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The University of Southampton
HistoryPart of Humanities

Dr Alastair Paynter 

Gerda Henkel Stiftung Postdoctoral visiting academic

Dr Alastair Paynter's photo

I specialise in nineteenth-century British history. I completed my BA and MA in History at the University of Southampton, my Masters dissertation focussing on the later political career of the maverick 10th Earl of Wemyss (1818-1914). This led to a PhD on the emergence of libertarian conservatism in Britain from the Second Reform Act in 1867 to the outbreak of the First World War. My thesis involved an examination of the nature of Liberalism and Conservatism, and of the interplay between political thought and practical politics in an era of great transformation. I used the settler colonies of Australia as a case study to examine the way political ideas were exchanged and adapted across the Anglosphere.

I am also interested in the reception of the ancient world in the nineteenth century, with a special focus on the influence of Ancient Greece on Victorian political culture.

Following the completion of my PhD in 2018, I was awarded a scholarship by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung to work on a postdoctoral project concentrating on the reception of Homer and Homeric Greece among leading political and intellectual figures of the Victorian period, including four-time Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, and the historians George Grote and E.A. Freeman, to name just a few. These brought their own political leanings to bear upon the way the Homeric world was interpreted as ancient history was mediated through present political debates.

The cultural atmosphere of the nineteenth century was saturated in the classics. The ancient world was used to instruct, inform, educate and entertain the modern, whilst the Victorians also projected their own image back onto Antiquity. In the eighteenth century, it had largely been Ancient Rome to which contemporaries turned for wisdom and education, but in the nineteenth century attention was fixed primarily upon Greece since it was believed that the Greek experience had more to say to modern Britain, which was also making the transition from aristocracy to democracy.

This project is relevant to a number of fields and will explore the juncture between ancient and modern history, archaeology and the histories of political and intellectual thought.

Dr Alastair Paynter
Student Office, Building 65, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Southampton, Avenue Campus, Southampton. SO17 1BF United Kingdom

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