Connecting the Dots: Peripheral Figures in the History of the American School of Classical Studies. The Case of R. S. Darbishire.Posted: November 2, 2018
Steve Jobs once said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” Archives is all about connecting the dots. When processing archival material, you often come across documents, photos, or notes that don’t connect in any obvious way with the rest. For this reason all finding-aids have a “Miscellaneous” section. And such is the case of R. S. Darbishire (1886-1949), a name I came upon in the Carl W. Blegen Papers several years ago, in a booklet of poems; and more recently, while going through a small box of unprocessed material from the Blegen/Hill household on Ploutarchou 9, in a set of architectural blueprints. It took me a while to connect the dots in the Darbishire puzzle.
The Elusive Mr. Darbishire
In the Blegen Papers, there is a small booklet with a collection of handwritten poems titled “Poems to Order. Thera, June 17-21, 1928. Robert Shelby Darbishire.” The short poem on the first page is dedicated to CB:
Εξ αδοκήτο [Unforeseen]
You, when I asked, “What shall I do in Thera?”
Unexpectedly in my empty mind
Casually dropped this: “Write pretty!”
Here (unexpectedly) nought else I find.
Darbishire appears in the student list of the American School of Classical Studies (ASCSA, or School hereafter) for the year 1926-27; he is also thanked in the preliminary reports or final publications of a number of excavations conducted in 1927-1928: Prosymna, the Odeum at Corinth, and Olynthus.
There is very little information about Robert Shelby Darbishire on the web, and one has to type his name in various ways in order to retrieve a few scraps. Born in 1886 at Fort Meade, Florida, he was the son of Godfrey Darbishire (1853-1889) -a British surveyor and a famous rugby player, who immigrated to the States in 1883– and Ann Shelby of Chicago. Robert was unfortunate in losing his father at an early age. Mother and son lived for a while on a farm they owned in Danville, Kentucky before they moved back to England to be near the paternal side of the family. (Darbishire’s grandfather was Robert Dukinfield Darbishire, a well-known philanthropist and biologist from Manchester.) Nevertheless, the Kentucky farm remained in the Darbishire family’s possession for a long time; mother and son would move back to it after the death of Robert Dukinfield in 1910; and Robert Shelby would retreat to the farm in various periods of his life. In fact, the family papers are deposited at the University of Kentucky Special Collections, and it is from their finding-aid that I managed to obtain good and reliable information about the Darbishires.
The Toynbee Connection
While in England, Robert attended Balliol College following a family tradition. Although without a Wikipedia entry (unlike his father), Robert’s name appears in searches that connect him with the famous British historian Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975). It was at Balliol College that Robert met and became close friends with the slightly younger Toynbee. Together they travelled to Italy and Greece in 1911-1912. Since researchers are more interested in studying the life and work of Toynbee, it is he, who is quoted in the excerpts of the Toynbee-Darbishire correspondence.
We don’t know anything about Robert’s first experience of Greece, but Toynbee’s was negative. He referred to the Greeks and the Italians as “dagos,” dreaded his encounters with them and offensively described modern folk in his letters, while continuously asking himself: “Were the Ancient Greeks like them”? Toynbee visited Greece as a philhellene and left the country as a mis-hellene. “Well, I shall religiously preach mis-hellenism to any philhellene I come across…” he wrote in one of his letters (W. H. McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life, New York 1989). Toynbee in old age would retract most of the comments he had made about the Greek folk as a young man, blaming himself for his inability to understand them. Whether Robert shared his friend’s feelings, one could only learn from Robert’s letters to his mother in the Kentucky University Special Collections. Also, unlike his friend Arnold who avoided Greece, Robert would live in Greece for many years.
In the School’s Archives there is only one, but an important, letter from Toynbee. Addressed to Director Bert Hodge Hill from Smyrna on February 10, 1921, he alerts American archaeologists to the destruction of the excavation site of Sardis by the Turks during the Greek-Turkish War of 1919-1922.
