Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.11.08

Michael Llewellyn Smith, Paschalis M. Kitromilides, Eleni Calligas (ed.), Scholars, Travels, Archives: Greek History and Culture through the British School at Athens.   London:  The British School at Athens, 2009.  Pp. xxvi, 254.  ISBN 9780904887600.  

Reviewed by Frederick G. Naerebout, Leiden University (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Anybody who has ever stayed at the British School at Athens (BSA), listened to the legend and lore of the place and taken a closer look at the library holdings, must have become aware of the fact that this is not an institute whose activities are limited to classical archaeology, the classics and ancient history; indeed, it is and always has been a centre for the study of everything to do with Greece, past and present. But it can be doubted whether this is the image that outsiders have of the School. Now we can all know better: a conference was held in Athens in October 2006, of which the proceedings are published in the volume under review, as BSA Studies vol. 17 (with one paper omitted, and another one added). The 2006 conference was dedicated to the School's role in the study of Byzantine and modern Greek culture, art, architecture, anthropology, geography, folklore, history and language.

From its foundation in 1886, the BSA had as its mission to further the study of Greece in all its aspects. Archaeology was singled out, but the wording of the early rules and regulations of the School was vague enough to create opportunities for research into other fields, opportunities that were seized by scholars from the start. Some were exclusively interested in post-classical Greece, others came to Athens with the intention to study the history, archaeology and culture of the ancient world, but once in Greece were drawn to Byzantine or modern pursuits. In several instances, these different interests became truly integrated: around the turn of the century there arose an ethnographic and comparative perspective in the archaeological work of the School, much stimulated by Sir Arthur Evans (who was not connected to the BSA). It is most interesting to see how—and here of course one of the raisons d'être for 'foreign schools' in the Mediterranean becomes manifest—those who were raised on a diet of classical literature reacted to the Greek landscape, people and living culture. It is obvious that the confrontation between on the one hand the study and the museum in England and on the other Greece in all its living glory was very well suited to break down all kinds of presuppositions and make scholars look with fresh eyes.

Roderick Beaton states in the epilogue that this book is about an institution and about the many individuals who shaped it and were shaped by it. There is actually very little about the institution: its practical organization is not discussed at all (there are no cooks or housekeepers in these papers, just scholars); governing bodies make fleeting appearances; we never get a complete picture of who filled what offices. This is above all an account of a number of individuals—and their interaction, but for that you have to read all the papers and try to stick them together in your mind (which is a worthwhile exercise). Considering this basic structure of the book, to discuss its contents as a series of biographical items seems the natural thing to do.

First we have two papers on George Finlay, called the founding father of the BSA, even though he died before the actual establishment of the School. This representative of the Scottish Enlightenment was a (critical) philhellene, fought in Greece's War of Independence, lived in Athens from 1827, wrote Greece's history from Roman times to his own, and took an interest in the Greek politics of the day. I readily admit that the man is interesting, that he can be seen as an exemplar to many who came to Greece after him, but I find that in the end he has not so much to do with the School, even if it harbours his library and papers. I would rather have exchanged Potter's and Wagstaff's essays for contributions on one or more of the real founding fathers, people like Francis C. Penrose, George Macmillan, and Richard Jebb.

We could also do without Hadziioannou's paper on R.A.H. Bickford-Smith, one of the two 'amateurs'—who were and are welcome at the BSA—included in the volume. Bickford-Smith was a barrister, who arrived in Athens in 1890 and stayed on at the School for quite some time. In 1893 he published Greece under King George. He and his work were quite unimportant and have been forgotten. The second 'amateur' is much more interesting: William Miller, journalist and independent mind, author of a range of books on post-classical Greek history: Greek life in town and country (1905), The Latins in the Levant. A history of Frankish Greece (1204-1566) (1908), Trebizond, the last Greek empire (1926), and many others.

