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Monday, 26 February 2018

Greek to Me: A Memoir of Academic Life

Richard Clogg witnessed the 1967 coup in Greece, while living in Athens and researching modern Greek history. He then went on a joint appointment at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies and King’s College, London: becoming Professor of Modern Balkan History at the latter. During this time he published his controversial book on Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, before moving to St Antony’s as a Senior Research Fellow (and then Emeritus Fellow). Greek to Me focusses on the secretive fields of academia and university politics, as well as providing unique eyewitness accounts of modern Greek history.

Peter Mackridge commented that the book was written with trademark gusto and humour. It was highly topical in providing insights into Universities and academic freedoms, and the difficulties for those investigating controversial subjects: and appeared at a time when the marketization of higher education represented a threat to academic standards.

Stathis Kallivas described the book as a page-turner. It was fascinating on Clogg’s discovery of Greece and experience of academic politics. Central themes were academic funding, and criticism of constraints on freedom emanating from donors; and the lively turf battles between academics. He paid tribute to Clogg’s eye-opening books about Greece, in particular the Concise History, and the Short History, and the imaginative use of images and illustrations to convey themes and ideas.

Richard Clogg quoted approvingly from Ranke: ”History should describe events as they actually were”; and also from Kissinger “Academic politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low.” He described the extraordinary secretiveness of the London University archives: for example, the minutes of the Board of Studies were effectively closed for a hundred years.

Discussion centred in particular on the openness of Greece to works by foreign historians, whose credentials for writing about the country were readily accepted. Clogg and his writings had played a major role in this.

David Madden (St Antony's College)

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