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).
On the day of the event the dignitaries marched into the Gennadius gardens in an academic procession. Inside the Library, they listened to various speeches and a lecture by John Gennadius. Due to limited space, admission to this event was by ticket only. An additional tour of the Library and “a great garden party” was held in the gardens of the School, on the following day. The blessing (αγιασμός) had taken place a day earlier followed by a reception in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Gennadius hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Arthur M. Woodward, Director of the British School of Archaeology.
Greek and Foreign Dignitaries
The inaugural ceremony was a momentous event that attracted many important visitors. Edward Capps (1866-1950), Chairman of the Managing Committee of the American School, and an instrumental figure in accepting the gift of John Gennadius’s precious library on behalf of the American School in 1922, reached Athens in March of 1926. Although the School put on a good face for the inauguration of the Gennadeion, Capps’s early arrival may have had something to do with serious internal strife at the School; Director Bert Hodge Hill, who had served in this position since 1906 had been just terminated. A ‘civil war” was about to break out in the American School that would cause a deep rift in the School’s foundations for several decades. Yet, the two men appeared side by side on many social occasions during the inauguration of the Gennadius Library, keeping the conflict within the School’s boundaries. 
John and Florence Gennadius arrived in Athens on April 13 and stayed on campus, in the newly built house for the Librarian of the Gennadius Library, Dr. Gilbert Campbell Scoggin.
Among the 104 dignitaries who came from the U.S. we should mention: Dr. Henry S. Pritchett and Mrs. Pritchett of the Carnegie Corporation, the organization that had funded the construction of the Library ; seven members of the School’s Board of Trustees, including the President of the Board (1911-1928), Judge William Caleb Loring; the Vice-President, Frederick P. Fish (who was also representing M.I.T.); the Secretary (1920-1949), A. Winsor Weld (1869-1956), who had first come to Greece with the American Red Cross in 1918; and the Treasurer (1914-1933), Allen Curtis, who was also a member of the Building Committee supervising the construction of the Gennadius Library. John Van Pelt and W. Stuart Thompson, the architects who had designed and constructed the building, were also present of course. (On Weld’s involvement with the Greek Commission of the American Red Cross, see “Athens 1918: “In Every Way a Much More Attractive City than Rome”; and about W. Stuart Thompson’s career in Greece, see also “’The Best Laid Plans… Often Go Awry’: A Tale of Two Museums”.)
The American School was not the only one facing problems. Greek President Theodoros Pangalos (1878-1952), who had taken over the government of Greece by staging a coup in June 1925 was to be deposed a few months later in August 1926. Pangalos attended the inauguration accompanied by his wife, Major Zervos, Captain Laskos, and Captain Gennadis, aides to the President of the Republic. The ceremony was also attended by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Loucas Kanakaris Roufos (1878-1949), and the Minister of Religious Affairs and Education, astronomer Demetrios Aiginitis (1862-1934), the Mayor of Athens, the British Minister and Lady Cheetham, the Austrian Consul General and Madame Walter, and the American Consul General Mr. and Mrs. Garrels.
“A true Greek Renaissance”
Part of the planning had to do with entertaining those who came from America. In addition to visiting the museums and monuments of Athens, one of the Annual Professors of the American School, Dean Walter Miller of the University of Missouri, met a group of them in Patras on April 6 and took them on tours of Olympia and the Argolid and also of Boeotia and Delphi. (On Walter Miller, see also J. L. Davis, “Archives from the Trash: The Multidimensional Annie Smith Peck-Mountaineer, Suffragette, Classicist.)