Next we come to the architects who based themselves at the BSA to study Byzantine architecture; amongst the very early ones were Sidney H. Barnsley and Robert Weir-Schultz, who in 1888 were sent by the Royal Academy of Arts for the express purpose of documenting Byzantine architecture. In their wake came others, and in 1908 the Byzantine Research Fund was created, which stimulated the formation of the BRF Archive—still housed at the School, and a very rich source. Since the days of Barnsley and Weir-Schultz other important students of Byzantine architecture have been based at the BSA: Ramsay Traquair, Walter Sykes George, William Harvey, and Peter Megaw. Here they hardly get the attention they deserve, being all crammed into Kakissis' paper. The connection of the early ones amongst them to the Arts and Crafts movement gives us glimpses of that wider context that we would love to hear more about, because it enables us to fathom something of these men's motivations to interest themselves in a post-classical Greek world in the first place. But contextualization will always be the weak spot of a collection of papers like this one, although the introduction does a good job.

Now we come to the really intriguing people: those who switched careers or tried to integrate their study of 'the ancients' and of the Greece of their own day. Richard M. Dawkins is the main character of several papers and is mentioned in several more. Dawkins arrived at the BSA in 1902. Although a philologist, he rapidly acquired the skills to conduct excavations. His work, on Crete and elsewhere, left him enough spare time to pursue his true calling, the study of dialect; and when on leave, he travelled extensively collecting materials on dialect. But he did not merely collect the ephemeral word: during his 1906-1907 tour of the Cyclades and Dodecanese with Alan Wace he collected traditional Greek embroidery, which is now the pride of British museums like the Victoria and Albert and Liverpool Museums. Between 1906 and 1914 Dawkins was Director of the BSA. During this period he conducted the important excavation of the sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta. In 1914 he resigned his post and went as an independent scholar to study Greek dialects in Asia Minor, especially Pontos. But the outbreak of the First World War drove him back to Athens. There he worked as a cipher expert in the Intelligence Department of the British Legation, in the meantime keeping up the dialect work. Subsequently he joined the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve, gathering intelligence on Crete but also linguistic and ethnographic material. In a paper by Richard Clogg the wartime activities of scholars associated with the BSA, such as Dawkins, are investigated: archaeologists doubled as intelligence officers (Clogg is preparing a monograph on this most interesting subject). From purely philological work Dawkins went on to folklore studies, rejecting simplistic notions of survivalism and drawing structural comparisons. I have been rather long in summarising what is told here about Dawkins, because his story is such a good example of what this volume is all about: individuals may be known for just one aspect of their research, but several have been doing so much more, and in the most interesting cases, such as Dawkins, all the things they did came together and cross-pollinated.

Amongst the others who get proper attention is Alan J.B. Wace who in addition to his work on antiquity is still known for his study of the Vlachs, carried out with Maurice S. Thompson. In 1909-1910 the two of them went to Thessaly to look for inscriptions and other antiquities. They ended up with a major ethnographic study. Next we have Frederick William Hasluck, who, after his early death from consumption in 1920, has never been given his due as a great and innovative scholar—at least that is the message of the rather polemical paper by David Shankland. Hasluck first worked in the fields of archaeology and epigraphy, but then turned to post-classical history, as reflected in many publications, the most important being the posthumous Christianity and Islam under the Sultans, two volumes of collected articles and miscellanea, and to folklore and religious studies, as in his Athos and its monasteries. Dawkins also wrote about Athos, as did, in a later generation, Philip O. A. Sherrard, whom I personally find more interesting because of his study of post-classical Greek literature—literature, however, gets but little attention in this volume (as it is put in the introduction: you need not come to Athens to study literature). Still, contemporary literature is also something that one will be more readily confronted with on the spot.

