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A Century of British Medieval Studies$

Alan Deyermond

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780197263952

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197263952.001.0001

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Slavonic Studies

Slavonic Studies

Chapter:
(p.282) (p.283) Slavonic Studies
Source:
A Century of British Medieval Studies
Author(s):

W. F. Ryan

Publisher:
British Academy
DOI:10.5871/bacad/9780197263952.003.0012

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the history and developments in Slavonic studies in Great Britain. It explains that English awareness of Slav Europe was not great in the middle ages and that the inclusion of the medieval period of the various Slav peoples in the general history of Europe was a gradual process. It suggests that the study of Slavonic languages and literatures was not a discipline in British universities until comparatively recent times. However, a good many of the university departments of Russian or Slavonic studies which formerly existed in Great Britain, especially in the post-World War 2 period, have now been closed.

Keywords:   Slavonic studies, Great Britain, Slav Europe, history of Europe, Slavonic languages, Slavonic literatures

Despite its frequently pejorative connotations, the adjective ‘medieval’ still has sufficient utility in a western European context that it can be used without too much unease among consenting academics. In the Slav context, however, it is problematic and can be used only with a number of caveats, and in different ways in the different parts of Slavic Europe and in different disciplines. The political, cultural, and ecclesiastical history of the peoples speaking the various Slavonic languages is so disparate that any general formulation is impossible. In particular there is a marked difference between, on the one hand, the Orthodox Slavs (roughly the South and East Slavs of Russia, Bulgaria, and Serbia), among whom the Renaissance and Reformation had, for the most part, little impact, the Orthodox, and later in some areas Uniat, populations of what is now Belarus and Ukraine (which had a complex relationship with the Latin West because of their incorporation in the Polish Commonwealth), and on the other hand the largely Latin-rite Catholic, and later sometimes Protestant, West Slavs, and the South Slavs of what are now Croatia and Slovenia, for whom the Renaissance and Reformation were very significant. In what follows, therefore, I shall allow myself a great deal of latitude, and in the case of Russia, which is by far the most studied area, I shall follow the convention commonly adopted in western university syllabuses and extend ‘medieval’, in Russian language and literature at least, to the whole of the period characterized by what in Russian is classified as ‘Old Russian’, that is, roughly from the tenth century to the late seventeenth century. General historians, following the common history syllabus periodization rather than that of language and literature syllabuses, are more likely to date the beginning of the early modern period of Russia to the ‘Time of Troubles’ at the end of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the Romanov dynasty. Another defining feature of Slavonic medieval studies is that it is a minority discipline within the larger minority area of Slavonic studies in general. As will become clear below, the fate of the one has depended on the fortunes of the other, and, at least within the universities, no scholars have been able to devote themselves exclusively to medieval studies.

(p.284) English awareness of Slav Europe was not great in the Middle Ages. There were, of course, individual travellers and itinerant scholars (but mostly this was a post-medieval traffic: Comenius in England, John Dee in Prague), diplomatic exchanges with Poland and Bohemia, and dynastic links, notably the marriage of Anne of Bohemia to Richard II, and some trade, but probably little impression on wider English perceptions before the middle of the sixteenth century, when the first English merchant ships ventured into the White Sea. Thereafter, even if other Slav lands were little known, Muscovy at least became familiar, though exotic, as English merchant venturers established themselves at St Nicholas near Archangel and in the foreign quarter in Moscow, and became known at the court of the tsars. Visitors to Muscovy and adventurers in Muscovite service were not slow in publishing their accounts, and the miscellanies of Richard Hakluyt in the sixteenth century (Hakluyt 1589), and Samuel Purchas in the seventeenth (Purchas 1625), soon added to the standard image of that land given in Herberstein’s Rerum moscoviticarum commentarii (Herberstein 1549) which was published in English in 1576 and 1582.1 Important research monographs on this period have been written by T. S. Willan (1953 and 1968) and Matthew Anderson (1958; see also Wilson 1970: chaps 1–2). Scholarly interest of an antiquarian kind quickly followed the merchants in the sixteenth century: Christopher Borough, the man whom Anne Pennington described as ‘the first English Slavist’ (1967) was both an agent of the Muscovy Company and an orientalist, and may perhaps also be called the first English Slavic medievalist. In making a copy of the Old Russian version of the pseudo-Aristotelian Secretutn secretorutn (MS Bodleian, Laud Misc 45) he was almost certainly guided by the same impulse to seek out ancient works which led other scholars, from Italian humanist cardinals to a later secretary of the Royal Society, to make enquiries about the legendary lost library of the Byzantine emperors which some had claimed was incorporated in the almost certainly mythical library of Ivan the Terrible. Some awareness of medieval Church history is also evident in the considerable interest shown in some English Protestant circles towards the Orthodox Church as a major Christian Church which could claim apostolic succession but was outside the sphere of Rome.

(p.285) Interest in Russia and its origins as a topic in both popular and historical writing has persisted to the present day.2 It is, however, quite a jump from that to ‘Medieval Studies’, a concept born of modern universities, and most easily definable in terms of a university curriculum. The inclusion of the ‘medieval’ period of the various Slav peoples in the general history of Europe was a gradual process, often no more at first than a few speculations about origins and ecclesiastical history, beginning in England perhaps with John Milton’s Brief History of Moscovia (1682), possibly begun as early as the 1620s), based on the early travel accounts found in Hakluyt and Purchas. Milton’s work was followed by several other English general histories of Muscovy in the seventeenth century. It is nevertheless an area still often ignored by non-Slavist historians (largely, one must assume, because the languages required for research are not widely known), despite the fact that there now exists a considerable body of general and research monographs on the topic in West European languages, and in particular in English. On the other hand, the study of the earlier history of the Slav lands by British historians has been less dependent on the existence of university departments of Slavonic, East European, or Russian studies than has the study of language and literature.

