Thursday, 17 December 2009

Judith Herrin's top history moments of 2009

Judith Herrin shares her best history moments of the past year.

'The best book, for me, was Travels with Herodotus, by Ryszard Kapuscinski (Penguin), an elegant and wistful account of how the great Greek historian inspired the Polish traveller. He used a similar combination of eye-witness evidence, curiosity about the oddest things, and a brilliant capacity to provide a context for each new experience, which is particularly revealing of his grasp of whole continents like Africa, or vast regions such as India, in all their variety.'

'The best exhibition for me must be Byzantium 330-1453 at the Royal Academy, even though the labels on the objects were too brief to be much help. The presentation of such a sweep, from early Christian to late Byzantine and Renaissance art, provided an opportunity to look at constant features as well as changes and novel developments. With a glistening array of courtly objects, ivory boxes, enamels, coins and silks, as well as objects in daily use, spoons, clothing, ceramic bowls etc, the secular component of Byzantine art with decoration inspired by ancient myths, could be contrasted with the better known religious art, primarily through the great collection of icons in the last rooms. To see the icons from the collection of St Catherine’s monastery, both the early encaustic and late gilded, was a real treat.'

History Today article
'Losing the Plot: Lloyd George, F.E. Smith and the trial of Alice Wheeldon in which John Jackson exhumes the extraordinary case of a middle-aged woman from Derby convicted of plotting to murder the Prime Minister.'

History moment
'The commemorations of the fall of the wall in 1989, with so much evidence of how this has shaped our world.'

Judith Herrin is Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine Studies at King’s College London. Her most recent book is Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire (Allen Lane, 2007). She is also the author of Women in Purple. Rulers of Medieval Byzantium (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2002).

In The Fall of Constantinople Judith Herrin tells the story of the final moments of Byzantine control of the imperial city.
In The Byzantine Secrets of Procopius she considers the Jekyll-and-Hyde output of Justinian's court historian, alternately respectful official chronicler and tabloid-style exposer of imperial scandal.

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