Professor Neville Morley
Professor in Classics and Ancient History
I've worked in Exeter since 2016, and research and teach in three different areas of ancient history:
(i) ancient economic and social history, including trade, urbanisation, slavery, agriculture and demography, with a particular focus on Roman Italy and the city of Rome;
(ii) the reception and influence of ancient texts and examples in the modern world, especially in the social sciences, with a particular focus on the influence of the Greek historian Thucydides in historiography and political theory;
(iii) theoretical and methodological approaches to ancient history, especially social-scientific approaches.
I've recently written a polemical little book on Classics: why it matters, forthcoming from Polity, and am currently working on Marx and Antiquity (OUP), as well as developing research projects on Thucydides and modern political theory and on Roman economic thought.
I am an Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universitaet Berlin, as part of an ongoing collaboration with colleagues there studying change and instability in the ancient world and its modern interpretation.
I have three main research areas - though in practice they overlap and influence one another, as well as leading in new directions.
(i) Ancient economic and social history, including trade, urbanisation, slavery, agriculture and demography, with a particular focus on Roman Italy and the city of Rome. I have published monographs on the impact of the city of Rome on the Italian economy and on approaches to trade in classical antiquity, as well as articles and chapters on a wide range of economic topics. I am currently working on a series of article-length pieces on Roman economic thought and the Roman agronomists, seeking to develop a proper understanding of the concepts and values that shaped Roman thinking about economic matters. In the longer term, I have an interest in exploring the relationship between economy and ecology - the role of the environment in shaping economic structures - in the ancient Mediterranean.
(ii) The reception and influence of ancient texts and examples in the modern world, especially in the social sciences, with a particular focus on the influence of the Greek historian Thucydides in historiography and political theory. I have written on the development of different conceptions of 'modernity' and the contrast with 'antiquity' in the nineteenth century, as well as chapters on important figures like Marx and Nietzsche, and am currently working on a monograph on Marx and Antiquity. I ran a four-year research project, funded by the AHRC, on Thucydides: reception, reinterpretation and influence, which considered the modern reception of the ancient Greek historian in different fields, especially historiography; I am currently developing a follow-on project that will focus on his place within different traditions of political thought and social science.
(iii) Theoretical and methodological approaches to ancient history, especially social-scientific approaches. I have written about the rhetorical structures of economic history, quantitative methods, translation, and conceptions of time and change; further, my work on Thucydides is directly concerned with the dynamics of the relationship between history and social science.
As well as the above, I am currently working on a short book on Classics: why it matters, and have plans in the longer term for a monograph on classical themes in the work of the German novelist Christa Wolf.
I am happy to discuss research proposals related to any of my interests: ancient economic and social history, Thucydides and his reception, ancient and modern political thought, the modern influence of ancient ideas, and historiography and historical theory. Topics studied by students I have supervised in the past include the city in late antique Gaul and Britain, money and the economy in the Roman empire, Thucydides in seventeenth-century political thought, the reception of Thucydides in modern military education, Michel de Montaigne's reading of Sparta, and ancient and modern ideas of plague.
External impact and engagement
I am developing a project to make use of extracts from the work of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides as a basis for promoting critical debate about politics, citizenship and power in schools. This includes performance of a special adaptation of The Melian Dialogue (see this version) and other key passages, and will involve the creation (in collaboration with teachers) of a range of written and web-based resources. I am also working on a series of YouTube videos, both talking about Thucydides and presenting extracts from his text in new formats.
I blog regularly about my research, about the reception of Thucydides and his potential relevance to contemporary issues, and about anything else that catches my interest, at http://thesphinxblog.com, and on Twitter @NevilleMorley. I also seek to correct misquotations and misappropriations of Thucydides on Twitter, via the Thucydiocy Bot (@Thucydiocy).
Contribution to discipline
Editorial Board, Journal of Roman Studies
Associate Editor, Classical Receptions Journal.
Area Editor for Economic History, Oxford Classical Dictionary Online.
Standing Committee member, Council of University Classics Departments
Network Co-Chair for 'Antiquity' section of the European Social Science History Conference (https://esshc.socialhistory.org/)
Editorial Board, Classical Receptions in Twentieth-Century Writing, Bloomsbury.
Editorial Board, Thoukidideia, Vandenhoek & Rupprecht
I studied History and then Classics at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, continuing on to a PhD, under the supervision of Peter Garnsey, on the city of Rome and its influence on the economy of Italy. I worked as a temporary lecturer in Classics at the University of Wales Lampeter (as it then was) in 1994-5 before moving to a lectureship in Bristol, where I spent more than twenty years, working my way up to a personal chair, and also serving for eight years as Undergraduate Dean and Faculty Education Director. I moved to Exeter in 2016 in search of new challenges and exciting new colleagues - while being very happy to remain in the West Country, where in my spare time I grow vegetables, brew, make sausages and salami, and play jazz guitar very badly.