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Approaches to the Long Late Antiquity LAIBS Core Course 2014-15

Class 1: Approaching the Long Late Antiquity

(Thursday 25th September 3-5, Seminar Room 2,
Minto House, Chambers Street note change of
What do we mean by Late Antiquity? How about the long Late
Antiquity? How far do questions of periodization matter? Do regional
differences in fact make a broad view untenable? What are the key
themes of study? What are the most important historiographical
trends in this subject?
By reading collectively a range of accounts of the period we will aim
to get a sense of different ways of approaching the period, different
issues which can be foregrounded, and how scholarly views have
changed in the last hundred years or so.

There is lots to read on this broad theme, unsurprisingly. To begin
with, I would like everybody to read Peter Brown, The World of
Late Antiquity. As I have suggested before, it is well worth buying
a copy, at 9.95
Everyone too should look at two helpful historiographical essays
from the Journal of Late Antiquity (available online)
James, E. (2008). The Rise and Function of the Concept Late
Antiquity, Journal of Late Antiquity 1: 20-30
Marcone, A. (2008) A Long Late Antiquity? Considerations on a
Controversial Periodization, Journal of Late Antiquity 1: 4-19
Then try to look (this does not mean read cover to cover!) at at
least two further items, making note of their contents and
Bowersock, G., Brown, P. and Grabar, O. (eds) (1998) Late
Antiquity. A Guide to the Post-classical World. London.
Bowman, A. Cameron, Av and Garnsey, P. (eds) (2004) The
Cambridge Ancient History vol. 12: The Crisis of Empire: AD 193337. Cambridge. Available online
Cameron, Av., Ward-Perkins, B. and Whitby, M. (eds) (2000)
Cambridge Ancient History vol. 14: Late Antiquity: Empire and
Successors, A.D. 425-600. Cambridge.
Cameron, Av. and Garnsey, P. (1998) (eds) The Cambridge Ancient
History vol. 13: The Late Empire, A.D. 337-425. Cambridge.
Available online

Fowden, G. (1993) Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of

monotheism in late antiquity. Princeton.
Jones, A.H.M. (1964) The Later Roman Empire 284-602: A Social,
Economic, and Administrative Survey. Oxford.
Mango, C. (2002) The Oxford History of Byzantium. Oxford.

Questions to Consider
What is important about Peter Browns work? Is his picture of
Late Antiquity still valid?
When did Late Antiquity begin?
When did it end?
How do scholars today view the old question of the Decline
and Fall of the Roman Empire?
How far has a new scholarly focus on the East transformed old
understandings of the Decline of the West?
Why does religious, social and cultural history tend to
dominate the study of Late Antiquity? How different would it
look from the perspective of a political historian? Or indeed,
an economic historian?
Should the rise of Christianity and indeed the rise of Islam
be allowed to dominate our understanding of the period?
Has the emphasis on continuity in recent scholarship gone too