Apologies to the loyal readers who’ve commented upon my long silence since the last Summer Schools blog. There are several reasons for this. The most pathetic is that my annual leave in early May – instead of being a refreshing chance to rest and re-charge batteries before the summer – turned into a near-two week ‘flu-like cold, after which the cough and the sluggishness has rather lingered. And as a result I am waaay behind on many of the tasks I should have completed at this stage in the run up to your arrival.
We’re busy – as we always are – at this time of year, but it feels ‘super-busy’ just at the moment. There are still enquiries from people planning to join us, lots of arrangements to finalise, and we’re filling the last few plenary slots before getting the programme timetables to print. Although we cannot quite claim to match the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology’s strapline (see the link below) of ‘Everything, everywhere, ever’ in the spread of topics we cover, and were unable to bring you everything we had planned to, we have more than *150* plenary, afternoon and evening talks. It looks a tremendous line-up, and I am hoping to get to hear a good number this year.
From The public and private lives of Chinese Emperors, Roman luxury: the temptations of the East to Islam: the executioner or heir of antiquity, the new Ancient Empires programme promised to be a fascinating addition to our palette of Summer Schools. The Literature programme’s ‘Triumphs and Disasters’ series takes us from Dante to Kipling, and from Rome to the Carribean. The History series: ‘Leaders and Leadership’ swoops across hundreds of years and five continents, from Henry VIII to Julius Nyerere.
Our ISS Term I Intelligence series includes the ever popular talk about the Enigma code-breaking machine (which - as the photo shows- always attracts a surge on to the stage at the end of the talk). The series also has talks on Emotional intelligence and success as well as Knowing where the bodies are buried: no, you have to join us to find out about that one! The Shakespeareans will be treated to intriguing takes ("This is too long": Shakespeare's unnecessary scenes) and very modern interpretations (Painted Devils: Shakespeare in comics and Manga) and Medievalists to learning about the skills involved medieval shipbuilding, stained glass- making and calligraphy. Science, as ever, gives us a range of intriguing titles, including Gambling on the brain, Survival of our planet: threats from space, and Thinking like a vegetable: how plants decide what to do. And for those who join us for the final Summer School of the season, on the Silk Route, there are treats in store on trade and tribute, Timurid, Ummayad, Seljuk and Ottoman architecture, and many other topics.
In short, we’ve got rising stars, established experts and ‘celebrities’ in the academic world, and several whose media presence mean people will recognise them from radio and television broadcasts: Tom Holland, Paul Cartledge, David Starkey.
And in breaks between courses and lectures there’s always something exciting happening: we’ve been reminded that the work to update one of Cambridge’s magnificent collections is complete, and students on any of our programmes this summer can visit the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. The link takes you to an introduction to the Museum which is open and free to visit from Tuesday to Saturday, 10.30am to 4.30pm. Only a fraction of their one million objects are on show, but there’s such a vast range of artifacts that you are bound to find something of interest, whether you are a student on the Science Summer School, or Ancient Empires, History, Interdisciplinary or Medieval Studies. And since the Roman skeleton that inspired Sylvia Plath’s 1957 poem All the Dead Dears is back on view, there’s something for the Literature Summer School students, too.
And of course, the magnificent Tomb Treasures of Han China exhibition has opened to great acclaim at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Busily being ill on holiday many miles away, I missed the opening, so will be trying to see the exhibition several times between now and its November closing date.
Whilst my main bugbear with the London Olympics 2012 is that it seems airfares for everyone who is planning to do something other than attend the Olympics (eg, come to our Summer Schools) are less affordable than they should be (remember a previous blog which suggested different ways of getting to us, if you have not already finalised your travel plans), there is a buzz here. The Olympic flame has just hit the UK mainland down in the far South West (Land’s End in Cornwall), and comes through Cambridge on Saturday evening 7 July, leaving early the next morning. So for any of you who happened to be arriving a day early for one the first programmes, there’s a chance to glimpse it.
But for everyone else, we can at least feel that Cambridge is very much ‘on the map’ for this exciting year. We’ve a talk on 'The Mesoamerican Ball Game: athletics, politics or religion?' which pays homage to the importance of sport in an ancient society. And in the year of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, we’ve a talk on Head of Our Morality: why the modern British monarchy matters.
So, there’s a lot on offer. If you haven’t signed up and you are wondering what to do with your summer – especially if you are UK-based and don’t wish to go anywhere near an airport – go the web pages and find out which courses still have space!
See you soon.