Greek history contains some thrilling yarns

July 19, 2018

I read with interest your interview with Richard Clogg about his recent memoir, Greek to Me: A Memoir of Academic Life (“HE & Me”, 14 June). Clogg is a master at cataloguing intrigue, as he demonstrates in those pages. It is at the heart of his account (already told in his previous book, Politics and the Academy: Arnold Toynbee and the Koraes Chair, 1986) of how Arnold Toynbee, its first incumbent, came to resign in 1924 from the recently founded Koraes chair of modern Greek history, language and literature at King’s College London.

In 1988, Clogg himself failed in his attempt to be appointed to the same chair, and we are invited to see dark forces at work. Claims such as this, and others in the book, are indeed titillating, but they affect individuals and institutions; and as a survivor of the relevant Koraes chair committee I can testify to the fact that the reality was quite different from and far more banal than Clogg’s account. However entertaining the telling, two and two do not make five; they only make four.

As for the distaste that Clogg expresses at the idea of fundraising from generous Greek philanthropists, his book makes clear that his own later appointment in the University of Oxford relied on it and that, embarrassed or not, he himself played a part in attempting to raise such money.

Dame Averil Cameron

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