Professor Roderick Beaton
Koraes Professor of Modern Greek & Byzantine History, Language & Literature
Tel +44 (0)20 7848 2517
Address Department of Classics
D6, North Wing
King's College London, Strand
London WC2R 2LS
Research interests and PhD supervision
Roderick Beaton grew up in Edinburgh where he first studied Latin and ancient Greek before going on to Peterhouse, Cambridge, to graduate with a BA in English Literature and a PhD in Modern Greek. He came to King’s in 1981 as Lecturer in Modern Greek Language and Literature, and in 1988 was appointed to the Koraes Chair. For ten years he headed the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies (whose functions since 2015 have been taken over by the Department of Classics), and from 2012 to 2016 is Director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies, part of the Arts & Humanities Research Institute.
From October 2009 to September 2012 he held a Major Leverhulme Fellowship, and during autumn 2010 the Visiting Fellowship of the British School at Athens, on whose Council he also serves. His most recent book, arising out of his Leverhulme-funded research, is Byron’s War: Romantic Rebellion, Greek Revolution (2013), which won the Runciman Award and the Elma Dangerfield Prize and was shortlisted for the Duff Cooper Prize. In 2013 he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy (FBA).
- Greek literature and history from the 12th century to the present
- Nationalism and national identity in the Hellenic world
- Classical reception in Byzantium and modern Greece
- the Greek novel (ancient, medieval and modern) in comparative context
I am particularly interested in supervising projects that cross disciplinary boundaries, especially between literary study and history, and with a focus on the Hellenic world in modern times (broadly defined).
For more details, please see my full research profile.
Byron's War (2013)
Roderick Beaton re-examines Lord Byron's life and writing through the long trajectory of his relationship with Greece. Beginning with the poet's youthful travels in 1809–1811, Beaton traces his years of fame in London and self-imposed exile in Italy, that culminated in the decision to devote himself to the cause of Greek independence. Then comes Byron's dramatic self-transformation, while in Cephalonia, from Romantic rebel to 'new statesman', subordinating himself for the first time to a defined, political cause, in order to begin laying the foundations, during his 'hundred days' at Missolonghi, for a new kind of polity in Europe – that of the nation-state as we know it today. Byron's War draws extensively on Greek historical sources and other unpublished documents to tell an individual story that also offers a new understanding of the significance that Greece had for Byron, and of Byron's contribution to the origin of the present-day Greek state.
The Making of Modern Greece (2009)
The Making of Modern Greece aims to situate the Greek experience, as never before, within the broad context of current theoretical and historical thinking about nations and nationalism in the modern world. The book spans the period from 1797, when Rigas Velestinlis published a constitution for an imaginary 'Hellenic Republic', at the cost of his life, to the establishment of the modern Olympic Games, in Athens in 1896, an occasion which sealed with international approval the hard-won self-image of 'Modern Greece' as it had become established over the previous century.
George Seferis: Waiting for the Angel: A Biography (2003)
Poet, essayist, diarist, novelist, and diplomat, George Seferis brought about a revolution in the way people viewed his native Greece. Acclaimed for his thought-provoking lyric poetry, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. At the same time, he rose in the diplomatic corps to the position of Ambassador to Britain. This biography of Seferis provides insights into his work, life, and country.
Roderick Beaton, an acknowledged authority on modern Greek literature and culture, draws on previously unknown sources to tell Seferis's story. He describes how Seferis occupied key diplomatic positions during periods of historic crisis before, during, and after World War II. He explores Seferis's service as Ambassador to London at a time when Greece and Great Britain were disputing the future of Cyprus, noting that some of Seferis's finest poetry was written about that troubled island. He analyses Seferis's literary production and his impact on Lawrence Durrell, Henry Miller, and other British and American writers. Exploring the interplay between poet and diplomat, public and private, and poetry and politics in Seferis's life and career, this book should interest anyone interested in 20th-century Greek literature, culture, or history.
An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature (1999)
The book highlights those writers and works which have enjoyed critical or popular acclaim, and emphasizes the relationships which link one work with another and with its historical context. It moves from the varying responses to European Romanticism which defined Greek literature in the nineteenth century, culminating in the work of Palamas and Cavafy in the first decades of this century, to the Modernist influenced work of the years from the 1920s to 1945. A post-war reaction against Modernism was followed by growing experimentation, and the book deals in detail with this most productive of periods in modern Greek literature. No knowledge of Greek is assumed, and all quotations are given in both Greek and English.
An Introduction to Modern Greek Literature is an important source for both specialists and general readers, bringing to light a rich but neglected part of modern European literature
Expertise and public engagement
Myth and modern literature; nations and nationalism in the Hellenic world; Romanticism and the making of modern Greece; Classical reception in modern Greece; and (at MA level) the history of the Greek novel in comparative context.
As Director of the Centre for Hellenic Studies I am responsible for a regular programme of international conferences, academic workshops, public lectures and seminars that draw audiences of over 1000 to King’s over the year. Information about the current year’s programme can be found on the Events homepage.
I have made many appearances on Greek radio and several on television, related to my books on Seferis, Byron and to my ongoing work on Greek national identity. Over the last few years I have given several in-depth interviews to major Greek newspapers. The reception of my research into the making of modern Greece and Lord Byron’s contribution to the Greek Revolution was the subject of an impact case-study in REF2014, and highlighted in the Higher in early 2015. I am available to talk to the media about any aspect of current affairs involving Greece or Cyprus.