In the case of the study of Slavonic languages and literatures, this was, of course, not a discipline in British universities until comparatively recent times, any more than it was for other modern languages. Nevertheless, when ‘modern humanities’ were established, the Slavonic dimension, though small, did make a showing, and a ‘medievalist’ one at that.3 Slavonic studies were given a fillip in 1865 when William Fox Strangways, 4th Earl of Ilchester, left £1000 in his will to promote the study of Polish and other Slavonic languages in the University of Oxford. This was used to fund lectures on Slavonic topics at the Taylorian Institution, itself the product of an enlightened eighteenth-century bequest to further the study of modern European languages (it still contains in its Slavonic and Greek Library one of the most important Slavonic collections in this country). Several of these made important contributions to British understanding of the early history of the Slavs—indeed, of the first twenty-four Ilchester lectures no fewer than fifteen were directly or partially on medieval topics.

The first Ilchester Lecturer at Oxford was William Richard Morfill (1834–1909), appointed in 1870. He gave a series of lectures (eight or nine) on (p.286) the ‘Ethnology, Early History and Popular Traditions of the Slavonic Nations’. He later became the first Professor of Slavonic Studies in Oxford (and a very early FBA, 1903), and gave as his inaugural lecture in 1880 ‘An Essay on the Importance of the Study of the Slavonic Languages’. Morfill is immediately recognizable as the type of professor who was at one time not uncommon in minority humanities subjects, but will no doubt soon be lost to us in the bureaucratized world of modern academia, a man who could master obscure languages, and then go on to write about the lands in which they were spoken, their history, literature, culture, and politics. In Morfill’s case, his publications included a history of Russia, a history of Poland, grammars of Russian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Czech, a book on Slavonic literatures, articles on Pushkin, Serbo-Croat poetry, the Polabians, and, as evidence for his inclusion here as a medievalist, a translation of the Slavonic version of the Book of Enoch which he published jointly with the eminent specialist in apocrypha R. H. Charles (1896). This has recently been republished in paperback for New Age searchers after hidden wisdom. Morfill’s extensive collection of Slavonic books is in the Taylorian Library in Oxford. His successor in 1910 was his pupil, Oxford’s first graduate in Russian, Nevil Forbes, who covered a similarly wide range with grammars of Russian and Serbian, lectures and articles on Russian literature, and as his medieval contribution, a translation of the Novgorod chronicle (Michell & Forbes 1914), and another translation of the Slavonic Book of Enoch (1913).

Morfill’s scholarly interest in the origins of folk traditions, ancient and medieval, also informed the work of the second Ilchester Lecturer, William Ralston (1828–89), at one time on the staff of the British Museum library, where he had learned Russian at the suggestion of the celebrated Keeper of Printed Books, Antonio Panizzi.4 Ralston gave three lectures ‘On the Songs and Stories of the Russian People’ in 1871, later published as The Songs of the Russian People (1872). This was the prime English source for both contemporary and comparative historical information on the often medieval origins and practice of Russian folksong, folklore, customs, and magic for decades. In 1874 Ralston again gave the Ilchester Lectures, this time ‘On Early Russian History’ (1874).

(p.287) The fact that there were live oral poetry traditions of obvious antiquity among the Slav peoples intrigued many scholars, not least Sir Arthur Evans, better known for his later archaeological discoveries in Crete, one of the founding Fellows of the British Academy, and the first to be accused of spying and treason (in Austria). His early interest in the Balkans never left him, and in 1884, the year in which he became Keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, he gave the Ilchester Lectures (four) on ‘The Slavonic Conquest of Illyricum’ (see Petkovic´ 1980).

He was followed as Ilchester Lecturer in 1886 by Moses Gaster (1856–1939), the chief rabbi of the Sephardic community in England, Zionist, folklorist, and a scholar of very wide interests, many of them medieval and Slavonic. His lectures were published as Greeko-Slavonic: Ilchester Lectures on Greeko-Slavonic Literature and its Relation to the Folk-Lore of Europe during the Middle Ages (1887). This is still worth reading, even if the reference to folklore may cause discomfort to some modern medievalists.

In Cambridge formally established Slavonic studies got off to a slower start, despite the fact that many Cambridge men were involved in early contacts with Russia.5 The first Russian teaching post went in 1900 to Alexander Goudy, who had already been involved in Russian teaching in Liverpool. It is clear that little other than language teaching was envisaged, since Goudy was appointed, after some acrimony, in preference to the more scholarly Ellis Minns (later Sir Ellis Minns (FBA 1925), Disney Professor of Archaeology), who had many scholarly, and in particular medieval, interests, but was rejected on the grounds that he had less teaching experience. The first Cambridge Professor of Slavonic Studies was Elizabeth Hill, appointed lecturer in 1936 and elected to the chair in 1948, and a medievalist among other things. It is worth recording that in her inaugural lecture she stated that ‘among Slav scholars abroad it was widely assumed that Professor Minns, admired by them for his work on the Scythians, on Slavonic palaeography and iconography, and for his elegant spoken Russian, was the professor of Slavonic Studies in Cambridge’ (1951: 35).