“I am afraid my news… is bad. The house was smashed up by the Kemalists before the Greeks drove them out… I am afraid the damage is very great. Roofs mostly gone, except the roof of a big building at the back of the courtyard which I take to have been the museum; staircases, floors, window frames etc ripped away; safe lying on its side with big hole punctuated in it.. The statues in the central court have been badly defaced – arms, faces, etc mutilated; the pottery in the big shed at the back smashed… but luckily the Lydian inscriptions , which I suppose are the most valuable objects there, are intact, and mostly under cover…” (Bert H. Hill Papers, box 4, folder 4).
Toynbee and his wife Rosalind were engaged in relief work in the Gemlic-Yalova peninsula near Constantinople in the summer of 1921. Their photographic archive of about 160 photos has been recently discussed by G. Giannakopoulos in “Once Upon a Time in Asia Minor: Arnold and Rosalind Toynbee’s Frames of the Greco-Turkish War in Anatolia (1919-1922),” Camera Graeca: Photographs, Narratives, Materialities, ed. P. Carabott, Y. Hamilakis, E. Papargyriou, 2015.
Most of the information about Toynbee’s and Darbishire’s journey to Greece in 1911-12 comes from a biography about Toynbee written by another historian, William McNeill, a giant in the field of macro-history, his most famous book being The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community” (1963). (McNeill was also the first editor of the Journal of Modern Greek Studies.) McNeill came to know Toynbee personally when he married Robert Darbishire’s daughter Elizabeth (1921-2006). To Elizabeth, Toynbee was known as “Uncle Toynbee” (McNeill, The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian’s Memoir, 2005). McNeill and Toynbee met for the first time in 1947 in Darbishire’s Kentucky farm. During that meeting Toynbee invited McNeill to work for him and contribute essays to a series titled War Time Survey published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs that Toynbee was directing. Later McNeill would become friends with Toynbee’s second wife, Veronica, and it was through her that he gained access to the personal papers needed to write Toynbee’s biography.
The Greek Years of R.S. Darbishire
Returning to Darbishire, his life can be sketched only in broad strokes. Not much is known about his time in the U.S. after he returned to Kentucky in 1912. According to the biographical note in the finding-aid of the family’s papers in the Special Collections of the University of Kentucky, Robert joined the Near East Relief in 1919-1921, where he met his future wife Ruth Whiting; by 1920 the couple was in charge of the Brusa section. In 1926, at the age of 40, Darbishire applied to attend the School’s year-long program. In his application, in answering “What ultimate purpose have you in view in seeking membership in the American School” Darbishire answered: “Grasp of historical background of possible work in or for Near East, educational or literary, as preferable to previous Relief work.” And indeed, soon after his year at the School, he would get a teaching job at the newly-founded Athens College in Psychiko.
One of his classmates at the School in 1926-27 was Oscar Broneer with whom Darbishire kept in touch throughout his life. (Darbishire’s daughter Elizabeth McNeill would also correspond with Broneer for many years.) A prolific writer, Darbishire is the only student who submitted at the end of the program, not one, but seven papers, one of which is a long poem (“Prologue for the Prometheus Revival at Delphi”) inspired by the Delphic Games of 1927. I suspect that the Darbishires must have known the Sikelianos couple, and possibly helped in the organization of the games, but I don’t have any written proof of it. Putting in use the little Turkish he knew from his time with the Near East Relief, Robert also helped, in the spring of 1927, with the arrangement of the Turkish section of the newly acquired library of John Gennadius. He excavated at Nemea, Corinth and Prosymna where Blegen entrusted him with one of the excavation notebooks. Darbishire is briefly mentioned in the introductory note of the preliminary report of David Robinson’s 1928 campaign at Olynthus. Then I lose track of him until 1937 when he communicated to Broneer his permanent address in Hartford Connecticut.
Imagine then my surprise when, last spring, while packing the School’s archival collections for our transfer to the East Wing of the Gennadius Library, we found in a box of unprocessed material from the Blegen House on Ploutarchou, a set of seven blueprints in perfect condition showing floor plans and elevations of the “Residence of Mr. + Mrs. R. S. Darbishire. Psychiko Greece, on Lot #11.” The plans of this exquisite, two-story house had been drafted on May 26, 1931 by Konstantinos Sgoutas (1897-1983), a well-known architect of the Interwar period with many signature buildings in his name. Sgoutas was also the architect of the Athens College at Psychiko. It is also interesting that Sgoutas co-signs the Darbishire plans with the architectural firm of Thompson & Churchill of New York City. My readers will recognize in Thompson’s name, Stuart Thompson, the architect of the Gennadius Library (1926) and of Loring Hall (1929).