The Greek experience of the foreign dignitaries was enhanced by a special presentation of the Lyceum Club of Greek Women (Λύκειον των Ελληνίδων). On Thursday April 21, 1926 the Lyceum organized an impromptu reception in their honor, a preview of the annual Festival of the Stadium that was being planned for May 9. The girls of the Lyceum dressed in traditional Greek costume danced folk dances. What attracted the admiration of the guests, however, were the tableaux vivants that recreated a historic panorama of all the periods of Greek civilization from prehistory to the present: “a true Greek Renaissance (Μια αληθινή Ελληνική Αναγέννησις).” (Scrapbook Φ22, p. 12, newspaper clipping, Πολιτεία, 27/4/1926.) Particular praise was reserved for the reenactment of the frescoes of Knossos by the Greek archaeologist Anna Apostolaki, who put a lot of care into the creation of eleven Minoan costumes, which cost 20,000 drachmas, almost 1/10 of the entire festival’s budget. . Mrs. Hill, the wife of Bert Hodge Hill, was enthused, and the director of Near East Relief referred to the presentation as a most beautiful work of national pride. Rightfully then, did Kallirrhoe Parren (Καλιρρόη Παρρέν) report at the end of 1926 that “Arthur Evans had excavated Knossos, a site that revealed Minoan civilization, but thanks to Anna Apostolaki the Lyceum girls revived Minoan culture and made it accessible to thousands of people.” (About Apostolaki, see also V. Florou, “Anna Apostolaki: A Forgotten Pioneerof Women’s Emancipation in Greece“.)
“All the comforts”
A different kind of feast was planned by John Gennadius and his wife Florence to thank the American School for all their hard work: a formal dinner in the best hotel in Athens was held on Saturday April 24, 1926 (Lazarus Saturday) at 8.45 pm. While the Grande Bretagne hotel was being remodeled (1923-1933), it had taken over the hotel Le Petit Palais (or Μικρόν Ανάκτορον) located on the corner of Panepistimiou Street and Kephissias Avenue (now Vasilissis Sophias) next to the Megaron Demetriou.
Advertisements stressed the prior history of the building, which had served as the residence of prince Nikolaos (e.g. in the Parisian newspaper Le journal des Hellènes, 1926). In 1923, this small luxury hotel of 60 to 70 beds prided itself that it “could be compared to the best of Europe as it had all the comforts sought by the most demanding European guest.” (Much of the staff of 250 people consisted of Asia Minor refugees.) Indeed, the hotel was not only a point of reference for the Athenian elite, but was praised by foreign guests as well.  It was in this chic Athenian establishment that Ambassador John Gennadius decided to throw a dinner party to thank the dignitaries of the American School for completing the construction of the Gennadius Library and fulfilling the lifelong dream of this adamant book collector.
The menu consisted of six courses according to the trends of the times. In the interwar period upper-class Greek cuisine underwent a significant change in favor of a more European kind of cooking; the famous Greek cookbook of Nikos Tselementes, first published in 1910, had europeanized Greek cuisine by introducing butter and cream to its recipes. It comes to no surprise that the menu at the Petit Palais featured a five-course meal with dishes influenced by American and French cuisine. (On the changes in Greek cuisine during the early decades of the 20th century, see also: N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, “Expat Feasts in Athens on the Eve of the Balkan Wars“.)
The first course was barley velouté soup with pailles (“straws”) of Cheshire or Chester cheese. It was followed by lobster Newburg, ham mousse with ginger, roasted chicken with lettuce salad and asparagus with sauce hollandaise. For dessert there was bombe plombières , friandises (various sweets) and a basket of fruit.
The total cost of this dinner for 38 people was quite substantial: 16,159 drachmas. The dinner itself was set at 300 drachmas per person, drinks amounted to 1,721 drachmas (including the huge expense of 425 drachmas for Evian water); the cost of flowers was 1,000 drachmas and that of cigars and cigarettes 805. There was a service charge of 10% in the amount of 1,233 drachmas.
The 38 guests were seated in one u-shaped table; they were mostly Americans associated with the School or the U.S. Embassy, and several Greek friends of John Gennadius. (Seating chart available in Scrapbook Φ22, pp. 14-15.) Many of the Greek officials who were invited sent their regrets as on that Saturday they had to attend the celebration of the centenary of the sortie of Missolonghi. John Gennadius had been careful (letter of December 29, 1925 to Bert H. Hill) not to plan the inauguration of the Library on the same day as the celebrations at Missolonghi nor on Greek Easter (May 2).
