Suzanne L. Marchand is the Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University. In her Academy project, Marchand asks: “What does it tell us about the modern historical sciences that we recog...
Nina Maria Gorrissen Lecture in History
Herodotus and the Idea of Western Civilization: A 19th Century Story
In this lecture, Suzanne L. Marchand investigates both scholarly and popular nineteenth-century discussions of Herodotus’s Histories in Germany, Britain, and France to show that the idea of the Greco-Persian conflict as a civilization-defining moment was a rather new one after 1830. Previous commentators had found The Histories more interesting for their ethnographic, geographic, mythographic, chronological, and zoological content than for their accounts of the battles themselves or the supposed “clash of civilizations” they narrate. Marchand notes that while many commentators continued to read The Histories for this wider range of purposes, many nineteenth-century European liberals leveraged the book to produce a powerful, long-lasting “clash” narrative that would frame key discussions about “Western” values from the mid-nineteenth century onward, despite the fact that Europeans have never reached a consensus regarding the originating moments and elements of ‘Western’ civilization.