At first, I thought that these were plans of a house that was never built, but after I began looking at the buildings on the campus map of Athens College, I discovered the Darbishire House (Κτίριο Darbishire) tucked in between the Ioannis Karas Kindergarden and the President’s House. And the only explanation for why the plans of the Darbishire House had been saved in the Blegen/Hill house on Ploutarchou 9 is Bert Hodge Hill’s connection with Athens College, as a member of its Board of Directors. What I don’t know yet is why the Darbishires left Athens soon after the erection of this magnificent house in Psychiko. Darbishire’s spirit would return to Athens College four decades later: his grandson, John Robert (named after his grandfather) McNeill would teach for a year in 1975-76.
Picturing R. S. Darbishire
I spent many hours on the web trying to find a photo of Darbishire. I found a photo of his father Godfrey (the rugby player), but not of Robert. In the end several incidental pieces of evidence gave me clues to identifying not only Darbishire but his entire family in a wonderful photo from 1926-1927, or around that time. After he was accepted to the School program in 1926, Darbishire inquired about housing. “I shall have my wife and three small children with me” he informed Blegen in August 1926. Blegen suggested that they lodge in the “Tourist Pension” near Syndagma Square, but in his “Membership Form” of October 3, 1926, Darbishire listed Academy 18 as his address. This was the newly “acquired” Annex of the School, the Palace of Prince George (about which I have written a separate essay, “Living Like Kings: When the Palace of Prince George was the Annex of the American School of Classical Studies”). In the Broneer papers, there is a set of beautiful photos from a costume party in the Annex with several people, of whom I have been able to identify only a few (Priscilla Capps and George Mylonas). The photo of the couple with the three small children had been a mystery to me for years. I then checked the photos in a volume dedicated to the 75th anniversary of Athens College. There, in one of the photos, that of the 1929 class, I recognized the man from the costume party.
Enamored of the Near East
By 1937, as I noted above, the Darbishires had settled in Connecticut. The family’s new house “is just opposite the Seminary which has a good library, not so much for Greece but anything you want for Asia. I am reading Islamic history and even bit of Arabic, so as to get inside the skin of it… Hope you are not disturbed by wars or rumors of wars… We keep the farm to retreat to when everything explodes – but perhaps we’ll be caught as absentee landlords,” scribbled Robert to his old friend Broneer (Oscar Broneer Papers, Box 10, folder 1, Jan. 3, 1937). To which, Broneer answered a few months later (May 14, 1937): “I was glad… to see that you are still enamored of the Near East. Have you already mastered Turkish to such an extent that you are ready to embark on a new linguistic venture in Asia Minor? Your letter is already out of date, for the ‘wars and rumors of wars” of which you spoke seem less likely to spread to our part of the world than they did at the outbreak. When the greatest empire in the world can take time off for a coronation spree, international complications must seem to them distant,” alluding with a touch of irony to the coronation of King George VI on May 12, 1937.
Darbishire’s immersion in the study of the Near East produced several essays, all published in the Muslim World, including: “The Christian Idea of Islam in the Middle Ages, according to the ‘Chanson d’ Antioch’” (vol. 28:2, 1938, pp. 114-124); “The Moslem Antagonist” (vol. 28:3, 1938, pp. 258-271); “Mutual Trust in International Relations of the Recent Past” (29:3, 1939, 285-291); and “The Social Principle of Equality in the Qur’an” (vol. 31:1, 1941, pp, 61-68).
I lose track of him again after 1941. His wife Ruth died in 1946 at the age of 60. Through McNeil’s memoir we know that he was in touch with his college friend, Arnold Toynbee, in 1947. It wasn’t, however, in the genes of the Darbishires to live long. Robert Shelby died in 1949, at 63. Broneer lived to be 98. When Elizabeth Darbishire McNeill announced to Broneer in 1982 that she and her husband Bill had become grandparents, he responded by telling her that:
“… all such news are reminders to me that I am everybody’s Grandfather, including your own. You may have forgotten but I belong to the generation of your parents” (Oscar Broneer Papers, box 17, folder 2, April 14, 1982).
