An Autobiography by John Boardman. Paperback; 156x234mm; 271 pages; 43 illustrated plates, 28 in colour. (RRP: £25.00). 656 2020 Archaeological Lives . Available both in printed and e-versions. Printed ISBN 9781789693430. Epublication ISBN 9781789693447. |
A Classical Archaeologists’s Life: The Story so Far shows that a scholar’s life is not all scholarship, though much of this book is devoted to the writing of books and, especially, travel to classical and other lands. Boardman is a Londoner, born in Ilford and attending school in Essex (Chigwell). His teenage years were spent often in air raid shelters rather than with ‘mates‘ (all evacuated). There are distinctive ‘aunties’, the rituals of daily life in a London suburb. The non-scholarly figures live large in this account of his life, marriage, children, new houses. At Cambridge he learned about classical archaeology as a necessary addition to reading Homer and Demosthenes, even being obliged to recite the latter. And those were the days of Bertrand Russell’s lectures in a university reawakening after the war. Thence to the British School at Athens to learn about excavation (Smyrna, Knossos, later Libya). His return from Greece was to Oxford, not Cambridge, at first in the Ashmolean Museum, then as Reader and Professor. A spell in New York gives an account of the city before the troubles, when Petula Clark’s Down Town was dominant. There is much here to reflect on university life and teaching, and on the reasons for and problems with the writing of his many books (some 40), with reflection on the university, colleges and their ways. Travels are well documented – a notable trip through Pakistan and China, in Persia, Egypt, Turkey – with comment on what he saw and experienced beyond archaeology. A lecture tour in Australia provides comment beyond the academic. He visited Israel often, lecturing and publishing for the Bible Lands Museum. Several tours in the USA took him to most of their museums and universities as well many other sights, from glaciers to alligators.
This book is a mixture of scholarly reminiscence, reflection on family life, travelogue, and critique of classical scholarship (not all archaeological) worldwide, illustrated with pictures of travels, friends, home life, and, for a historian, a reflection on experiences of over 90 years.
About the Author
Sir John Boardman is one of the foremost experts on ancient Greek art. Having served as Assistant Director of the British School at Athens (1952-1955), he was Assistant Keeper at the Ashmolean Museum and later Lincoln Professor of Classical Archaeology and Art at the University of Oxford (1978-1994). He continues to work in Oxford, at the Classical Art Research Centre, where he is mainly preoccupied with the study of ancient gems.
'Few who have investigated the world of classical archaeology over the past 60 years can have failed to benefit from consulting John Boardman’s many and varied publications. His central position continues to be paramount, and in this book we have his spirited account of his career, the researches he has carried out, the travels he has undertaken, and the home life and friendships he has enjoyed over the past 90 years.'—Brian A. Sparkes, Classics for All, August 2020
'From his hilarious reminisces about his relatives growing up as a child, to his experiences during World War 2, to his young adulthood travelling the world as an archaeologist, there's something for everyone in this book. It also illuminates the culture he lived in, from his very beginnings in Essex, to becoming a knight, it's all in here. This is by far the best book I have read in this genre; you will not be able to put it down.'—Mr. S. P. Pyatt, Amazon, September 2020
'How John managed any teaching is amazing, given his travel accounts. Numerous and fascinating, whether undertaken for research or for pleasure (e.g., the Swan Hellenic Cruises), they cover most of Asia, part of the Near East and Africa, a great deal of Australia as well as Europe, and even the New World (Mexico), many of them revealing his ever expanding interest in the Greeks overseas and their (even if remote) influence on others’ arts and cultures, some as remote as India and China.'—Brunilde Ridgway, Bryn Mawr College, April 2021
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