The last three papers by Just, Hirschon and Halstead take the story up to the present, but here we have not so much the biographies of some exemplary figures as a prosopography of British anthropology in Greece (from Just), a rather slight personal memoir (from Hirschon) and a plea for ethnoarchaeology (from Halstead). Just is the most interesting of the three, tracing the important British anthropological work on contemporary Greece from John and Sheila Campbell to Juliet du Boulay, Renée Hirschon, Michael Herzfeld, Charles Stewart, and Roger Just. Halstead, in discussing ethnoarchaeology and survey archaeology does not give us a comparable family tree, but gives pride of place to his farmer informants: interesting and endearing, but not in line with the rest of the volume. But what Just and Halstead show most clearly is that what Dawkins and Wace and Shankland were doing has not been in vain: there have been certain patterns established that still influence what is going on at the BSA.

It is a pity that the volume does not include papers on a number of really interesting people who were associated with the BSA. I think of Arnold Toynbee and of Robert C. Bosanquet, both of whom are mentioned several times; of W.R. Halliday, who gets a single mention as the assistant of Dawkins, publishing the folktales that at the time did not interest Dawkins except as a source of dialect forms; of John Cuthbert Lawson, who is severely criticized by Dawkins for his survivalism; and of William Ridgeway and J.L. Myres, who, in quite different ways, were each very important to the BSA. Whatever may be lacking, this volume does fulfill its purpose in showing the richness of the non-classical research carried out by people who were in one way or another associated with the BSA. This research in many instances is still of value, indeed has become ever more valuable, because the Greece that these people studied has disappeared: Dawkins studied dialects before the Treaty of Lausanne drove many of their speakers from their habitat. Wace and Thompson studied the Vlachs before the Balkan Wars put an end to their traditional way of life. Of course, since the Second World War, modernisation has put an end to most of traditional folklife. Still, I would say that the main interest of the research carried out under the aegis of the BSA lies not in its results but in the methodological gains: people have crossed boundaries between disciplines and their work became all the more interesting because of this.

A nice feature of the book is the extensive use that has been made of the School's archives to illustrate the book with a wealth of interesting photographs. It might be noted, however, that the view of Athens from Lycabettos (Fig. 1.9) has been reversed.

1. Michael Llewellyn Smith and Paschalis Kitromilides, Introduction, 1
2. Liz Potter, 'Two thousand years of suffering': George Finlay and the History of Greece, 13
3. Malcolm Wagstaff, Colonel Leake's knowledge of events in Greece following Independence: the Finlay correspondence, 27
4. Maria Christina Hadziioannou, Like a rolling stone, R.A.H. Bickford-Smith (1859-1916) from Britain to Greece, 29
5. Peter Mackridge, From archaeology to dialectology and folklore: the role of the BSA in the career of R.M. Dawkins, 49
6. Anthony Bryer, R.M. Dawkins, F.W. Hasluck and the 'Crypto-Christians' of Trebizond, 59
7. Tom Winnifrith, A.J.B. Wace and M.S. Thompson, Nomads of the Balkans—The Vlachs 67
8. Ann French, The Greek embroidery collecting of R.M. Dawkins and A.J.B. Wace, 77
9. David Shankland, Scenes pleasant and unpleasant: the life of F.W. Hasluck (1878-1920) at the British School at Athens, 91
10. Paschalis Kitromilides, F.W. Hasluck and Christianity and Islam under the Sultans, 103
11. Kallistos Ware, Three different views of the Holy Mountain: Athos through the eyes of F.W. Hasluck, R.M. Dawkins and Ph. Sherrard, 111
12. Amalia G. Kakissis, The Byzantine Research Fund Archive: encounters of Arts and Crafts architects in Byzantium, 125
13. Eugenia Drakopoulou, British School at Athens research into Byzantine Attica, 145
14. Paul Hetherington, William Miller: Medieval historian and modern journalist, 153
15. Richard Clogg, Academics at War: the British School at Athens during the First World War, 163
16. Roger Just, The Archaeology of Greek Ethnography, 179
17. Renée Hirschon, 'Home from home': The role of the British School at Athens in social anthropological fieldwork, 189
18. Paul Halstead, Studying the past in the present: archaeological engagement with modern Greece, 201
19. Roderick Beaton, Epilogue, 217

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