Oxford and Cambridge were not the only, or even the first, British universities to include Slavonic studies in their programmes. The number of universities in England and Wales had risen from two at the beginning of the nineteenth century to twelve, and all but three of these had courses in Russian established by the end of the First World War (Cleminson 1995). Liverpool, already mentioned, was an innovative place at the beginning of the twentieth century—in 1908 it established chairs in such exotic subjects as Spanish, Russian (the Bowes Chair—the first chair of Russian in the country, endowed (p.288) by John Rankin, a local shipowner and very extensive benefactor of the university), and Celtic (the last two now abolished), and, from 1907, the first School of Russian Studies at a British university. Liverpool supplied Cambridge with its first lecturer in Russian and London with its first professor of Russian history (Bernard Pares). But although Celtic studies at Liverpool could attract a medievalist of the stature of Kuno Meyer to be its professor, Slavonic medieval studies there did not play a significant role. In Leeds Sir James Roberts endowed a chair of Russian in 1916 with the sum of £10,000 (Cross 1982: 17); the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce financed the department at Birmingham in the same year (Smith 1987); and the Manchester Chair was endowed in 1919, also with the sum of £10,000, contributed by Manchester manufacturers and traders, though the first appointment in Russian, of W. J. Sedgefield as lecturer, was made in 1907 (Stone 1985). In all these cases a perceived need for Russian speakers in an expected expansion of trade with Russia was the guiding principle.

Slavonic studies, and in particular medieval studies, continued as a minor interest area of the slowly developing field of modern language studies in general up to the First World War. That war, despite the role played by small Slav nations in provoking it, and despite our ensuing alliance with Russia, did little to promote Slavonic studies in the older universities. Indeed, as late as 1938 Neville Chamberlain could have been reflecting the attitudes of almost all British universities when he famously declared that the Czech issue was ‘a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing’. He had, in fact, little excuse for this remark, because the one big new initiative in Slavonic studies in the First World War was taken in London, and was largely political in inspiration. R. H. Seton-Watson, a Scottish nationalist, historian, and active political lobbyist for the small Slav nations, and keenly aware of the general British ignorance of small nations then striving for independence, and the refugee Dr Tomás Masaryk (Corr. FBA 1920, later first president of Czechoslovakia), were the prime movers in establishing a special institution devoted entirely to Slavonic and East European studies—languages, literatures and history. This was first set up in 1915 in King’s College, and its first lecture was chaired by the then Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith. In 1932 it became a separate institution, the School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES), in the central precinct of the University of London. It is now part of University College London (Roberts 1991).

Despite its modern inspiration, medieval studies were always part of SSEES’s activities—as with other languages, it was easier to promote ‘hard’ subjects when degree syllabuses were more discipline-based and less subject to consumer choice and relevance to the market place. As in the Slavonic departments elsewhere, it was always felt necessary to structure Slavonic degrees on existing models for modern language and history degrees, which meant that (p.289) many teachers, particularly in Slavonic languages other than Russian which were often represented by only one teacher, had to be able to teach the whole range of topics from medieval to modern, in both language and literature, and sometimes history as well. This has been a common feature of Slavonic departments across the country. The excellent library which has been built up at SSEES certainly included the kind of material which medieval Slavists required (it acquired, for example, many of the books of Moses Gaster, W. K. Matthews, and Boris Unbegaun). SSEES, the largest institution promoting Slavonic and East European studies in the United Kingdom, has employed at one time or another a fair number of staff active in medieval studies. In language studies Boris Unbegaun; Michael Samilov; Robert Auty (FBA 1976), who wrote on many Slavonic topics, and notably, for medievalists, published with Grigore Nandri¸s (also at SSEES) the important Handbook of Old Church Slavonic (1959–60); W. K. Matthews whose Russian Historical Grammar (1960) is still the only book-length study of the topic in English; Stuart Mann, who wrote historical grammars and dictionaries for Czech, Albanian, and Armenian; Harry Leeming, who for many years taught Church Slavonic and comparative Slavonic philology and wrote a valuable study of the role of Polish in the development of Russian (1976), and many articles, mostly in the field of the history of Russian, Polish, and Ruthenian. In the field of medieval literature, A. D. Stokes taught and wrote on medieval Russian literature and history; Faith Wigzell, who has taught and written about medieval Russian literature for over thirty years, and who has published one of the few book-length studies in English of a medieval Russian author (Kitch 1976); Arnold McMillin (1977), whose history of Belorussian literature, unique in English, contains a section on the medieval period; Robert Pynsent, who writes on medieval as well as modern Czech literature; and Dennis Deletant, who writes on a whole range of Rumanian topics including medieval Slavonic literature and early printing. In the field of history most of the courses have included medieval options and some of the professors and lecturers have taught them as a speciality: Muriel Heppell, who has published on South Slav and Russian historical texts (1989); Lindsey Hughes, though best known for her monumental work on Peter the Great, also works on medieval topics, and has published monographs on two seventeenth-century figures, Prince Vasily Vasil’evich Golitsyn and the Regent Sofiia (1984 and 1990); Isabel de Madariaga (FBA 1990), best known for her fundamental study of Russia in the age of Catherine the Great, also has medieval interests and has recently published an important new study of Ivan the Terrible (2005); Robin Cormack, who held a joint appointment at SSEES and the Courtauld Institute for many years, is a leading authority on the history of Eastern Orthodox art; two professors of history, Norman Davies (FBA 1997) and Geoffrey Hosking (FBA 1993), have published major general histories, of Poland and Russia respectively, which include the medieval period (Hosking 2001 and Davies 1981).