Posted by Maria Georgopoulou
Inspired by the recent inauguration of the new Makriyannis Wing, Maria Georgopoulou, Director of the Gennadius Library, here contributes an essay about the festivities that took place during the dedication of the Library in April 1926.
On June 2, 2018 the American School inaugurated the new Makriyannis Wing of the Gennadius Library. During the preparations for the opening, I was tempted to look back at the festivities for the inauguration of the Gennadius Library itself in 1926. As with other momentous moments in his life, John Gennadius was keen to keep in his scrapbooks as much information as possible about the events (Opening Exercises of the Gennadius Library, preserved in Scrapbook Φ38, p. 36).
The dedication ceremony of the Gennadeion took place on April 23, 1926 at 4.30 pm, after extensive preparations in America and Athens. The letters exchanged between John Gennadius and Bert Hodge Hill, Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), in November and December 1925 deal not only with significant matters, such as guest lists, but also with smaller details like the duration of the blessing (αγιασμός). Read the rest of this entry »
“If a Jesuit should prove not to know Latin we’d better shut our doors!”: Catholic Clergy at the ASCSA, Pt. IPosted: December 1, 2017
Posted by Dylan Rogers
Dylan Rogers holds a PhD from the University of Virginia, and he has been Assistant Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens since 2015. The essay he contributes to “From the Archivist’s Notebook” was inspired by recent research in the ASCSA Archives about the Summer Session program.
Last summer, I began researching the life of Professor Gertrude Smith at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or School), particularly in her role as Chairman of the Committee on Admissions and Fellowships. (On Smith see D. Rogers, “Gertrude Smith: A Classic American Philhellene.“) Smith guided the selection process of students during the Academic Year and the Summer Session (SS) deftly for nearly 20 years (1945-1963). Delving into her correspondence with various people associated with the School, I was struck by one letter in particular, as she was discussing Fr. Raymond Schoder, S.J. (1916-1987), and his desire to be a SS Director at the School in 1961:
I wonder with him just what the Roman Catholic situation would be. Don’t think I have anything against the R.C.’s. I haven’t, but I do not want the summer session turned into an adjunct of the church, and, if he once does the school, I foresee an avalanche for that particular summer of applicants for that particular summer of applicants from people who have used his dratted Homeric Greek books and who will be urged by their priest or nun teachers to take the session when they can have it under his guidance. In the two sessions which I have done I have had each time four or five Roman Catholics, but I could usually control that and get them meatless meals when they had to have them and get them to places where they could get to church on time and so on. But we do not want the summer session dependent of the Roman Catholic church, and I think it might be if Father S. were leading around people, the majority of whom were R.C.’s. (ASCSA ADM REC Series 100, Box 106/1, Folder 3, 26 October 1960)
Did this mean that the School, as a whole, had a bias against Roman Catholics? Certainly this would not be unheard of in American academic circles. Even as late as 1977, Catholic priests were still noticing a bias in academia, which stemmed from deep-roots in America against Catholics (particularly immigrants from Catholic countries of Europe, creating a so-called nativism, or bias, in society). Fr. Andrew Greeley noted that people often told him not to wear his collar, or he would not be taken as serious as his lay counterparts. Indeed, he questioned:
Is the nativism in education conscious or unconscious? I suppose the best answer is that it doesn’t matter. Those who ask, Isn’t Catholicism incompatible with independent intellectual activity? might as well be asking, Isn’t it true that blacks have a distinctive body odor? Or, Isn’t it true women are happier at home raising children? The person who asks the question is prejudiced whether or not he knows it. (Greeley 1977, 43)
Further, the School has been noted for occasionally making less-than-polite comments about religious groups outside of Protestantism, particularly Judaism. In correspondence in the early twentieth century, if an applicant was Jewish, oftentimes that was noted in their files (See J. L. Davis, “A Preamble to the Nazi Holocaust in Greece: Two Micro-Histories from the American School of Classical Studies at Athens.”) While this did not hinder students and scholars of Jewish origin from coming to the School, it is disconcerting to a modern academic audience that such issues would indeed be brought up.