In addition to the representatives of the School’s Trustees and Managing Committee, the Carnegie Corporation and other American officials mentioned above, John and Florence Gennadius extended their invitation to family members of the dignitaries and to senior staff of the American School. For instance, the Chairman of the Managing Committee (1918-1939) Edward Capps of Princeton University, was accompanied by his wife and two children: Edward Jr. and Priscilla (who also headed Near East Industries in Greece), as well as by his brother, the physician Joseph Almarin Capps of the University of Chicago. The Director of the American School Bert Hodge Hill and his wife, Ida Thallon Hill, were joined by Assistant Director Carl William Blegen with his wife Elizabeth Pierce Blegen, Gennadeion Librarian Dr. Gilbert Campbell Scoggin and Mrs. Scoggin, and Mrs. Jennie Emerson Miller (wife of Annual Professor Walter Miller). The British School was represented by Mrs. W. A. Heurtley, wife of the Assistant director, as the Director was away in Sparta. Three Americans from Chicago, School Trustee (1924-1929) Horace S. Oakley, who was also a member of the American Red Cross Commission to Greece in 1918, and Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Patten were added to the dinner party.
Despite the wish of John Gennadius to have with him the highest ranking diplomats, the Minister of the U.S. to Greece does not appear in the correspondence related to the inauguration; he must have been absent from Greece at the time. In his stead two other members of the U.S. legation to Greece were present at the dinner: James Orr Denby (Second (?) Secretary) and Herbert S. Goold.
The Greek guests included General and Mrs. Amvrosios Phrantzis, whose correspondence with John Gennadius betrays a close friendship and mutual respect between the two, probably formed during Phrantzis’s time in London (1917-1922) ; Professor Andreas M. Andreades (1876-1935), an eminent economist trained in Paris and London and Member of the Academy of Athens ; D[imitrios] Calapothakis from the Press Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Themistoklis N. Marinos, vice-president of the Historical and Ethnological Society of Greece, one of the academic institutions that were highly regarded by John Gennadius; and G. Marinos.
President Pangalos, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Education, the Provost of the University of Athens Simos Menardos, Alexandros Vouros (1871-1959), a high ranking Greek diplomat, and Stamos Papafrangos (1872-1942), a high ranking official in the Director’s Office of the National Bank of Greece  declined the invitation; some were going to be at Missolonghi.
The array of guests demonstrates the network of people that Gennadius wanted to honor in this event, as well as his personal connections with Greek dignitaries. As a senior diplomat from London he surely had a heightened sense of protocol exigencies and meant to include Greek ministers and University professors along friends and colleagues, such as Amvrosios Phrantzis and Stamos Papafrangos with whom he had worked in the past.
The juxtaposition of the two events, one at the Lyceum Club of Greek Women, celebrating the continuity of Greek history, and the other, a high class European-style dinner at a posh Athenian hotel offered by John Gennadius, recall the two cultures that were combined in his figure. As his portraits show, this Athenian who spent most of his life in London could choose to appear either as a true Greek or as a Englishman seamlessly blending into the new, host culture depending on the situation.
 On the rivalry between Capps and Hill, see also: “Clash of the Titans: The Controversy Behind Loring Hall” and David W. Rupp,” Mutually Antagonistic Philhellenes: Edward Capps and Bert Hodge Hill at the American School of Classical Studies and Athens College,” in Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience? American Archaeology in Greece, ed. J. L. Davis and N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, Hesperia Special Issue, vol. 82:1 (2013), pp. 67-100.
 Henry Smith Pritchett (1857-1939) was a Trustee of the Carnegie Corporation and president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (1906-1930). He was a famous astronomer, former President of MIT, founder of TIAA (Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association) and had close ties with the American School; about Pritchett and the Carnegie Corporation see N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, “The Carnegie Appropriations to the American School of Classical Studies. Gifts wrapped up in successful social networking,” in Philhellenism, Philanthropy, or Political Convenience? American Archaeology in Greece. ed. J. L. Davis and N. Vogeikoff-Brogan, Hesperia Special Issue, vol. 82:1 (2013), pp. 131-152.
 Anna Apostolaki (1881-1958) hailed from Crete and was among the first women to enroll at the University of Athens to study philology. In her professional career she became involved with the nascent field of ethnoarchaeology as well as the National Museum of Decorative Arts. She was particularly keen to organize exhibitions and festivals in order to support organizations like the Weaving Center “Double Axe” in Crete established in 1925. She was a founding member of the Lyceum Club of Greek Women in 1911, where she gave a significant lecture on Knossos in 1911. See E. Bobou-Protopapa and N. Andriotis, «Η Άννα Αποστολάκι στο Λύκειο των Ελληνίδων: το ξεκίνημα [Anna Apostolaki in the Lyceum Club of Greek Women. The Beginning],» in A. Economou and V. Florou, eds., Αντίδωρον στην Άννα Αποστολάκι. Η ζωή, το έργο και η συνεισφορά της, Athens, 2017, pp. 133-150, esp. 142-144.
