Principal's Blog: 8th February 2023

JB stock photo to use Sept 2021 Sir Arthur Evans

The Ashmolean’s Knossos exhibition is about to open.  This focusses attention on our alumnus Sir Arthur Evans  (8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941).  He was a pioneer in the study of Augean civilisation in the Bronze Age. A report to College included the recommendation that he was "a boy of powerful original mind." At Brasenose he read modern history, a new curriculum, which was nearly a disaster, as his main interests were in archaeology and classical studies, influenced by his father, an expert on British antiquities. It is said that he could answer no questions on topics later than the 12th century. The Manchester Guardian hired him as a correspondent, sending him back to the Balkans in 1877. Hhe was arrested for anti-Austro-Hungarian activities during this posting, and imprisoned in Ragusa; during the same trip he acquired some Roman antiquities, the record for one piece of sculpture revealing it was obtained in exchange for a top hat which Evans had bought in London.

At the very young age of 34, was appointed Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, also founded by a son of Brasenose. Evans employed a large staff of local labourers as excavators, and began work in 1900. Within a few months they had uncovered a substantial portion of what he called the Palace of Minos. The building at Knossos was indeed a palace, the main one in north central Crete, with sumptuously decorated throne room, audience hall and cult spaces; the site revealed over time was vast, with multiple rooms used for storage and redistribution of royal reserves, others as artisans' workrooms and food processing centres (e.g. wine presses).  Evans’ bold reconstructions have not convinced all his successors, but he (re)created a site which, however debatable from a scientific standpoint, has captured the imagination ever since.

I look forward to visiting the exhibition.

Holocaust Memorial Day

We had a wonderful address from Laura Marks, the Chair of the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust during the service on 29 January 2023. She spoke movingly of particular cases of Jews taken away, some as young as 5 years old. She spoke of other genocides and the need for people to work together. She gave an example from another organisation in which she is involved of Jewish and Muslim women in Birmingham washing away Nazi graffiti from walls.


Each year we have a dinner to celebrate our Scholars and Exhibitioners. This took place on 26 January and was first to take place since the pandemic. Of course we organise dinners for the arts and for sports this Term. I always mention that our “core mission” is education and these are the cream of our crop. A week later our kitchen produced a wonderful meal for our Somerset Dinner bestowed by Lady Somerset for our Fellows. She also made a large endowment to College.

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