So I began to go back through the Archives to see if there were any anti-Catholic tendencies in the School’s past, as Smith’s letter of 1960 had the potential to suggest. What I did find was a fascinating history of Catholic religious figures (of both genders) coming to the School as students and scholars and flourishing. Almost from the beginning of the School’s foundation in 1881, Catholic clergy had been part of our history, with the first Catholic priest in 1887-1889, Fr. Daniel Quinn. Read the rest of this entry »
The Surplus Property Act of 1944 was an act of the U.S. Congress which allowed the Secretary of State to enter into agreements with the governments of foreign countries for the disposal of surplus American property (mostly WW II scrap) abroad. The Fulbright Act, as it is better known today, became a pioneering platform for educational exchanges between the U.S. and a large number of countries, thanks to an amendment introduced by a young Democratic Senator from Arkansas, J. William Fulbright, in 1945. The amendment allowed the sale of surplus property (e.g., airplanes and their spare parts, arms and ammunition) to foreign countries in exchange for “intangible benefits.” One of those benefits, at the insistence of Senator Fulbright, who had been a Rhodes Scholar as a young man, involved the international exchange of scholars. Since foreign governments did not have enough dollars to pay for the purchase of surplus material, the Act allowed them to use their local currencies to pay the expenses of American scholars studying in those countries. Fulbright strongly believed in the transformative value of educational exchanges, that they could “play a major role in helping to break down mutual misunderstandings,” and contribute to world peace. On August 1, 1946, President Truman signed the Fulbright bill into law.
The first European country to sign the Fulbright Agreement was Greece, on April 23, 1948. The American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School herefafter) with its superb reputation, was one of the immediate beneficiaries of the bi-national agreement. The School claimed that it was the only place of higher learning where American students could apply for research grants to carry out advanced work in classics and archaeology. “It is of course possible for Americans to enroll in the School of Liberal Arts in the University of Athens; but the lecture courses are largely theoretical, library and other facilities are sadly inadequate, and the language problem constitutes a difficult hurdle” argued archaeologist Carl W. Blegen to Gordon T. Bowles of the Conference Board of Associated Research Councils on September 15, 1948 (AdmRec 705/1, folder 1). Blegen, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati, had been appointed as Director of the American School for a year (1948-1949). Having served the interests of the School for a long time, Blegen naturally cared first and foremost for the institution’s well-being. Blegen and others, such as Homer A. Thompson, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations, saw in the Fulbright Act a new source of income to finance the School’s operations and, especially, the research that was carried out in the Athenian Agora. I have written elsewhere about the curious entanglement of the American School with the Fulbright Foundation in the early years of the program’s implementation, and I will be talking more about it on November 30th at Cotsen Hall in a joint event organized by the ASCSA and the Fulbright Foundation on the occasion of its 70th anniversary. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by Jack L. Davis
Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and a former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here contributes an essay about the (forgotten) relief efforts of Priscilla Capps Hill through Near East Industries during the great refugee crisis that followed the Asia Minor catastrophe in 1922.
In the months that followed the Asia Minor catastrophe in September 1922 and the population exchange of 1923, more than a million Orthodox Christians were ultimately compelled to desert their birth rights in Anatolia. Their influx to Greece generated an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. American expatriates in Greece took immediate action. Darrell O. Hibbard of the YMCA and Jefferson Caffery, Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Mission, created the Athens American Relief Committee, which notified Red Cross missions in Europe and America about the crisis and organized the first relief efforts. Bert H. Hill, Director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter), was appointed Chairman of the Relief Committee, in which role he was expected to coordinate communication with the Greek government. Harry Hill (no relation to Bert), an Englishman, head of the American Express Company in Athens, was charged with purchases and banking. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were collected by the time the Committee was disbanded on November 24, 1922, when the American Red Cross arrived in Greece to provide humanitarian aid together with Near East Relief, the latter focusing largely on Turkey. Its work had been invaluable. (See also E. Daleziou, ” ‘Adjuster and Negotiator’: Bert Hodge Hill and the Greek Refugee Crisis, 1918-1928,” Hesperia 82, 2013, pp. 49-65.)
