Nicholas Purcell (classicist)

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Nicholas Purcell FBA is Camden Professor of Ancient History [1] and a Fellow of Brasenose College, Oxford. Before holding this post he was University Lecturer in Ancient History at the University of Oxford and a Tutorial Fellow at St John's College, Oxford.


From 1974 to 1977 Nicholas Purcell was an undergraduate at Worcester College, Oxford before becoming Prize-Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford until 1979. During his time as an undergraduate at Worcester College he was a student of Peter Brunt.[2] From 1979 until October 2011 he was Tutorial Fellow at St John's College, Oxford succeeding Nicholas Sherwin-White. He was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2007. Upon becoming Camden Professor of Ancient History in October 2011 he became a Fellow of Brasenose College.

Lectures and Professorships[edit]

In 1998 Purcell gave the Jerome lectures at the University of Michigan and in 2008 the Rostovtzeff lectures at Yale University.[3] In 2010 he gave the Gray Lectures at the University of Cambridge. In 2012 Purcell became the 98th Sather Professor at the University of California, Berkeley lecturing on 'Venal Histories: The Character, Limits, and Historical Importance of Buying and Selling in the Ancient World'.[4] In 2012 he also gave the Charles Alexander Robinson, Jr. Memorial Lecture at Brown University entitled 'Roman Diasporas & Texture of Empire.'[5] Purcell has also held the Chaire d'excellence Pierre de Fermat at the University of Toulouse II - Le Mirail.[6]


Purcell has research interests in the social, economic and cultural history of Rome and the City of Rome as well as the Mediterranean Sea and its history.[6]

Purcell is known especially for his 'ecological view' of ancient history as well as his expertise in ancient Mediterranean history.[4] The publication of his book 'The Corrupting sea: A Study of Mediterranean History' (co-written with Peregrine Horden) has been hailed as a 'notable intellectual event'.[7] The book's main thesis is that the Mediterranean is a region made up of micro-regions.[7] The book argues that the Mediterranean ought to be seen in terms of the ecological lines of force linking countless small regions and micro-economies together rather than in terms of a few famous metropoleis.[4] Purcell stresses the longues durées and insists that the different themes of history, i.e. politics, culture, economy, ideas and institutions must be studied in close association. Purcell is currently concerned with expanding this work and with situating the Mediterranean in even larger contexts so as to show how ancient history can be used to answer global historical questions.[6]

Selected Bibliography[edit]

  • Nicholas, Purcell (2000), The Corrupting Sea: a Study of Mediterranean History (with P. Horden), Blackwell 
  • Nicholas, Purcell (2003), 'Becoming historical: the Roman case' in David Braund and Christopher Gill, eds., Myth, History and Culture in Republican Rome: Studies in Honour of T.P.Wiseman, University of Exeter Press 
  • Nicholas, Purcell (2005), 'Romans in the Roman world' in K. Galinsky, ed., The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Augustus, Cambridge University Press 
  • Nicholas, Purcell (2007), 'The horti of Rome and the landscape of property’ in Res bene gestae: ricerche di storia urbana su Roma antica in onore di Eva Margareta Steinby, Festschrift M. Steinby 
  • Nicholas, Purcell (2012), 'Romans, Play On!' Rome, city of the Games in The Blackwell Companion to the City of Rome, Blackwell 
  • Nicholas, Purcell (2013), The Kingdom of the Capitol, University of Michigan Press 


  1. ^ "Appointment: Camden Professorship of Ancient History". Oxford University Gazette. University of Oxford. 2011-04-28. Retrieved 2011-04-29. 
  2. ^ [1], Brasenose College Website
  3. ^ [2], Faculty of Classics Yale
  4. ^ a b c [3], Faculty of Classics Berkeley
  5. ^ [4], Faculty of Classics, Brown University
  6. ^ a b c [5], Faculty of Classics Oxford
  7. ^ a b The English Historical Review Vol. 116, No. 468 (Sep., 2001), p. 900

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Alan Bowman
Camden Professor of Ancient History, Oxford University
Succeeded by