Sir Steven Runciman at Istanbul University: How British Wartime Politics Led to the Establishment of the Byzantine Art History Chair

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Bingöl V., Kuban Tokgöz Z.

JOURNAL OF ART HISTORY-SANAT TARIHI YILLIGI, no.31, pp.109-128, 2022 (ESCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.26650/sty.2022.1065160
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI), TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.109-128
  • Keywords: Byzantine Art History, Steven Runciman, Art History Education, Historiography, Istanbul University
  • Istanbul Technical University Affiliated: Yes


The historiography of Byzantine art history education in Turkiye is a widely overlooked subject, despite a number of studies that have already been carried out. The first, and for a long time the only, Byzantine art history chair in Turkiye was founded in March 1942 at Istanbul University, Faculty of Letters, and the first holder of the chair was the British Byzantinist, Sir Steven Runciman. In its background, this foundation had the turbulent politics of the Second World War and three major institutions connected to it: The British Council, The Ministry of Education Turkiye and Istanbul University. This article deals with the historical and political background surrounding the establishment of the chair and with the key figures involved therein. It also deals with the relationship between the three institutions mentioned above. Through a comprehensive survey of archive materials, memoirs, newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, the article depicts Steven Runciman as a Byzantinist, and reviews his courses, travels, and published articles during his post at Istanbul University. It also sheds light on his contribution to academia in Turkiye between 1942 and 1945. The study aims to define and offer an introduction to the earliest stage of the establishment and the objectives of the first Byzantine art history chair in Turkiye.