 Aggelos Vlachos, Μεγάλη Βρεταννία: ένα ξενοδοχείο σύμβολο. Eπιμέλεια, σύμβουλος έκδοσης Γεωργία Μ. Πανσεληνά. Athens 2003, pp. 80-81.
 Ice cream made with whipped cream, candied fruit and kirsch in the shape of a bombe or sphere; https://www.maxi-mag.fr/cuisine/recette/plombiere.html. Retrieved on January 20, 2018.
 Amvrosios Frantzis (1869-1953), an army officer who participated in the Greek-Turkish War of 1897, the Goudi Military League (1909), and the Balkan Wars. From 1917 to 1922 he served as military attaché at the Greek Embassy in London and in 1926 he was appointed military attaché to Prime Minister Kountouriotis; cf. http://www.ascsa.edu.gr/index.php/archives/Gennadius-Archival-Collections#AmvrosiosFrantzis. Retrieved January 20, 2018.
 Andreadis was professor of Political Economy and Statistics at the University of Athens and member of the Academy of Athens since its inception in 1926. In addition to his significant contributions to economic history and public finance, Andreadis also wrote studies about Byzantium, early modern Greece, theatrical reviews, and even literary studies. See M. Psalidopoulos, ed., Ανδρέας Μ. Ανδρεάδης. Ο Πατριάρχης των Δημόσιων Οικονομικών. [In Greek: Andreas M. Andreadis. The Patriarch of Public Finance]. Athens, 2008; P. Giotopoulos, “Andreas M. Andreades [In Greek],” Ionios Anthologia 95-98 (1935), pp. 77-83; and V. Rapanos, “Ο Ανδρέας Ανδρεάδης και οι σύγχρονες απόψεις για τη φορολογία,” in Ανδρέας Μ. Ανδρεάδης. Ο Πατριάρχης των Δημόσιων Οικονομικών (2008), pp. 33-60.
 Although his signature is not easily deciphered it probably belongs to Papafrangos who had been sent to the U.S. along with John Gennadius to negotiate a loan to Greece in 1921); cf. L. P. Cassimatis, American Influence in Greece 1917-1929 (Kent, OH, 1988), p. 71.
On Saturday December 27, 1902, a well-publicized wedding took place in London. John Gennadius, former ambassador of Greece to England and a great book-collector, age 58, and Florence Laing, the youngest daughter of Samuel Laing and the widow of painter Edward Sherard Kennedy, age 47, were married in a double ceremony, first at the Greek Orthodox church of St. Sophia and later that day at the Anglican church of St. Peter’s at Cranley Gardens. There are no photos capturing the ceremony or the reception that followed, but Gennadius, the creator of more than seventy scrapbooks, did keep numerous newspaper clippings announcing this celebrated marriage. More than a few of them mention that the bride had an annual income of roughly 8,000 pounds, leading some to hint that it may have been a marriage of convenience. Time proved that their union was a harmonious one; it lasted 30 years until his death in 1932. She outlived him by another twenty years. The Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA or the School hereafter) was the offspring of their union. The deed of gift was signed in 1922 and the building was completed in 1926.
