Cuts Threaten Unique Post

Harvard Medieval Art History Professor Jeffrey F. Hamburger embarked on a crusade last week to save a rare professorship at King’s College London from being eliminated due to budget cuts.

Hamburger sent an impassioned e-mail to department administrators at King’s College London protesting the university’s proposed elimination of their chair of palaeography—the study of ancient writing—as part of a 15 percent budget cut mandated by the British government for all British universities, according to David Ganz, professor of paleography at King’s College.

The paleography professorship is one of a projected 22 positions to be eliminated at King’s as a result of the budget cuts.

“Indeed, your assault on the Humanities in general seems part of a program to reduce King’s to a pauper or, perhaps, something closer to a vocational school,” Hamburger wrote in the e-mail to King’s College department administrators.

The paleography chair, according to Hamburger, is the English speaking world’s only established chair of paleography—an area where King’s “has traditionally played a leading role.” Most American universities—including Harvard—do not have a formal program in paleography.


“This is an international resource that is being eliminated,” Hamburger said in a recent interview. “To see [the chair] eliminated with such disregard is just incredibly short-sighted.”

Hamburger also e-mailed other Medieval Studies professors at Harvard, encouraging them to write letters to King’s, though he said he is uncertain whether any of his colleagues followed suit.

King’s paleography chair is currently occupied by Ganz, an expert in early medieval manuscripts. Hamburger wrote in an e-mail that Ganz’s fate is now “up in the air.”

Hamburger said that students of history worldwide will feel the effects of the budget cuts at King’s College.

“Just as when biologists get upset when poachers kill the last specimen of a given species, so too medievalists get upset when one of the last positions in paleography gets eliminated,” Hamburger said.

Ganz wrote in an e-mail that faculty are “terrified and depressed” and students are “alarmed” because of the budget cuts, adding that he wishes that British newspapers would pick up the story.

Hamburger wrote in his e-mail to King’s College administrators that their decision to “eliminate the study of paleography in Great Britain” would represent “an unforgivable act of cultural iconoclasm, nihilism, philistinism and shortsightedness.”

—Staff writer James K. McAuley can be reached at

—Staff writer Julia L. Ryan can be reached at


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