Fernand Braudel, one of my historiographical heroes, is that he completed his doctoral dissertation in his head while sitting in a prisoner-of-war camp in the Second World War, and that in the course of his captivity the core thesis was turned upside down: from a conventional study of the Mediterranean policy of Phillip II of Spain, to the now-familiar revolutionary vision of how the Mediterranean – its environment, its climate, its underlying structures – shaped and limited the reign of Phillip in ways of which he was barely conscious. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Why do we trust historians? How far is it (as I’m sure most people, or at least most historians, would claim) solely a matter of evaluating their data, the quality of their interpretations and their adherence to professional norms, and how far do other factors play a role? I was in Hamburg last week, for the biennial Deutsche Historikertag, which is always an interesting conference in part because they seek to focus on a specific theme, without insisting that everyone should conform to this. This year it was ‘Glauben’, and I co-organised a panel with my regular collaborator Christian Wendt from Berlin on ‘Die Glaubwuerdigkeit des Historikers’, with a particular focus (inevitably) on Thucydides and the ways that he becomes an ‘authority’ in modern discourse. If anyone’s interested, there’s a short report on the session from Deutschlandfunk as part of a programme on the Historikertag generally, here, from about five minutes in.

The majority of ‘academic’ readings of Thucydides – and I should stress that I’m talking about those which take him as some kind of authority, whether on facts or method or theory, not philological studies – seem to depend on some degree of recognition of him as ‘one of us’, a colleague with shared professional values even if he also displays a number of idiosyncratic habits. (more…)

Read Full Post »

Over on Twitter – as ever, a reliable source of evidence to confirm one’s most pessimistic, dark-night-of-the-soul judgements on humanity – an alleged artist is protesting loudly about being banned from the Edinburgh Fringe for being “too political” in her support of Palestine and criticism of Israel using the delightful hashtag #holohoax. A supporter responded to a critical tweet by demanding to know whether the critic had ever properly looked into the claims of Revisionists, attaching a link to a video of a lecture by David Irving with the hashtag #thucydides – and responded to a criticism of that by yours truly with the line “Revisionist history is not smearing, ask Thucydides if his histories concur with Cleons?”

I’m not sure if this is the first time that Thucydides has been expressly evoked in the cause of Holocaust denial (more…)

Read Full Post »

I’m a little disappointed that the Chilcot report – at least if its text search facility is as reliable as has been suggested – contains no mention of Thucydides. True, there’s no established tradition in the UK of drawing foreign policy lessons from the Peloponnesian War, unlike in the US where it’s a set text for high-powered military officers as well as being a favourite of various associates of the Project for a New American Century, above all the influential Donald Kagan. But given the involvement in the inquiry committee of Martin Gilbert, historian of 20th-century war, and Lawrence Freedman, a leading figure in war studies, one might have expected at least a passing gesture. Alas, word searches for terms like ‘Athens’, ‘Sparta’, ‘Nicias’, ‘Syracuse’ and ‘Sicily’ all return blanks (though I was pleased to see that “shambles” occurs about thirty times). (more…)

Read Full Post »

A stranger appears in the city. He is awkward and sometimes distant in social interaction, and appears to regard many well-established customs and traditions with curiosity or even irony – but most people are happy to attribute this to the vaguely defined ‘foreign connections’ that are also offered as the explanation of his considerable wealth. That’s enough to win him acceptance in the upper levels of society, even to the point that he is assigned to lead an important mission in the war that the city has been waging for some years. His performance in this role is best described as diffident or hesitant – a former subordinate reports his habit in crisis situations of muttering the phrase proton prostagma, and then generally opting for inaction – and it is wholly unsuccessful. Banished from the city, over the next twenty years he visits many different parts of the region, appearing unexpectedly at every major crisis point in the war, taking notes and talking to people before vanishing just as mysteriously. At the end he returns to the city, remaining long enough to hand over a manuscript – “I have compiled your war,” he is supposed to have said. “Use it well.” – before disappearing from this planet for the final time. (more…)

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »