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Registration and Programme for the ‘Epistemology of Ancient Embryology’ Conference

By Josh Allen - May 24, 2024 (0 comments)

Received from Dr. Nathasja Roggo-van Luijn (Johannes Gutenberg- Universität Mainz)

Epistemology of Ancient Embryology Conference

Dates: 1st – 3rd July 2024

Location: Department of Classics, University of Cambridge/and online

Event website


This conference will explore the various epistemological practices and strategies used in ancient Graeco-Roman embryology. An embryo can turn into a fully-fledged human being, but it is unclear how exactly that happens, as the inner workings of a pregnant female body cannot directly be observed. What methods did ancient thinkers use to circumvent this problem and nevertheless say something about the formation of embryos? What strategies did they employ to come up with theories, corroborate general principles, adapt theories from predecessors, and communicate their own theories to their audiences?

Strategies which were employed include dissection, vivisection, empirical observation of the pregnant female body, studying miscarriages, talking to women and midwives, comparisons with artefacts or plants, inferences from the pregnancy of animals, and connecting it to cosmological views by principle of ‘microcosm-macrocosm’. The conference will focus on the Graeco-Roman world, inviting experts on a range of thinkers (the ‘Presocratics’, the Hippocratic Corpus, Aristotle, Hellenistic doctors, the Stoics, Galen, Middle- and Neoplatonism), but will also include a comparative panel on embryology in other ancient cultures, e.g., China, Babylonia, India, and Egypt. Bringing together experts on the use of a range of methods, thinkers, and traditions, this conference aims to give a coherent account of the various, and often overlapping, epistemological strategies and practices employed in ancient embryology.


Monday July 1st:

8.45-9.15 Coffee

9.15      Introduction

Session (1). Chair: Sophia Connell

9.30-10.30: Caterina Pello

‘From Parmenides to Democritus: Presocratic Embryological Arguments’

10.30-11.30: Nathasja Roggo-van Luijn

‘From Cucumbers to Wool: Analogies in Ancient Greek Embryology’

11.30    Break

Session (2). Chair: Nathasja Roggo-van Luijn

11.45-12.45: Cathie Speiser [online]

‘The Embryo in Ancient Egypt’

12.45-2.00        Lunch

Session (3). Chair: Chiara Blanco

2.00-3.00: George Kazantzidis [online]

Terpsis and Akribeia in Hippocratic Embryology: The story of the seven-day foetus’

3:00-4:00: George Karamanolis [online]

‘Early Christians on the Soul of the Embryo’

4.00-4.30 Break

Session (4). Chair: Lea Cantor

4.30-5.30: Lisa Raphals

‘On the Character of an Unborn Child: Three Excavated Texts on Embryology’

Tuesday July 2:

Session (5) Chair: Nathasja Roggo-van Luijn

9.30-10.30: Vishyna Knezevic

‘Philolaus’s Embryology’

10.30 break

Session (6) Chair: Chiara Martini

10.45-11.45: Aistė Čelkytė

‘The Neopythagoreans and the Mathematics of the Embryo’

11.45-12.45: Alesia Preite

‘The Embodiment of the Immortal Soul in the Timaeus: An Embryological Interpretation of Ti. 42e5-44c4’

12.45-2 Lunch

Session (7) Chair: Myrto Hatzimichali

2.00-3.00: Sophia Connell

‘The Use of Empirical Claims in Galen’s Embryology’

3.00-4.00: Anne Behnke Kinney [online]

‘Embryology in Ancient China’

4.00 Break

Session (8) Chair: Sophia Connell

4.30: Mariska Leunissen [online]

‘Old Wives’ Tales, Maternal Expertise, and Early Medicine in Aristotle’s


7.00 Conference Dinner

Wednesday July 3:

Session (9). Chair: James Warren

9.30-10.30: Chiara Blanco

‘Greek Medical and Biological Influences on Lucretius’ Embryology’

10.30 Break

11.00-12.00: Norah Woodcock

‘Eggs as External Wombs in Aristotle’s Theory of Generation’


In addition to the Past & Present Society this event is supported by the British Society for the History of Philosophy, the Mind Association, Birkbeck University of London, and the Faculty of Classics at the University of Cambridge.

Past & Present is pleased to support this event and supports other events like it. Applications for event funding are welcomed from scholars working in the field of historical studies at all stages in their careers.

Past & Present journal masthead

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RHS Masters’ Scholarships

By Josh Allen - May 23, 2024 (0 comments)

Via the Royal Historical Society

View the original post on the Royal Historical Society Website

RHS Masters’ Scholarships provide financial support to students from groups currently underrepresented in academic History. Each Scholarship is worth £5,000.

Via Royal Historical Society, all rights reserved (2024)

The next round of applications, for students studying for a Masters’ degree in History from September 2024 is now open. Further information on how to apply are available below. Applications may be made via the Society’s applications.

This year the Society seeks to award eight scholarships to students who will begin a Masters’ degree in History (full or part-time) at a UK university from the start of the next academic year. The Society thanks the Past & Present Society and the Scouloudi Foundation for their generous support of this year’s awards.

The programme, established in 2022, seeks to actively address underrepresentation within the discipline, and enable Black and Asian students, along with those of other minorities, to consider academic research in History.

By supporting Masters’ students the programme focuses on a key early stage in the academic training of future researchers. With these Scholarships, we seek to support students who are without the financial means to study for a Masters’ in History. By doing so, we hope to improve the educational experience of early career historians engaged in a further degree.

There are no conditions on what the award may be spent and may be used to support fees, living expenses etc. during the degree course. Recipients also become Postgraduate Members of the Society.

To ensure that scholarships go to those with the greatest need, successful applicants must meet clear eligibility requirements. Potential applicants to the scheme are directed to our eligibility requirements page before beginning the first stage of the application process, via the button below.

Application Process

There are two stages to the RHS Masters Scholarship application process:

  • Stage One gathers key information on your intended course of study and your eligibility.

Only applications successfully demonstrating eligibility will be moved on to:

  • Stage Two, which enables applicants to detail their reasons for applying and to elaborate on the impact an RHS Masters Scholarship will have upon their personal and professional aspirations.

Applications should be submitted via the Society’s applications portal here >

The deadline for receipt of STAGE ONE APPLICATIONS is 11:59PM on Sunday 23 June 2024

Only those successful in demonstrating their eligibility will be invited to complete Stage Two.

The deadline for receipt of STAGE TWO APPLICATIONS is 11:59PM on Sunday 14 July 2024

Scholarship holders for 2023-24

In autumn 2023, the Society was delighted to announce six recipients of Masters’ Scholarships for the academic year 2023-24:

  • Roqibat Adebimpe, to study at the University of Sheffield
  • Matthew Dickinson, to study at the University of Manchester
  • Baryana Ivanova, to study at the University of Cambridge
  • Nawajesh Khan, to study at Cardiff University
  • Marielle Masolo, to study at the University of Oxford
  • Charlotte Willis, to study at Cardiff University

Supporting the Scholarships programme for the academic year 2025-26

In the first two years of the programme (2022-23), the Society has awarded 12 Scholarships, thanks to the additional support of the Past & Present Society, the Thriplow Charitable Trust, and a generous donor. The RHS seeks to offer as many Scholarships as we can to talented eligible early career historians. In 2024-25, the Society is very grateful to the Past & Present Society and the Scouloudi Foundation for their generous support.

If you or your organisation would like to help support future rounds of this programme, please email to discuss options with the RHS President, Professor Emma Griffin.

All other enquiries about the programme should be addressed to:

Programme and Registration for the "Cosmic Magic: Astronomy, Astrology and Graeco-Egyptian Cultural Interactions" workshop

By Josh Allen - May 22, 2024 (0 comments)

Received from Dr. Peter Agócs (University College London)

The UCL Department of Greek and Latin, the Department of Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, Palladion/Graecoaegyptiaca and the Ourania Network are organising a conference entitled ‘Cosmic Magic. Astronomy, Astrology and Graeco-Aegyptian Cultural Interactions’. For the programme, please see here.

The conference, which is fully hybrid, will take place on June 3rd and 4th, 2024 in the UCL Institute of Advanced Studies’ G11 Common Ground Seminar Room (UCL Wilkins Building, South Wing), and on Zoom. Anyone interested is cordially invited.

If you plan to attend, please register via the Eventbrite page.

If you wish to attend in person, please write an email to

Any questions you may have can also be addressed to this email.

The society of Egypt in the Hellenistic and Roman periods was a unique and fascinating melting-pot of Egyptian, Near Eastern and Greek influences. The astronomy and astrology of the period is an exciting area in which to study this rich cultural hybridity. Cosmology was an area where science, religion and magic met and cross-fertilized in a culture where the boundaries between these areas were differently defined. This international project, conceived and run by the established scholarly networks ‘Ourania: Network for Astronomical Cultures in the Ancient and Premodern Worlds’ and ‘Graeco-Aegyptiaca’ (Palladion-UCL), brings together participants from the UK, Europe and US to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration in the fields of Graeco-Egyptian history and the history of ancient astronomy and culture. Our two-day conference, held in London with the support of Palladion, UCL and its Institute of Advanced Studies, the University of Birmingham, the Past and Present Society and the Institute of Classical Studies (University of London IAS) will cast light on how Greek and Egyptian science, religion and magic interacted in the intellectual culture and social and religious practices of Hellenistic and Roman Egypt.


The workshop will be held at the UCL Faculty of Arts and Humanities School of Advanced Studies’ Common Ground seminar space, Room G11 of the South Wing of UCL’s Wilkins Building: information on how to find it will be sent to you on registration. The venue’s location can also be found here.


Monday, 3rd June

9:20 Organisers’ opening remarks – Jess Lightfoot, Peter Agócs, Kata Endreffy and Árpád M. Nagy

9:30–10:40 Marina Escolano-Poveda (Liverpool) and Kim Ryholt (Copenhagen): ʽDemotic Insights on Hephaistion of Thebes’ (in person)

10:40–11:00 Break

11:00–12:10 Alessandra Rochetti (Oxford): ʽThe Cartography of Magic in the Magical Papyri’

(in person)

12:10–13:30 Lunch Break

13:30–14:40 Joachim Quack (Heidelberg): ʽMagic of the Decans’ (via Zoom)

14:40 Visit to the British Museum

Tuesday, June 4th

9:30–10:40 M. Zellmann-Rohrer and A. Winkler (Sydney and Berlin): ʽEgyptian Astrological Manuals in Demotic and Greek’ (presented by Winkler in person)

10:40–11:00 Break

11:00–12:10 Véronique Dasen: TBA (via Zoom)

12:10–12:40 Lunch break

12:40–13:50 Fabio Spadini (Fribourg): ʽAstro-magical gemstones: some case studies’ (in person)

13:50–15:00 Free discussion about the possibilities of research collaboration in this area.

Eventbrite Registration

Past & Present is pleased to support this event and supports other events like it. Applications for event funding are welcomed from scholars working in the field of historical studies at all stages in their careers.

Past & Present journal masthead

Past & Present logo, 2017 all rights reserved

Programme and Registration for Communication and Exchange in the Early Modern c. 1500-1850

By Josh Allen - May 21, 2024 (0 comments)

Received from Joey Crozier (Aberystwyth University)

Key Details

Communication and Exchange in the Early Modern c. 1500-1850

Date: 30th-31st May 2024

Location: Aberystwyth (Main Hall, International Politics Building, Main Campus, University of Aberystwyth)


Event Poster

Registration (free)

Past & Present is pleased to support this event and supports other events like it. Applications for event funding are welcomed from scholars working in the field of historical studies at all stages in their careers.

Past & Present journal masthead

Past & Present logo, 2017 all rights reserved

The Present in the Past: Reflections on Veiling Practices and Practicing History

By Josh Allen - May 20, 2024 (0 comments)

by Grace Stafford (University of Vienna)

I first became interested in practices of veiling and head-covering during my PhD, when I stumbled across one of the single most beautiful portraits to survive from antiquity (in my opinion at least!). It is a marble bust of a woman, rendered with such sensitivity and plasticity that seems almost impossible for stone. She gazes just past us with heavily lidded eyes, her face calm, and her voluminous hairstyle enveloped by a delicate cover that creases and bunches with spectacular realism. She was made around 400 CE, probably somewhere near the east Roman capital of Constantinople, and represents a woman from a prominent family, or at least one rich enough to have a portrait like this carved. She is truly a triumph of late antique artistry, sitting right at the end of a 1000-year tradition of ancient portrait sculpture.

Figure 1: Marble bust of a woman holding a scroll, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (image in the public domain).

What really attracted my attention though, was the way in which she was described in the catalogue of Roman portraits in which I found her. After a long and detailed description typical of such books, the final paragraph turned to the issue of her covered hair. It stated directly that this garment was not simply a matter of fashion, but rather the result of early Church leaders promoting women covering their hair as a symbol of religious modesty. It then went on to affirm that despite apparently adhering to these ideas, the thin, delicate material of the covering showed the lengths to which women would go to show off the beauty of their hair by choosing the sheerest possible covering. Into this one portrait had been read a complex narrative of oppression and resistance, modesty and vanity, all triggered by the presence of a simple hair covering.

Looking through the rest of the catalogue, there were other portraits of women with covered heads from earlier, pre-Christian centuries, but none of them drew the same level of analysis. Those head-coverings were deemed to be ‘traditional’ or simply a marker of the woman’s married status. It seemed to me that the only difference between these portraits and the late antique bust was the date: being made around 400 CE allowed it to be connected to the rise of Christianity. This in turn prompted a very specific reading which saw this head-covering as the result of a collision between emerging Christian expectations of female modesty and dress driven by zealous churchmen, and one woman’s attempts to resist such requirements.

To my eye, this interpretation of the bust appeared inextricably – if unintentionally – linked to the way in which Islamic veiling practices are often presented in modern Western media and political discourse. The practice of covering the hair, as well as parts of the face and body, is routinely presented as a tool used to oppress women and as a symbol of religious fundamentalism. Not veiling or veiling in a manner considered subversive or not fully compliant with requirements is in turn presented as a liberal act of defiance against religious authorities. In some contexts this is true, as recent events in Iran have demonstrated with protests against legally enforced hair-covering. However, it does not accurately reflect the experiences of the millions of women worldwide who cover their heads and hair. Veiling and head-covering is a deeply complex and diverse set of practices that differs between countries and religious traditions as well as between families, communities, and across the lifespan and experiences of individuals.

Figure 2: Marble bust of a woman holding a scroll, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (image in the public domain).

This got me thinking about the early Christian world of Late Antiquity. In the popular imagination the early Church does not have a great reputation when it comes to women’s rights. A common narrative is one of increasing social restrictions, new limitations on women’s actions and appearance, and ultimately a move towards a society that was dominated by narrow-minded religious teachings. While this narrative was first popularised by Edward Gibbon in the 18th century, it has been reinforced more recently by popular books like Catherine Nixey’s 2017 best-seller The Darkening Age: The Christian Destruction of the Classical World – a book that was incidentally was roundly criticised by historians of Late Antiquity. It seemed to me, then, that this late antique bust was stuck between the two expectations: that the early Christian Church was religiously repressive, and that veiling is used by religions deemed repressive as a tool to repress women in particular. But if modern veiling practices are far more nuanced and complex than they are often presented in the media, what does that mean for late antique practices? Were things really as black and white as the text of the catalogue suggested?

In my recent Open Access article, “Veiling and Head-Covering in Late Antiquity: Between Ideology, Aesthetics, and Practicality”, Past and Present No.263, I argue that insights from research into modern Islamic veiling can fundamentally change how we understand veiling in the past. Using these insights and the examination of visual representations of late antique women, I show that veiling in this period was also complex, responding to women’s practical needs, fashion trends, and the demands of particular occasions as well as religious ideas about modesty and piety. We cannot know why exactly the woman in the bust was shown wearing her beautiful head-covering, or how she felt about it. But we can situate it within wider patterns of veiling drawn from sources beyond the diatribes of churchmen. When we do so, we can see that style probably played a significant role in the choice of garment: around the time that the bust was made at the turn of the fifth century, such head-coverings were the height of fashion among the Mediterranean elite. Beyond this bust, the visual record preserves a huge diversity of veiled and non-veiled styles of dress for women, who seem to have used head-coverings as a tool that could be employed when it was deemed appropriate, being used and removed in different circumstances. While some women may indeed have felt pressured by religious leaders to cover their heads, this is far from the whole story, and does not do justice to the nuanced relationship between dress, gender, and faith.

Writing this article also forced me to reflect on one of the cardinal rules of being a historian that I learned as a student: try not to let your ideas and experiences of the present impact how you interpret the past. The intentions behind such objectivity are of course noble, but they are also – to be frank – impossible to live up to. For better or worse, how we look back at the past will always be shaped by how we move through the present. To some readers, how I interweave discussion of Islamic veiling through my article might seem like an unwelcome intrusion of the present into the past. But such intrusions are inevitable, and so I think it is better for us to explicitly recognise them and use them critically to enhance our scholarship.