(p.290) SSEES has also published, from 1922, the first English-language journal for Slavists, The Slavonic and East European Review, which like the later Oxford Slavonic Papers, founded in 1950 but now sadly defunct, always included a substantial number of articles by medievalists, perhaps because almost all its editors had published work in the field of Slavonic medieval studies.6

The Second World War, and even more the Cold War, and the Sputnik era which followed, created a purely practical need for linguists and country specialists in many areas, and in particular Russia and the other Slav countries. Special joint services courses were set up, with advanced courses run by the universities of Cambridge and London (SSEES), to train servicemen, and in particular the young men who were obliged to do National Service, the two-year military service which was finally abolished in 1963. This had a dramatic effect on the number of linguistically well-qualified young men wishing to study Russian and to a lesser extent other Slavonic languages, or the history, culture, or economy of the Slav countries. It also produced a whole generation of Slavonic scholars, including medievalists, who staffed the new departments which sprang up in most of Britain’s universities, with funding flowing from a series of official reports (in particular the Scarbrough and Hayter Reports) emphasizing the strategic importance of, in particular, Russian.

A similar development in the United States, for the same reason, helped to usher in a kind of golden age in which, notwithstanding the entirely contemporary and political nature of its inspiration, activity in medieval Slavonic subjects rose to unprecedented levels. In part this is because in Britain some of the leading Slavists in the post-Second World War period worked on medieval topics.

Professor Dame Elizabeth Hill, already mentioned above as the first Professor of Slavonic Studies at Cambridge, was a formidable figure whose wide interests and publications included work on medieval Slavonic manuscripts; her students, protégés, and colleagues included some outstanding medievalists, notably John Fennell, Dimitri Obolensky, Alexis Vlasto, and Nikolai Andreyev.7 Sergei Konovalov (Professor of Russian in Birmingham (p.291) from 1929 and concurrently a lecturer in Oxford), who held the Oxford Chair from 1945, taught mostly modern Russian literature but also published several series of medieval and early modern historical documents from British archives. More importantly he brought to Oxford distinguished scholars from elsewhere, several of whom were medievalists, so that by the 1960s he had built up a remarkably impressive team of scholars with an interest in Slavonic medieval topics. From Cambridge came Dimitri Obolensky (FBA 1974), Slavist and Byzantinist, who worked primarily on Byzantine and medieval Russian and Balkan history, the history of the Orthodox Church, and the Bogomil heresy (Obolensky 1948).8 He wrote several influential books and the title of his best-known work, The Byzantine Commonwealth (1971), has become almost a technical term. J. L. I. Fennell, also from Cambridge, taught most parts of the degree in Russian, but specialized in medieval literature and history. He published annotated translations of the works of Andrei Kurbskii and wrote a series of important monographs on early Russian ecclesiastical and political history (Fennell 1963, 1968, 1983 and 1995; Fennell & Obolensky 1969), and with A. D. Stokes (who taught first in London, then in Oxford) he wrote the only general textbook on medieval Russian literature to be published in Britain (1974).9 He was also a joint founding editor of the international review journal Russia Medievalis.

In the field of language studies, at Konovalov’s urging Oxford created a chair in Comparative Slavonic Philology for Boris Unbegaun. Unbegaun’s erudite, witty, and always well-attended lectures made the history of Slavonic languages a surprisingly popular subject at Oxford and guaranteed a small but steady stream of students for the postgraduate BLitt degree in comparative Slavonic philology. His first book, published before he came to Britain, was on Old Russian morphology (1935) and he contributed the Slavic section to a major work on ancient religions (Grenier et al. 1948), but his forte was etymology and lexical history, in which cultural history was blended with linguistics. Unbegaun infuriated some Soviet scholars with his well argued but slightly mischievous hypothesis, expressed in several articles, that the modern Russian literary language was essentially Church Slavonic rather than Russian in origin. He also published a history of Russian versification (1956), a partly historical study of Russian surnames (Unbegaun 1972) and a bibliographical guide to the Russian language, including its medieval history (1953). His articles were rarely more than twelve pages long, and modest in quantity, but all are classics (Unbegaun 1969). Unbegaun was succeeded by Robert Auty (p.292) (FBA 1976, formerly at Cambridge and then at SSEES—see below), originally a Germanist who became a specialist in Czech, and developed an interest in the history of the language and literature of the Middle Ages. Unbegaun and Auty were well supported by younger colleagues. I. P. Foote taught the whole Russian syllabus, and although he would not perhaps claim to be a medievalist, I remember with gratitude his tutorials on medieval language and literature, not to mention his annotated anthology of folk literature, most of which has medieval roots (Costello & Foote 1967). Anne Pennington, Unbegaun’s student and successor as third and last holder of the Chair of Comparative Slavonic Philology, had a deep historical knowledge of most Slavonic languages, and special interests in the history of Balkan music and Serbian poetry, ancient (1984a) and modern. She produced a monumental edition of Kotoshikhin (1980), and like Morfill and Forbes before her, contributed a translation of the Slavonic Book of Enoch to Sparks’s The Apocryphal Old Testament, adding the Apocalypse of Abraham (1984b and 1984c). She wrote a number of valuable articles on medieval topics and would undoubtedly have dominated the field in Britain had she not died tragically young.

In paying tribute to the Slavonic medievalists of the Konovalov era one must also mention the remarkable J. S. G. Simmons (d. 2005), librarian–lecturer in charge of Russian and Slavonic books, later university Reader in Russian and Slavonic bibliography and, from 1970 Senior Research Fellow and Librarian of All Souls College, Oxford, whose vast knowledge of Russian bibliography and history of scholarship has been recognized internationally, and whose indefatigable efforts in acquiring Slavonic books from abroad so greatly enhanced the Slavonic collections of the Bodleian and Taylorian libraries. Besides helping generations of scholars in many disciplines, through his extensive and shrewd reviewing he ensured that Slavic scholars in the West and in Russia and Eastern Europe were aware of each other’s work. In the medieval context, he collaborated with Boris Unbegaun and Veronica Du Feu in studying the manuscript Russian vocabulary books in the Bodleian library, edited and published in English the watermark books of Tromonin and Likhachev (Simmons 1965 and 1994) in the Monumenta chartae papyraceae historiam illustrantia series of the Paper Publications Society, of which he was general editor, contributed the chapter on Russia to The Hakluyt Handbook (1974) and gave the Sandars lectures in Cambridge in 1974 on the history of printing in Russia (regrettably only the biographical and bibliographical notes were reproduced and privately circulated).

A comparative Slavonic philologist who taught in Oxford in the post-Konovalov period was Gerald Stone (FBA 1992); he completed the task of publishing the manuscript Russian vocabulary books in Oxford begun by Unbegaun with an important edition of the invaluable sixteenth-century Russian vocabulary books of Mark Ridley (Stone 1996). He has also published on the history of Polish, Cassubian, and Sorbian.

(p.293) The Oxford teachers of the Konovalov era left a legacy in the following generation of medievalists. Unbegaun taught Anne Pennington and Veronica Du Feu, who both became distinguished scholars in linguistics, including medieval language topics. In Cambridge Simon Franklin, now Professor and Head of the Department of Slavonic Studies, and Jonathan Shepard continued in the tradition of their teacher Obolensky, combining Byzantine and Russian studies in substantial publications on early Kievan history and culture (Franklin 1991 and 2002; Franklin & Shepard 1996). Shepard in his turn supervised the PhD of Paul Stephenson, who has produced an important book on Byzantium and the medieval Balkans (2000). Jana Howlett, who now teaches in Cambridge and has published on the Judaizers and other medieval Russian topics, was supervised by John Fennell. Robin Milner-Gulland (FBA 2002), Research Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Sussex, who specializes in several areas of Russian literary and cultural history, with a strong emphasis on medieval topics, was also taught by Fennell and Obolensky. Several of Anne Pennington’s DPhil students, including myself, went on to academic careers at least partly in medieval subjects. One is Mary MacRobert, who specializes in early Bulgarian, and succeeded Anne Pennington at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Another is Ralph Cleminson, who took over the project to catalogue all the Slavonic manuscripts in Britain which Anne Pennington had begun just before her death, and later collaborated with Christine Thomas of the British Library on a union list of all Cyrillic early printed books in Britain. Both these projects were outstandingly successful and are now published (Cleminson 1988 and Cleminson, Thomas, Radoslavova,& Voznesenskij 2000). Taken together with the voluminous guide to manuscripts and archives in Britain relating to Russian history compiled by Janet Hartley (1987), these books mean that the written and printed record of the early period of Russia and much of the rest of the Slavonic world in British libraries and archives is more nearly complete than in any other non-Slavonic country.

In the boom years for Slavonic subjects following the Second World War many universities set up departments, in particular departments of Russian. For the most part they were more interested in the contemporary world and were not prominent in medieval topics. There were however notable exceptions: Birmingham had Sunray Gardiner, who published a valuable study of German loanwords in late Old Russian and a grammar of Old Church Slavonic (1965 and 1984), and in its Centre for Russian and East European Studies, normally oriented to modern studies, Maureen Perrie has published an important study of pretenders to the throne in sixteenth-seventeenth-century Muscovy (1995), and two books on the image of Ivan the Terrible in later Russian culture, and R. E. F. Smith has written some unusual works on the history of Russian material culture, notably Bread and Salt (jointly with David (p.294) Christian (1984). Ralph Cleminson, the leading expert on Slavonic manuscripts in this country, holds the chair of Russian at the University of Portsmouth; the University of Sussex for many years could boast two Slavonic medievalists, Sergei Hackel and Robin Milner-Gulland; in Scotland the University of Glasgow has John Dunn, who has research interests in and publications on the Russian language, as head of the Department of Slavonic Studies; and St Andrews has had a series of Slavists with late medieval interests, such as Anthony Hippisley (who, after several monographs on the seventeenth-century cleric and poet Simeon Polotskii, finally published, with Lydia Sazonova, the Vinograd mnogotsvetnyi in a massive three-volume edition, 1996), John Sullivan, and Stefan Pugh.

At national level, the three union lists mentioned above were, of course, only partially concerned with medieval material, even by the ‘long Middle Ages’ definition given in my first paragraph, but they did have their origin in a medievalist context. In 1974, at a meeting of the British Universities Association of Slavists, Francis Thomson (one of the foremost authorities on Church Slavonic texts but outside the scope of this survey because he works in Belgium (nevertheless, see Thomson 1999) proposed the establishment of a formal study group which became the Slavonic and East European Medieval Studies Group. Its first chairman was W. F. Ryan (then at SSEES), and its first secretary was Sunray Gardiner (Birmingham). Its committee included Robert Auty, the Byzantinist Donald Nicol (King’s College London; FBA 1981), and Faith Wigzell (SSEES). There were thirty-one founding members including Elizabeth Hill and Anne Pennington. The projects which the group decided to advocate were union lists of manuscripts, archives, early printed books, and historical artefacts. It is gratifying to be able to record, nearly thirty years on, that the first three of these four aims have been achieved. The group still exists and has a much larger membership (around ninety). This includes members in most parts of the world, but sadly one has also to observe that the greater part of the membership in Britain is retired, about to retire, or not employed in a university to teach medieval subjects.

Not all work in medieval Slavonic studies has been undertaken in the obvious Slavonic or History departments of universities. A small but distinguished band of art historians and historians with an interest in art history in various kinds of employ, some mentioned elsewhere in this essay, has published work on early Slavonic art—this group includes Tamara Talbot-Rice, Zaga Gavrilovic, Robin Cormack, Robin Milner-Gulland, Jana Howlett, and Lindsey Hughes. Sometimes work in the Slavonic medieval field may have been undertaken by scholars better known for other things. I have already mentioned Arthur Evans, but there are others: Nora Chadwick (FBA 1956), a specialist in the Celtic, Norse, and Anglo-Saxon cultures of Britain, produced Russian Heroic Poetry (1932) and went on to publish The Beginnings of Russian (p.295) History (1945); and Sir Steven Runciman (FBA 1957), wrote The Medieval Manichee, still valuable for its study of the Bogomils (1947), and A History of the First Bulgarian Empire (1930). Norman Evans at the PRO published documents relating to early English contacts with Russia; John Appleby has produced regular contributions to early Anglo-Russian medical and scientific history as a private scholar; Philip Longworth, while he was still a private scholar in this country, wrote a number of pieces of early modern and medieval interest, notably a study of Tsar Aleksei Mikhailovich (1984); W. E. D. Allen edited and published with the Hakluyt Society two volumes of medieval diplomatic documents illustrating the contacts between Russia and Georgia (1971).10 Terence Armstrong at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge edited an invaluable translation of three chronicles of the Russian conquest of Siberia in the sixteenth century, including the Remezov illuminated chronicle, with all the pictures, for the Hakluyt Society (Armstrong 1975); W. F. Ryan (FBA 2000) has written a number of articles on Russian medieval topics, mostly linguistic and textual or in the field of the history of science, with a special interest in the pseudo-Aristotelian Secretum secretorum in Russia, and the first general history of Russian magic and divination (largely medieval; 1999), from his position as librarian at the Warburg Institute; his student Yuri Stoyanov, while writing his PhD thesis at the Warburg Institute on apocryphal themes in Bogomil theology, also published The Other God: Dualist Religions from Antiquity to the Cathar Heresy (2000), which offers a new level of understanding of Bogomilism, a subject pioneered in this country by Runciman and Obolensky.

A good many of the university departments of Russian or Slavonic studies which formerly existed in Great Britain, especially in the post-Second World War period, have now been closed, but the postwar impetus given to Slavonic studies has not been entirely lost. The remaining departments still have scholars of distinction—but the steady loss of posts, the current dominance of pick-and-mix degrees which tend to relegate medieval subjects to the status of minor options, and funding regimes which squeeze out ‘hard’ subjects, has more or less reduced Slavonic medieval studies at the beginning of the twenty-first century to the status of a fringe activity in a few of the larger universities, or the private enthusiasm of individual scholars, not so very different from what it was at the end of the First World War. On a slightly more positive note, students working for PhDs in medieval Slavonic subjects continue to come forward, to add to the sixty or so theses more or less classifiable as Slavonic and medieval which have been defended in British universities in the century 1907–1996, and the Slavonic and East European Medieval Studies Group (p.296) continues to flourish.11 And we can take some sad comfort in the fact that, although there has been some decline in Slavonic studies as a whole in the USA also, the sheer size of the university sector there has protected medieval Slavonic studies rather more—in fact American research and publishing increasingly dominate the field as far as English-language scholarship is concerned.12

Works Cited

Bibliography references:

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——, 1971. Russian Embassies to the Georgian Kings, 1589–1605, tr. Anthony Mango, 2 vols, HS, 2nd ser., 138–39 (London: HS).

Anderson, M. S., 1958. Britain’s Discovery of Russia 1553–1815 (London: Macmillan; New York: St Martins Press).

Armstrong, T. E., 1975. Yermak’s Campaign in Siberia, tr. Tatiana Minorsky & David Wileman, HS, 2nd ser., 146 (London: HS).

——, 1997. ‘The Northern Passages’, in The Purchas Handbook, HS, 2nd ser., 185.1 (London: HS), pp. 292–300.

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Chadwick, Nora K., 1932. Russian Heroic Poetry (Cambridge: UP).

——, 1945. The Beginnings of Russian History: An Enquiry into Sources (Cambridge: UP).

Cleminson, Ralph, comp., 1988. A Union Catalogue of Cyrillic Manuscripts in British and Irish Collections, gen. ed. Veronica du Feu & W. F. Ryan (London: SSEES).

——, 1995. ‘The History of Russian Language Learning in England’, in Russian Language Learning: Past, Present and Future: Papers from a Conference held at the University of Portsmouth, 11th–13th April 1994, ed. R. M. Cleminson (Portsmouth: University), pp. 1–12.

——, & Christine Thomas, Dilyana Radoslavova, & Andrej Voznesenskij, comp., 2000. Cyrillic Books Printed before 1701 in British and Irish Collections: A Union Catalogue (London: British Library).

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——, 1985. The Russian Theme in English Literature from the Sixteenth Century to 1980: An Introductory Survey and a Bibliography (Oxford: Meeuws).

——, 1987. Cambridge: Some Russian Connections (Cambridge: UP).

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Davies, Norman, 1981. God’s Playground: A History of Poland, I: The Origins to 1795 (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

De Madariaga, Isabel, 2005. Ivan the Terrible, First Tsar of Russia (New Haven: Yale UP).

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——, 1968. The Emergence of Moscow, 1304–1359 (London: Secker & Warburg).

——, 1983. The Crisis of Medieval Russia 1200–1304 (London: Longman).

——, 1995. A History of the Russian Church to 1448 (London: Longman).

——, & Dimitri Obolensky, 1969. A Historical Russian Reader: A Selection of Texts from the Eleventh to the Sixteenth Centuries (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

——, & Antony Stokes, 1974. Early Russian Literature (London: Faber).

Forbes, Nevill, tr., 1913. Text of the Slavonic Book of Enoch, in The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. R. H. Charles (Oxford: Clarendon Press), pp. 425–69.

Franklin, Simon, 1991. Sermons and Rhetoric of Kievan Rus’ (Cambridge, MA: Ukrainian Research Institute).

——, 2002. Writing, Culture and Society in Early Rus, c. 950–1300 (Cambridge: UP).

——, & Jonathan Shepard, 1996. The Emergence of Rus 750–1200 (London: Longman).

Gardiner, S., 1965. German Loanwords in Russian, 1550–1690 (Oxford: Basil Blackwell).

——, 1984. Old Church Slavonic: An Elementary Grammar (Cambridge: UP).

Gaster, M., 1887. Greeko-Slavonic: Ilchester Lectures on Greeko-Slavonic Literature and its Relation to the Folk-Lore of Europe during the Middle Ages (London: Trübner, Hill).

Grenier, Albert, Joseph Vendryès, Ernest Tonnelat, & B. O. Unbegaun, 1948. Les Religions étrusque et romaine: Les Religions des Celtes, des Germains et des anciens Slaves (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France).

Hakluyt, Richard, 1589. The Principall Navigations, Voiages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation (London: G. Bishop & R. Newberie).

Hartley, Janet M., 1987. Guide to Documents and Manuscripts in the United Kingdom relating to Russia and the Soviet Union (London: Mansell).

Heppell, Muriel, tr., 1989. The Paterik of the Kievan Caves Monastery, preface by Sir Dimitri Obolensky (Cambridge, MA: Ukrainian Research Institute).

Herberstein, Sigismund von, 1549. Rerum moscoviticarum commentarii [Vienna].

Hill, Elizabeth, 1951. Why Need we Study the Slavs? An Inaugural Lecture (Cambridge: UP).

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Hosking, G., 2001. Russia and the Russians: A History (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard UP).

(p.298) Howells, D. L. L., 1998. ‘The Publications of Sir Dimitri Obolensky’, OSP, ns, 31: 1–10.

Hughes, Lindsey, 1984. Russia and the West: The Life of a Seventeenth-Century Westernizer, Prince Vasily Vasil’evich Golitsyn (1643–1714) (Newtonville, MA: Oriental Research Partners).

——, 1990. Sophia, Regent of Russia, 1657–1704 (New Haven: Yale UP).

Kitch, Faith C. M., 1976. The Literary Style of Epifanij Premudryj, ‘Pletenije Sloves’, Slavistische Beiträge, 96 (Miinchen: Otto Sagner).

Leeming, H., 1976. Rola jgzyka polskiegow rozwoju leksyki rosyjskiej do roku 1696: wyrazy pochodzenia łacińskiegoi romańskiego (Wrocław: Zaklad Narodowy im. Ossolinskich).

Longworth, Philip, 1984. Alexis, Tsar ofAll the Russias (London: Seeker & Warburg).

McMillin, Arnold, 1977. A History of Byelorussian Literature from its Origins to the Present Day, Bausteine zur Geschichte der Literatur bei den Slawen, 6 (Giessen: W. Schmitz).

Matthews, W K., 1960. Russian Historical Grammar (London: Athlone Press).

Michell, Robert, & Nevill Forbes, tr., 1914. The Chronicle of Novgorod, 1016–1471, with C. Raymond Beazley & A. A. Shakhmatov, RHS, Camden, 3rd ser., 25 (London: RHS). Repr. 1970.

Milton, John, 1682. A Brief History of Moscovia (London: M. Flesher for Brabazon Aylmer).

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Obolensky, Dimitri, 1948. The Bogomils: A Study in Balkan Neo-Manichaeism (Cambridge: UP).

——, 1971. The Byzantine Commonwealth: Eastern Europe, 500–1453 (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson).

Pennington, A. E., 1967. ‘A Sixteenth-Century English Slavist’, MLR, 62: 660–86.

——, 1980. Grigorij Kotosixin, O Rossii v carstvovanie Alekseja Mixajlovica (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

——, 1984a. ‘The Apocalypse of Abraham’, in H. F. D. Sparks, The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press), pp. 393–422.

——, 1984b. ‘2 Enoch’, in H. F. D. Sparks, The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press), pp. 321–62.

——, Peter Levi, & Svetozar Koljevic, tr., 1984. Marko the Prince: Serbo-Croat Heroic Songs (London: Duckworth).

——, & D. Obolensky, 1979. ‘Publications by Robert Auty’, Slavonic and East European Review, 57: 94–102.

Perrie, Maureen, 1995. Pretenders and Popular Monarchism in Early Modern Russia: The False Tsars of the Time of Troubles (Cambridge: UP).

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Poe, Marshall, 1995. Foreign Descriptions of Muscovy (Columbus, OH: Slavica).

Purchas, Samuel: 1625. Purchas his Pilgrimes (London: William Stansby for Henrie Fetherstone).

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——, 1874. Early Russian History: Four Lectures Delivered at Oxford, in the Taylor Institution, According to the Terms of Lord Ilchester’s Bequest to the University (London: S. Low, Marston, Low, & Searle).

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Runciman, Steven, 1930. A History of the First Bulgarian Empire (London: G. Bell).

——, 1947. The Medieval Manichee: A Study of the Christian Dualist Heresy (Cambridge: UP).

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——, 2006. Russian Magic at the British Library: Books, Manuscripts, Scholars, Travellers, The Panizzi Lectures 2005 (London: British Library).

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——, ed. & tr., 1965. Tromonin’s Watermark Album: A facsimile of the Moscow 1844 edition, with S. A. Klepikov (Hilversum: Paper Publications Society).

——, 1974. ‘Russia’, in The Hakluyt Handbook, ed. D. B. Quinn, HS, 2nd ser., 144.1 (London: HS), pp. 161–67.

——, 1980. ‘Slavonic Studies at Oxford, 1844–1909’, OSP, ns, 13: 1–27.

——, & Be van Ginneken-Van de Kasteele, ed., 1994. Likhachev’s Watermarks: An English-Language Version, Monumenta Chartae Papyraceae Historiam Illustrantia, 15, 2 vols (Amsterdam: Paper Publications Society).

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——, & David Christian, 1984. Bread and Salt: A Social and Economic History of Food and Drink in Russia (Cambridge: UP).

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——, 1956. Russian Versification (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

——, 1969. Selected Papers on Russian and Slavonic Philology (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

——, 1972. Russian Surnames (Oxford: Clarendon Press).

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Notes:

(1) For an exhaustive analytical bibliography see Poe 1995. On the Russian section of Hakluyt see Simmons 1974. It is worth noting that the Hakluyt Society, besides re-publishing Hakluyt, has also, in the course of one and a half centuries of publishing, issued annotated versions of Herberstein (1st series, 10 and 12, 1851–52), Fletcher and Horsey (1st series, 20, 1856), Jenkinson and other Tudor merchants (1st series, 72–73, 1886), Abbot Daniel (2nd series, 167, 1988), and other texts (see Allen 1971 and Armstrong 1975). It is currently preparing an edition in English of the Russian merchant Afanasii Nikitin’s account of his journey to India in 1466–72.

(2) For surveys see A. G. Cross (1971 and 1985; FBA 1989) and Peter A. Crowther (1969—this is not restricted to British writers).

(3) The earlier history of Slavonic studies at Oxford has been examined in detail by J. S. G. Simmons (1952 and 1980), the second article being his Ilchester Lectures delivered in February 1979. Note in particular that the first Professor of Modern Languages at Oxford was Frederick Trithen, a Swiss who had spent his much of his youth in Odessa, and although his interests included the focal areas for linguists of this period, Sanskrit, comparative philology, etc., his first course of lectures, in November 1849, was on ‘The Language and Literature of Russia’.

(4) Ralston was engaged primarily in cataloguing rather than book acquisition, but it was in this period, in the keepership of Panizzi, that the very impressive Slavonic holdings of the British Museum library, including material still essential for Slavonic medievalists, were established (Thomas & Henderson 1997). Although the collecting policy for Slavonic materials thereafter was not consistent, the Slavonic and East European Division of the present-day British Library is still one of the most important West European resources for Slavists, for its early printed books, manuscripts, and archive documents, and seems to have suffered a little less than other foreign-language sections of the library in the acquisitions policy decisions of recent years which have verged on the xenophobic. On Ralston see the Oxford DNB and the first of the 2005 Panizzi Lectures at the British Library (Ryan 2006).

(5) For a survey of Cambridge Russian associations, and more detail on the history of the teaching of Russian in Cambridge, see the inaugural lecture of Professor A. G. Cross (1987).

(6) The Review is now published for SSEES by the Modern Humanities Research Association, which also publishes The Modern Language Review, a journal which normally also includes a Slavonic section and occasionally publishes reviews and articles of interest to medievalist Slavists. The MHRA also publishes The Year’s Work in Modern Languages, which contains a section devoted to work in medieval Slavonic studies. OSP was edited first by S. Konovalov, then by Konovalov and J. S. G. Simmons, then by a series of joint editors including J. L. I. Fennell, R. Auty, I. P. Foote, Gerald Stone, and C. M. MacRobert, all with strong medieval interests.

(7) Vlasto 1970 and 1986. His retirement left a potential gap in the teaching of historical Slavonic linguistics in Cambridge. For many years Veronica Du Feu travelled every week from the University of East Anglia to teach this part of the syllabus, but recently Cambridge rectified the situation by the appointment of Bjoern Hansen, who teaches modern comparative philology as well as Old Church Slavonic and the history of Russian.

(8) Obolensky’s list of publications runs to 111 items, mostly in the field of Byzantine and medieval Slavonic studies (Howells 1998).

(9) Fennell’s full publication list amounted to 101 items, mostly in medieval history and literature (Dimnik 1994).

(10) Allen, private scholar and businessman, was Unionist MP for Belfast West before joining Sir Oswald Mosley’s New Party. His book on the earlier history of Georgia was published the next year (1932).

(11) The figure is derived from the lists of all theses on Slavonic topics in all disciplines (total 2,146) published at intervals in the OSP.

(12) I should like to express my gratitude to colleagues who have commented on the first draft of this essay: Professor Ralph Cleminson, Professor Anthony Cross FBA, Professor Simon Franklin, Professor Lindsey Hughes, and Professor Faith Wigzell. They are, of course, in no way responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the opinions expressed. I apologize to any who should have been mentioned but have not, through my carelessness or ignorance. I have for the most part cited only book-length publications, or articles from which I have taken bibliographical or biographical information.