Is Evans worthy?

November 15, 2002

Gillian Evans has fought doughtily to make Cambridge University central administration stick to the rules, so eyebrows may be raised over reports of her promotion to professor before Regent House passes a grace (In the News, THES , November 8).

The whole university can vote on this. For chairs, this is a formality, because those in the arts faculties usually have little expertise in assessing the work of those in science and engineering, and vice versa.

However, occasionally judgements can be made. As an engineer, I recently read The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible . I was brought up short in the chapter "The Middle Ages to the Reformation", where G. R. Evans writes about the loss of Latin as the language of normal exchange in the West. "It gradually became the language of the 'learned' and so the text of scripture and these old sermons could not be understood by ordinary people in parishes. Largely uneducated clergy concentrated on the liturgy, and left out sermons altogether."

When did the "ordinary people in parishes" speak Latin? In this country they probably still spoke Anglo-Saxon, with perhaps a little Norman French. If this is the level of Evans's scholarship, some people may have doubts about voting for her to have a chair.

Donald Welbourn
Cambridge

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