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Whose Greece?

Martin Bernal, 12 December 1996

Not Out of Africa: How Afrocentrism Became an Excuse to Teach Myth as History 
by Mary Lefkowitz.
Basic Books, 222 pp., $24, February 1996, 0 465 09837 1
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Black Athena Revisited 
edited by Mary Lefkowitz and Guy MacLean Rogers.
North Carolina, 544 pp., £14.75, September 1996, 0 8078 2246 9
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... structures, and not those of pharaonic Egypt, provided the prototypes for the Greek poleis. Tony Martin, an Afrocentrist, was far closer to the mark than Lefkowitz and Rogers, when he wrote: ‘If any of Bernal’s Afrocentric followers had slowed down a bit in their speed-reading of Black Athena, they would have noticed ...

Aryan Warlords in their Chariots

Edmund Leach, 2 April 1987

Black Athena: The Afro-Asiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation. 
by Martin Bernal.
Free Association, 575 pp., £30, March 1987, 0 946960 55 0
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... 1780-1980’. There are 52 pages of printed text and 274 learned footnotes which take up 15 pages. Bernal could well have stopped there, but he is an obsessional. The volume under review has 1315 footnotes. The scholarship is formidable but one-sided. The Indo-Europeanists from Max Muller to Georges Dumézil and their current crop of enthusiastic disciples are ...

Collapses of Civilisation

Anthony Snodgrass, 25 July 1991

Centuries of Darkness 
by Peter James.
Chatto, 434 pp., £19.99, April 1991, 9780224026475
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... methods is a separate issue. Four years ago, in another revolutionary work, Black Athena, Martin Bernal argued that outsiders have been responsible for most fundamental challenges to disciplines. The first interesting point about this book is that its origins are of a quite different kind. Peter James is a graduate student of University College ...

Where’s the Gravy?

Barbara Graziosi: Homeric Travel, 27 August 2009

Travelling Heroes: Greeks and Their Myths in the Epic Age of Homer 
by Robin Lane Fox.
Penguin, 528 pp., £10.99, September 2009, 978 0 14 024499 1
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... is the point: rather than asking whether the Greeks were superior, or whether Athena was black (as Martin Bernal argued in a famous book), we need to pay careful attention to the way in which ancient people travelled, met, talked and negotiated their differences. Through that complex process of encounter and dialogue they came to a more universal ...

Saving the World

Barbara Wootton, 19 June 1980

Sage: A Life of J.D. Bernal 
by Maurice Goldsmith.
Hutchinson, 255 pp., £8.95, May 1980, 9780091395506
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... with a young friend, Eileen Sprague, while she discussed the pros and cons of marrying Desmond Bernal – a recent Cambridge graduate. I felt sure of the outcome, and in fact they married almost immediately afterwards, when Des (as he was known to all his friends) was 21 and Eileen 23. I seldom saw either of them from then until after the outbreak of ...

Don’t forget the primitive

Mary Beard, 20 August 1992

Origins of the Sacred: The Ecstasies of Love and War 
by Dudley Young.
Little, Brown, 379 pp., £16.99, May 1992, 0 356 20628 9
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... of the Greek genius, our collusive Philhellenism. It is very heavy artillery indeed. First, Martin Bernal’s enormous Black Athena (two volumes already, with two more to come) – a brave piece of iconoclasm that questions not only the primacy of the Greek cultural achievement over its Near-Eastern, Semitic and African neighbours, but also the ...

Builder of Ruins

Mary Beard: Arthur Evans, 30 November 2000

Minotaur: Sir Arthur Evans and the Archaeology of the Minoan Myth 
by J.A. MacGillivray.
Cape, 313 pp., £20, August 2000, 0 224 04352 8
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... Egyptian influence in Crete – no doubt for that reason, he was let off relatively lightly by Martin Bernal in Black Athena. One of the strangest claims in this litany of ‘faults’ is that Evans ‘never grew much beyond four feet’, an assertion which is glaringly contradicted by the photographs that illustrate the book (unless all his fellow ...

Fie On’t!

James Buchan, 23 March 1995

The Oxford Book of Money 
edited by Kevin Jackson.
Oxford, 479 pp., £17.99, February 1995, 0 19 214200 3
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... But it is the 19th-century bias which is unfortunate. Mr Jackson quotes Prescott quoting Bernal Díaz on Montezuma’s gold, and Washington Irving on Law, when the originals would have knocked his socks off. We trudge through acres of Balzac, Dickens and, forgive the impropriety, Edith Wharton; but the problem is crystallised in Jane Austen. She ...

Like What Our Peasants Still Are

Landeg White: Afrocentrism, 13 May 1999

Afrocentrism: Mythical Pasts and Imagined Homes 
by Stephen Howe.
Verso, 337 pp., £22, June 1998, 1 85984 873 7
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... 1981). They have since, however, been given an enormous boost by the controversy surrounding Martin Bernal’s Black Athena (1987), described by one critic as the ‘most discussed book on the ancient history of the eastern Mediterranean world since the Bible’. Bernal’s contention is that ancient Greece was ...

Knobs, Dots and Grooves

Peter Campbell: Henry Moore, 8 August 2002

Henry Moore: Writings and Conversations 
edited by Alan Wilkinson.
Lund Humphries, 320 pp., £35, February 2002, 0 85331 847 6
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The Penguin Modern Painters: A History 
by Carol Peaker.
Penguin Collectors’ Society, 124 pp., £15, August 2001, 0 9527401 4 1
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... possible. Circle, an ‘international survey of Constructive art’ edited by the architect Leslie Martin, the Constructivist sculptor Naum Gabo and the abstractionist Ben Nicholson, was published in 1937. Although they roped in a few contributors, such as Herbert Read, who were willing to give the Surrealists (for example) the time of day, only ...

Utopia in Texas

Glen Newey: Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’, 19 January 2017

Utopia 
by Thomas More, edited by George M. Logan, translated by Robert M. Adams.
Cambridge, 141 pp., £9.99, August 2016, 978 1 107 56873 0
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Utopia 
by Thomas More, translated by Gilbert Burnet.
Verso, 216 pp., £8.99, November 2016, 978 1 78478 760 8
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... mentions Vespucci, whose accounts of his travels had been published by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller in a volume that included a map christening the newly found continents ‘America’. More added detail to lend his fantasy substance, including the Utopians’ alphabet, a woodcut of their croissant-shaped island resembling maps in ...

Different Speeds, Same Furies

Perry Anderson: Powell v. Proust, 19 July 2018

Anthony Powell: Dancing to the Music of Time 
by Hilary Spurling.
Hamish Hamilton, 509 pp., £25, October 2017, 978 0 241 14383 4
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... to medium or lightweights, there is little reduction in size. If we confine ourselves to Britain, Martin Stannard produced a thousand pages on Evelyn Waugh, who died when he was 62; Graham Greene, who survived him by a quarter of a century, received two thousand from Norman Sherry. These are huge tomes. Even such a minuscule figure as Kingsley Amis has been ...

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