An excerpt from Mary Beard’s latest:
Now it is the turn of King’s College London – which is planning (very confidentially, so far) to lose up to 22 posts in Arts and Humanities by the end of the academic year. This means that at least one subject (which ought to be a protected species) will disappear.
Anyway, at King’s this will mean (so they themselves predict) taking Byzantine and Modern Greek into Classics (that’s maybe no bad idea), losing four lecturing jobs in German, Spanish and Modern Greek (so much for our country’s language provision) — and it will mean removing Palaeography entirely. Those fighting to keep their jobs will be asked (among other things) to show how much research income they have brought in.
Palaeographers may be a quirky crowd. But King’s has the only established chair in the subject in the country, and a tradition of tremendous research in the subject (recently exemplified by Julian Brown and Tilly de la Mare) going back decades. The only way that we can hope to understand books and manuscripts of the past (not just how to read them, but also to work out why they were as the were.. and what difference it makes) is to keep the study of palaeography alive. It is the underpinning of history and pre-modern English literature and has crucial links with Classics and the transmission of classical texts,
This point was made firmly in the last round of university cuts — where the King’s provision was explicitly singled out as distinguished.
All we can do is write to the Principal of King’s and make a plea for preserving the infra-structure of intellectual culture. Once these skills disappear, you never get them back.
Dr Beard’s post has links to the relevant folks to send your indignant mail …
… and I note now the existence of a Facebook page for this: Save Paleography At King’s London
On the web: