The American Academy in Rome
When in Rome, I usually stay at the British School in Rome -- a wonderful institution. Please bear in mind, when you decide to knock this idea of "academies abroad", that British Academies are part of a much wider movement -- almost every European country has a foothold in Rome or Athens. There is a Dutch, a Belgian, a French, a German Academy here, and many others. And they do great jobs in working on the whole history of Europe.
Anyway, not this time. Currently, I have a short term placement at the American Academy (on the Janiculan, if you know the place; pictured above). I am here to prepare my lectures for Washington DC in the spring -- when I shall be talking about the '12 Caesars'. My line is going to be that the tradition of representing Roman emperors is worth thinking about beyond the ancient world itself. I am going to be exploring ancient images of emperors (any views on this, please comment) and later ones from the Renaissance, and later.
So I am in the library finding out about how the emperor was portrayed in a range of different locations and times.
At the same time, I am having a great time in Rome despite hardly having stepped over the threshold of the American Academy. Two good things: first the library (goes without saying); second the food. After what is euphemistically called a fallow period a few years ago, the Academy invested in a "sustainable food" project, masterminded by Alice Waters (of Chez Panisse fame, for those that know that wonderful Berkeley restaurant) . Sod the sustainability, it tastes good. So I am having a 12 hour day in the library, and then tucking in to a great dinner. (The puritans would probably say that I was over provided for.. but, if you want good research, you need decent food.)
Meanwhile, I am listening, from Rome, to gloomy news from the UK. There is not a shadow of doubt that the coalition programme for universities is wrong. What happened in the demonstrations, I dont know (though I suspect that some of my colleagues are in danger of reliving their days of 1960/70s protest... and are really enjoying having an enemy at last, while recounting their tales of 'the kettle'). But listening to Andy Burnham on Any Questions this evening makes me realise that you certainly cant trust the Labour party on this, any more than the rest.
So where are our political allies?