The best source for John Gennadius’s life is a small, but thorough, booklet, Joannes Gennadios, the Man: A Biographical Sketch (1990), by Donald M. Nicol, director of the Gennadius Library (1989-1992). In it, there is very little information about the circumstances of how Gennadius met Florence Laing Kennedy. Nicol suspects that they were introduced by “Prince Alexis Dolgoruki, an acquaintance of Gennadios, [who] had married an English lady, Miss Fleetwood Wilson, who was an old friend of Florence.” In an endnote, Nicol mentions that Florence was an artist in her own right, having exhibited her “genre paintings” in the Royal Academy and other London galleries between 1880 and 1893. Read the rest of this entry »
“The decision made at the last Board of Trustees meeting… was to appoint a committee… to make an immediate study and prompt report on the Admiral’s House which as you know the School for some time has had the opportunity to buy. Will you, as Chairman of the Committee of the Admiral’s House, be good enough to write immediately to Henry Robinson, asking him to request [of] Mr. Kyriakides that he make a careful report as to the desirability of the house, the possibility of obtaining it and an appraisal not only of the price which the School should be willing to pay for it, but also his estimate of the price the owners would accept, the best terms available, the cost of maintenance, the cost of repairs or changes the School would need to make, the use to be made of it by the School, the income which the School would expect to receive from it, and the estimated cost of taxes or any other expenses which would be involved by the School in the advent of its purchase” wrote on December 7, 1964, Ward Canaday, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) to Charles Morgan, Trustee of the School and one of its former directors (1936-1938), and chair of the Managing Committee (1950-1960). Read the rest of this entry »
“A Greek Author Travels to the Country of the New Myth”: The Voyage of Elias Venezis to America in 1949Posted: April 1, 2014
This essay comprises the text of a talk that I presented in the Cotsen Hall auditorium of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA), April 9, 2013, at an evening devoted to novelist Elias Venezis, whose papers reside in the Archives of the Gennadius Library. The text was also published (in Greek ) in the “Athens Book Review,” in an issue dedicated to Venezis. Since my essay discusses two of Greece’s most important novelists’ impressions from their journeys to America, I thought that it also deserved to be published in English and be made available to an American audience (here, I must thank my friend and former colleague Stefanie Kennell for her wonderful translation). For half of my life I have studied and worked in a Greek-American environment; there interest lies in examining how foreigners (usually described as philhellenes) perceive(d) Greece, and it is rarely discussed, at least in the broader community of the American School, how Greeks experienced America at critical times, such as in the first decade following WW II. The two authors, Elias Venezis and Yiorgos Theotokas, traveled in America during the period of the Marshall plan and the beginning of the Cold War, just before strong anti-Americanism began developing in Greece. For both, the voyage to America was a journey to a mythical land — as implied by the title of this essay, which is drawn from the title of a talk (“Ένας Έλλην συγγραφεύς στη χώρα του νέου μύθου”) that Venezis delivered at the Greek American Cultural Institution in 1950, immediately after his return from America.
For those who are not familiar with Modern Greek Literature, I should also add a few remarks about the so-called literary “Generation of the Thirties.” As commonly employed, this term describes a group (all male) of novelists, poets, and artists, who came of age in the 1930s. These men continued to be very productive and influential in the following three decades, to the point that a myth with regenerative power was built around them, one that still aspires and inspires (Leontis 2013). Nobel-prize laureate poets Yiorgos Seferis and Odysseus Elytis, novelists Angelos Terzakis, Stratis Myrivilis, Elias Venezis and Yiorgos Theotokas, are some of the most accomplished and distinguished “members” of the “Generation of the Thirties.” The personal papers of most of them have been deposited in the Gennadius Library of the American School.
In 2009, at an event devoted to Yiorgos Theotokas and the republication of his Essay on America, I was introduced to Greek travel literature about America. Theotokas was among the first writers of the so-called “Generation of the Thirties” who visited America a few years after the end of World War II. While taking receipt of Elias Venezis’s personal papers in 2010, I came upon the manuscript of Land of America and then, in discussions with the author’s daughter, Anna Venezi Kosmetatou, I was made aware of the fact that Venezis was actually the first of the famous “Generation of the Thirties” to travel to the U.S., in 1949.
Except for Theotokas’ Essay on America (Δοκίμιο για την Αμερική), which had the good fortune to be re-published a few years ago, travel writing of this type is difficult or impossible to find on the shelves of Athenian bookstores. When I looked for Land of America at a well-known bookstore in downtown Athens, clerks told me that it was the first time they had heard that Venezis had written a book of this sort. Perhaps this is because, in the age of globalization, trips to America have lost some of the magic and myth that used to surround them. Already in the 1970s, as Vassilis Lambropoulos writes, “with the spread of cinema and even more the advent of television in Greece, travel writing is losing its primary function and sparkle. The public does not need the guidance of an eyewitness to get to know foreign countries.”
