The Koraes Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s College, London, celebrates 100 years since its establishment. On this occasion, a commemorative event will be held at the King’s College campus on June 18, 2018, where distinguished experts will speak on the subject of relations between Britain and the world of Hellenism in the fields of culture, literature and history, from the time of the Greek Revolution until now, and prospects for the future.
The Koraes Chair
The Koraes Chair of Modern Greek & Byzantine History, Language & Literature was established in 1918, as a focal point in the UK and beyond for the study of Greek history and culture from the end of antiquity until contemporary times. It owes its existence to a group of individuals, including Eleftherios Venizelos, prime minister of Greece at the time, many members of the Greek Diaspora in London and elsewhere, and the philhellene and classical scholar Ronald Burrows, Principal of King’s College. The Anglo-Hellenic League, an insitution founded in 1913 to promotion the relations between Greece and the UK, played a seminal part in creating the Chair, while it also received generous support from the Greek business community and the Greek Parliament.
Its title was chosen in honour of Adamantios Koraes (1747 Smyrna – 1833 Paris), a Greek humanist scholar with decisive influence on the formation of Modern Greek language, who also set the intellectual foundations for the Greek struggle for independence in 1821. It is unusual in covering three academic disciplines (history, language, literature), as well as a chronological span of some 1700 years. Since the 1970s the Koraes Professor has provided academic leadership to a group of scholars who collectively have been responsible for developing and delivering high-quality teaching and research in the fields designated by the Chair.
These subjects now attract large numbers of students not only from within the Department of Classics but from across the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, particularly from Comparative Literature, English, History, Liberal Arts, and Theology & Religious Studies. Thanks to generous donations from educational and philanthropic institutions and individuals in the UK, Greece and Cyprus, a new endowment has been secured, in a partnership with King’s College London that establishes a secure basis for the future of this prestigious academic position. Since the 1970s the Chair has become the focal point and impetus for an expanding programme of teaching and research in Modern Greek and Byzantine studies at King’s College.
Holders of the Koraes Chair
The first person appointed to the Koraes Chair, in 1919, was Arnold Joseph Toynbee, British historian, philosopher of history, research professor of international history, a leading specialist on international and author of numerous books. Toynbee’s inaugural lecture in October 1919 was attended by prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos and introduced by the Greek ambassador to London, Ioannes Gennadius. Toynbee was a leading analyst of developments in the Middle East at the time, and was in favour of the Greek cause in World War I. He later condemned the actions of the Greek military during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919–1922, which caused a rupture with the local Greek community and resulted in his resignation in 1924.
Frederick Henry Marshall, an academic specialised in Greek studies, was named to the post in 1926 and held it until 1943, followed by Romilly James Heald Jenkins, archaeologist, Byzantinist, and Greek scholar, who served in the position from 1946 to 1960. Cyril Alexander Mango, FBA, British scholar of the history, art, and architecture of the Byzantine Empire was the fourth holder of the chair, succeeded by Donald Nicol, FBA, a Byzantinist who made significant contributions to the history of medieval Epirus and the latest Byzantine Empire.
The current holder of the Chair and Director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies is Professor Roderick Beaton, FBA, who specialises in Modern Greek Language and Literature. His publications include studies on the Medieval Greek Romance, the poetry of Nobel laureate Giorgos Seferis and Lord Byron’s involvement in the Greek Revolution of 1921. Professor Beaton has held the Chair since 1988 and is due to retire in August 2018.
Professor Gonda Van Steen has been appointed to be the next Koraes Professor on September 2018. Professor Van Steen currently holds the Cassas Chair in Greek Studies at the University of Florida and is Executive Director of the Modern Greek Studies Association (MGSA). She is the author of four scholarly books, including most recently Stage of Emergency: Theater and Public Performance under the Greek Military Dictatorship of 1967-1974 (2015). According to her statement, Professor Van Steen hopes to offer courses in reception studies, language and literature, and also delve deeper into twentieth-century Greek social history.
Read more via Greek News Agenda: Rethinking Greece: Roderick Beaton on the study of Greece and modern Greek achievements