Assyriology: an Alice in Wonderland house

Interview by Uzume Wijnsma

Dr. Seth Richardson is a historian who mostly studies the Old Babylonian period (ca. 2000-1600 BCE) of ancient Iraq. Among his topics are the ancient state and political legitimacy. In 2017 he gave a guest lecture at Leiden University.

First things first: Why did you choose to go into Assyriology?

That’s a very difficult question. I suppose everybody’s answer will be different. Mine, maybe, is even more different. I was a historian, I knew I wanted to study history, and I took some years to try and figure out what historical discipline I would choose to work on in graduate school. At a certain point I really decided, mostly as a reaction to having done American history, that I wanted something that did not have a lot of boundaries. I didn’t want something very ‘pigeon-holed’, so to say. So I decided I was going to do world history. This was a great, grand idea: there are people who do world history.

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