High-Spirited Barbarians

Lawrence Stone

  • History and Its Images: Art and the Interpretation of the Past by Francis Haskell
    Yale, 558 pp, £29.95, June 1993, ISBN 0 300 05540 4

Today, multi-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and multi-cultural studies are all the rage. They are, however, far more often preached than practised, in both Britain and America. During the 20th century, the rigidity and strength of the barriers separating discipline from discipline have become ever more impregnable as the institutional departmental structure has grown more politically powerful within universities. As a result, the training offered in schools and universities has grown narrower as it has become more professional. The free spirit ranging across the disciplines in order to tackle new problems or to look at old ones in new ways is nowadays likely to pay a high price in career promotion and professional esteem. Forty years ago, I could write and get published a standard textbook about English medieval sculpture, without having attended a single course in art history. So scandalous an episode would be unthinkable today, when everyone is busy protecting his turf from raiders from outside.

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