Palaeography to Return to King’s College

As suggested in an earlier post and predicted by the Palaeography Working Group’s final paper, King’s College, London is now advertising for its newly rebranded Chair in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies. Details can be found on the KCL website here, but the general description (summary + details) follows:

King’s College London wishes to make a distinguished appointment to its new Chair of Palaeography & Manuscript Studies.
The successful candidate will be expected to conduct and publish research of international quality, to teach, and to supervise research students. The post will be based in a department of the School of Arts & Humanities appropriate to the post-holder’s expertise; the post-holder will take a full and active part in the School’s activities. Applications are welcomed from scholars of international standing in any field of Palaeography & Manuscript Studies, regardless of language or period. The College has strengths in the study of the classical and medieval worlds, philosophy, music and theology & religious studies, as well as in digital humanities. We are looking for a dynamic individual to provide leadership in this important interdisciplinary field and take the subject forward in its next stage of development. The appointment will be made, dependent on relevant qualifications and experience, within the Professorial salary scale.

The addition ‘and Manuscript Studies’, I suppose, means that it is not the very same job from which the College earlier dismissed, erm, came to a severance agreement with a distinguished appointment. That and the new description adds that applications will be considered ‘regardless of language or period,’ which opens the position not only to scholars of vernacular Western manuscripts, but also possibly those working on non-Western material. It seems the administration felt that widening the perspective of the chair was exigent enough that it had to oust one holder to get someone one else in immediately (at least in academic hiring terms).

The risk they run of course is that they have already broadcast visibly to the palaeographical world that they will defund and dismiss a chair. In so doing, they will employ unclear (and perhaps disingenuous) reasoning, ignore widespread international protest, avail themselves of media outlets (such as Trainor’s interview with the Times business section), and lean on outside lobbying groups to argue their case for them (remember Miles Templeman, a marketing specialist and Director General of the Institute of Directors arguing for the elimination of the ‘different’, former position on BBC’s Radio 4 programme Today [runs 5:42]).

Should we expect to see a marketing specialist, perhaps a Director of Directors, a President of Presidents, a new King of Kings!, return to Radio 4 to argue that yes, yes, it was justified and necessary to get rid of a chair of palaeography–austerity, budgets, tough times, financial crisis, you know!—but now we really truly need a new and improved chair in palaeography and manuscript studies?

In the interval between announcing the cut of the position and the re-establishment of the position, erm rather the establishment of a new position, what was necessary to eliminate a year ago has surely, clearly now become a growth industry, the wave of the future, a dynamic new enterprise demanding excellent leadership, a ground-breaking intiative employing cutting edge technology to preserve the best of (take your pick) our nation’s/ our civilization’s/ the world’s past. At least for the foreseeable future, or, well, until it isn’t.

Apologies in advance to all the people working hard to see that palaeography is represented at King’s and are endeavouring to make the best of the situation. This is not meant to indict well-intentioned work.


  1. You do not mention that King’s College told the world that it needed to ‘disinvest’ in the Chair of Palaeography because it could not afford to fund it, and it would seek sponsorship for the ‘new’ Chair in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies. But King’s College have told John Morgan, of the Times Higher Education, that they have failed to find a sponsor and so are funding the ‘new’ Chair. If you can get someone in King’s to explain why this makes sense, we shall all be in your debt. King’s is interviewing for the ‘new Chair on December 9th: I hope people will attend the presentations and ask those present from King’s if they will guarantee that the ‘new’ Chair will endure, and if they are repaired to resign if it is threatened as the old Chair was.

  2. Thanks for the reminder. I did fail to mention and call to mind the article by John Morgan about the current funding situation:

    Also, thanks for the information on the interview and presentations. I must admit that I’m not very well informed about the present state of things, but it’s good others have not lost sight of this.