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Posts Tagged ‘migration’

Another installment in my long-term project to make available copies of old chapters and articles, when I have a spare moment. This one is prompted by another exchange with Will Pooley at Bristol, who asked on the Twitter about modern historians using the dialogue form, whether invented or found. My immediate thought was Keith Hopkins’ A World Full Of Gods, which (if you don’t know it) experiments with a variety of unexpected literary forms to capture different aspects of religions in the ancient world and the numerous historiographical issues involved in trying to study and represent them. As I think I’ve remarked on here before, I’m not convinced that many of Hopkins’ experiments actually work properly – the professional exponents of science fiction do time travel stories rather better, for example – but it’s amazing that it was done at all, and a great shame that this aspect was largely passed over by reviewers as quickly as possible with an air of great embarrassment. (more…)

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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…)

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Evocations of classical parallels and examples in current discussions of migration and its consequences in Europe have been pretty well uniformly unhelpful and polemical, designed above all to evoke the image of civilisation under threat from hordes of savage barbarians massing on the frontiers and threatening to swamp “our way of life”. It’s a little disconcerting; for so many years, following the general trend of the scholarship, I’ve been encouraging students in my Late Antiquity unit to shift their conception of the period from “barbarian invasions” to “migrations”, emphasising the fact that the majority of the Visigoths et al were seeking to join the Roman Empire, not sack or overthrow it, refugees from war and probably environmental crisis and climate change – and now it seems that this has become the prevalent view, but with all the fear and hostility associated with the “invasions” thesis now transferred across to migrants. Whereas once the manner in which these (relatively small numbers of) non-Romans entered the Empire was the crucial historical question, it now appears that any incursion of The Other from Outside is regarded as a threat unless proven otherwise. (more…)

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