Paleography at King’s College London

Distressing news concerning the possible impact of the rapidly approaching financial crisis for universities is announced by Mary Beard.

King’s College London is apparently considering doing away with its Chair in Paleography (the only one in the UK).

The start of the gospel according to John, in the Codex Sinaiticus, most of which is in the British Library.

See the splendid codex sinaiticus website!

I have already written to Prof. Richard Trainor, the Principal of KCL, as follows; others might wish to do the same:

Dear Prof. Trainor,

I was very sorry to discover recently that KCL had in mind to cease funding its chair in Paleography.

Can I very strongly encourage you to reflect further upon this and reconsider?

I am aware, of course, that many universities are going to be hard pressed financially in the present tough financial climate, and I expect that wherever you cut those who are effected will be able to make very powerful arguments against the cuts (poor show if they couldn’t…).

All the same, I think that there are some very strong arguments against bringing KCL’s proud tradition in Paleography and its chair to an end:

a) cuts in some subjects mean having fewer people (but still some) dedicated to a particular activity, whereas in paleography the difference is between one job or none;

b) it is a broader problem in the UK that there are many beautiful and important manuscripts but relatively few people who know how to study them properly;

c) the previous point is especially cogent in London which ought to be one of the world’s great centres of manuscript research because of the holdings of the British Library (imagine if Paris or Florence or Venice were devoid of posts for specialist paleographers!);

d) KCL’s tradition of expertise in paleography is one of its “USPs” for historical-literary study, which other rival institutions haven’t got, and which enriches the intellectual life of the University of London as a whole and gives you something nobody else has, rather analogously to UCL’s equivalent tradition on papyrology (a point which, as a UCL graduate in Classics, strikes me as especially cogent!). I would suggest that a particular guiding principle in how to make cuts with minimum damage should be to try to preserve unique features of institutions.

I hope that it will be possible to preserve the KCL chair in paleography; its disappearance would be a terrible loss not only to the King’s College of the future, but also to the intellectual life of London and of the UK.

Best wishes,

Richard Rawles

On a different note, can I ask anybody who has posted a non-spam comment which has not been published to let me know? The software has a spam filter, but I’m not sure how it works or what it’s catching!


2 Responses to Paleography at King’s College London

  1. […] story has been picked up by other bloggers, notably Mary Beard. If you want to protest, the please write to Prof. Richard Trainor, the […]

  2. Great article, thanks!

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