Lay Historians

A couple of inspiring accounts of lay historians have just appeared. The story of Tony Clunn, who discovered the site of the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest, is written up by Peter McDermott in the Free Library. Clunn has earned his living as a British Army officer. Adrian Murdoch's blog drew my attention to this. An account of Hershel Shanks, a US lawyer who has become a leader in the field of biblical archaeology, appears in the New York Times. With a degree of false modesty, Shanks describes himself as an outsider to the field, a person who wouldn’t have gotten into it had he known how much it was divided into specialties and subspecialties. Of course he would have! The vital quality in a lay historian today is enterprise: the ability to weld together the work of many specialists into a coherent whole and to perceive opportunities which the specialists do not notice because they are too close to the topic.

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