Unlike the other writers and intellectuals who visited the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, Venezis began his long journey without the support of the American government. The famous program of cultural exchanges sponsored by the the U.S. Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948, popularly known as the Smith-Mundt Act, does not seem to have been implemented immediately in Greece. What is certain is that Elias Venezis and his wife either did not know about or did not expect American government support when they decided in the summer of 1949 to cross the Atlantic. On the opposite shore was Venezis’s brother, Thanos Mellos and his wife, the mezzo-soprano Eleni Nikolaidi, who had settled there just a year before.
Thanos Mellos wrote to his brother Elias and his wife on May 6, 1949, from New York: “I’ve told Elias that a place has been confirmed for his trip to America on a merchant ship that sails from a port in France. Perhaps there’s a way he can embark even from Greece. The trip won’t cost a cent. The steamship owner’s a friend of ours, and he’s offering it to us for free. You only have to get your papers ready, Elias, and send me a telegram.” Read the rest of this entry »
Jack L. Davis, Carl W. Blegen Professor of Greek Archaeology at the University of Cincinnati and former director of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (2007-2012), here contributes to the Archivist’s Notebook an essay about literary activities of members of the Expédition de Morée and his recent discovery of an unknown epistolary novel by Jacques-Louis Lacour.
In 1984, in the years of the Nemea Valley Archaeological Project, a friend gave me Kyriakos Simopoulos’s monumental Ξένοι ταξιδιώτες στην Ελλάδα as a birthday present. It is a work extensively based on research conducted in the Gennadius Library. Later I discovered Simopoulos’s equally impressive Πώς είδαν οι ξένοι το ’21. The final chapter of Πώς είδαν was for me an invaluable introduction to the greatest military and scientific mission ever dispatched to Greece by a western European power: the Expédition de Morée.
A French fleet left Toulon in the summer of 1828, and on August 30, Lieutenant General Nicolas Joseph Maison landed with 14,000 troops at Petalidi near Kalamata, preferring not to expose his force to Ibrahim Pasha’s cannon fire at Navarino. Thus began a four-year military intervention that laid infrastructure for an independent Greek state.
The French maintained a military presence in the Peloponnese until August of 1833. The fighting soon complete, they turned their energies to reconstruction: roads, hospitals, a postal service, and repairs to fortresses. And in late 1828, scholars and scientists arrived — an Expédition Scientifique de Morée organized in three sections: “Archéologie”; “Histoire Naturelle” (later called “Sciences Physiques”); and “Architecture et Sculpture.” Read the rest of this entry »
Fernand Braudel (1902-1985) declared “J’ ai passionément aimé la Méditerranée” in the preface of the first edition of La Méditerranée et le monde méditerranéen a l’ époque de Philippe II (1949). Archaeologists of my generation had to read or at least leaf through this three volume magnum opus written during Braudel’s captivity in concentration camps in Mainz and Lübeck during WWII (and delivered in lectures to fellow prisoners). “Had it not been for my imprisonment, I would surely have written a much different book…” wrote Braudel in his “Personal Testimony.” Much more about Braudel’s life and work can be found in the excellent biographical essay by historian William McNeill (Journal of Modern History 73:1, 2001, pp. 133-147); McNeill himself was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama on February 25, 2010.
Braudel belongs to the first generation of post war “savants” who tried to reconfigure the Mediterranean world after the destruction and the division that WWII brought to the shores of the “Middle Sea.” This new “mediterraneité” would be inclusive and post-colonial –at least in the erudite world of scholarship. Although Braudel’s approach has been criticized for overlooking certain fundamental conflicts (e.g., the clash of Islam and Christianity and the clash between Catholics and Protestants), it has cast a long shadow over subsequent study of the Mediterranean. More than three decades would separate Braudel’s last revision in 1966 (and translation into English in 1972) from the next major tome written about the Mediterranean by an ancient historian (Nicholas Purcell) and a medievalist (Peregrine Horden). Published in 2000, their study (The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History) is Braudelian both in size and depth and covers the period from about 800 B.C. through medieval times. While receiving both praise and criticism, Purcell and Horden’s book has rightly become a classic. Read the rest of this entry »