The ASCSA’s involvement did not stop there. In the years to come “the School continued to be a hub for Americans offering their services to a variety of refugee relief efforts such as the ARC, the American Women’s Hospital Organization, Near East Relief, the YMCA, and the Athens American Relief Committee” (Daleziou 2013, p. 58). In addition to relief work, Edward Capps, the Chair of the School’s Managing Committee and a professor of Classics at Princeton University, was asked by Greece’s former prime-minister Eleftherios Venizelos to raise awareness in America of what was happening in Greece. Without wasting time, Capps, who knew Venizelos personally from his days as U.S. Minister to Greece (1920-1921), founded The American Friends of Greece (AFG), the broader mission of which was “to promote friendly relations between Greece and the U.S.” (The AFG later published booklets in support of Greece during World War II and a monthly newsletter, “The Philhellene,” which circulated from 1942-1950.)
Incorporation of the AFG on October 15, 1923 marked the start of Priscilla Capps’s involvement in refugee affairs, a much less well-known story than her father’s. Priscilla Capps (1900-1985), a graduate of Smith College, had assisted her father in Athens during his service as Minister, while she was a student at the ASCSA, as a kind of “first daughter.”
Posted by Clayton Miles Lehmann
Clayton M. Lehmann, Professor of History at the University of South Dakota, here contributes an essay about American college students coming to Greece, as part of study-abroad programs. This post represents a modified and shortened version of the 63rd Annual Harrington Lecture, which he delivered 28 October 2015 to the College of Arts and Sciences of the University of South Dakota. Lehmann was a Regular Member of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in 1982/3, lived in Greece while he wrote his doctoral dissertation, and has returned often, three times as the Director of the Summer Session for the American School and regularly since 2005 as one of the professor-captains of the University of South Dakota’s short-term faculty-led study-abroad program “The Isles of Greece!”.
After disappointing tourism numbers for the 2004 Olympics, the Greek National Tourism Organization launched a major campaign, “Live Your Myth in Greece,” to rekindle Greece in the world’s imagination. When a group of my students arrived in Athens in 2005 for the study-abroad program The Isles of Greece!, they saw the advertisements for this campaign on the billboards and buses on the way into the city. At first glance, the images appeal to the typical touristic expectation of the Greek quartet of sea, sun, sand, and sex. But the classical architecture and supernatural figures suggest a more complex imaginary mix. The fine print on some of these posters read:
Greece: a land of mythical dimensions. Where the spirit of hospitality welcomes you as a modern god. And the siren song draws you into its deep blue waters. Where a gentle breeze through ancient ruins seems to whisper your name. And a dance until dawn can seem to take on Dionysian proportions. In Greece the myths are still very much alive. And in amongst them sits your own . . . patiently waiting for you to live it. Live your myth in Greece. Ask your travel agent.
For the really significant history is that grass roots history which reveals the everyday life of people, in their homes, and at their retreats, in their work and in their play, in turbulence and in repose.
Theodore C. Blegen, 1948
“I suppose you have heard about the Revolution which is taking place here. It began last Friday night -March 1st. During dinner we heard various rumblings and shots out in the city, but didn’t think much about it, believing them just the ordinary noises of the city. But afterwards they became so pronounced that we knew something was happening. So Betty [Dow] and I went down-town, in the direction from which the shots came. We met many troops marching through the streets, and finally came to the region where the firing came from – near the Akropolis. A revolution is such a strange thing here – everyone takes it as a matter of course, and a little as a joke – and the firing isn’t widespread at all. We were able to approach so near –without any danger – that we witnessed a tank storming a barracks for soldiers, and saw the firing on both sides… after the attacks on the barracks which we saw (we were in a crowd of about 25 – the sole witnesses), we saw other tanks, at close range and finally came upon battalions of soldiers drawn up with guns and bayonets in the streets and ready for action… ” wrote Richard (Dick) H. Howland, age 25, to his family back in America.