Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman by Minoo Dinshaw - review by James Howard-Johnston

James Howard-Johnston

Conjuring up the Past

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman


Allen Lane 768pp £30 order from our bookshop

Steven Runciman cut an impressive figure among historians of Byzantium. On the whole we kept our distance. We were both in awe of him and inclined to criticise what Minoo Dinshaw refers to as a lack of ‘societal breadth’ in his gripping narrative histories. (It is present only in his History of the First Bulgarian Empire and a 1957 lecture on Sicily, in which he showed that he could, if he wanted, perform in the manner approved by the Annales school of history.)

My first encounter with him was in 1970 at Elshieshields, the tower in Dumfriesshire that in 1966 had replaced his retreat on the Hebridean island of Eigg and his London quarters as the repository of his library and his main working place. Runciman’s first words were, ‘I see

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