History of the American School 1882-1942 -  Preface

A History of the American School of Classical Studies, 1882-1942

PREFACE by Louis E. Lord

In writing this history of the School at Athens from its founding in 1881 to the interruption of its activities sixty years later by the World War, I have tried to record faithfully what happened both in America and in Athens.

For the School at Athens is not only an American institution on Greek soil, it is an intercollegiate project—the oldest in America except the Harvard-Yale boat race.

As an intercollegiate institution the School has been a great and amazing success. Begun with a pitiful annual Budget of three thousand dollars, contributed by ten colleges, operated by three distinct bodies, it should by all the Jaws of management have speedily departed to the House of Hades to join those other two unmanageable tripartite bodies, Cerberus and the Chimera. It would not be credible that a debating society like the Managing Committee, composed of professors of Greek, could successfully operate a postgraduate school three thousand miles away. Yet sixty years after its founding the School is supported by more than fifty colleges, its endowment is more than two million dollars, and its plant in Athens, its periodical Hesperia, its extensive excavations and the contributions of its faculty and Students to history, philology and archaeology, have caused it to be recognized as the leading foreign school in Hellas.

This success has in my opinion been due to two things: clear division of responsibility among the three governing bodies, and continuity of administration. The Trustees are the custodians of the School’s physical property, the Managing Committee determines policies and makes appointments, the Faculty of the School is responsible for the administration of these policies. Continuity of administration was secured by selecting as chairmen of the Managing Committee to serve for an indefinite term: White for six years, Seymour for fourteen, Wheeler for seventeen and Capps for twenty-one.

The history of the School is concerned with events in America and in Athens. During the early years, while the School’s very existence was at stake, the activities of the Managing Committee were relatively more important than during the later period. Hence in the narrative they occupy more space.

These events in America and in Athens sometimes have been recorded for a number of years consecutively. This procedure results in a certain amount of confusion. It is, for instance, something of a shock to learn of Heermance’s death before his appointment as Director is recorded. This method of telling the story is justified, I believe, by the dual character of the enterprise. The alternative, a strictly annalistic treatment, was possible for Thucydides in the history of the Peloponnesian War, but unfortunately Thucydides is not writing this history.

I have, therefore, told the whole history of the Managing Committee during White’s chairmanship before relating the first six years of the School’s existence in Athens. As the policies of the School became fixed and the routine of management standardized, the actions of the Managing Committee became of less interest, and the narrative becomes more nearly an annalistic account of the activities in Athens. The excavation of the Athenian Agora was such a unified campaign that I felt the account could best be told without interruption. It was written before Mr. Shear’s death, and it seemed wise to let it stand unchanged. Corinth we have always with us. Its story has been told year by year. The addition of a rather comprehensive index, it is hoped, will help supply any lack of continuity felt by the reader. During the early years when the students of the School were few, I have mentioned them all by name. Later I have limited myself to speaking of those whose subsequent connection with the School was notable. In making this selection I may well have erred. If so, I can only cry mea culpa.

The history is offered without documentation. I felt that it should at least be readable if not read. I have, however, gone to great pains to verify the facts. I think there is no statement of fact for which I cannot give the apposite reference either from the records of the School or from the published reports and papers.

The entire manuscript has been read by six persons closely associated with the School. In addition, separate chapters and the accounts of the various excavations have been submitted to those most responsible. To all these I wish to express my thanks. I owe a special debt of gratitude to the daughter of John Williams White, Mrs. Richard Norton, for her help and advice. Miss Elizabeth Gaskell Norton has done me a service that nothing can repay by graciously allowing me to read the correspondence of her brother, Charles Eliot Norton, in the Houghton Library.

Those who have read my manuscript are in no way responsible for the judgments I have expressed on persons and policies. They are entirely my own. I know of no way to write history except to relate faithfully what happened. I have consequently refused the suggestion that the history of the School be presented with no reference to mistakes made and policies discredited. Such a narrative I would regard as a serious suppressio veri; besides, it would be unconvincingly unreal.

For careful and painstaking oversight of copy and proof that has saved me from many a mistake I am deeply indebted to Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Hartman.

Louis E. Lord
Scripps College