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Geoffrey Lloyd interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 7th June 2005

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Geoffrey Lloyd interviewed by Alan Macfarlane 7th June 2005
0:05:17 Born 1933; father was a doctor, born in Swansea, as was mother; he was very Welsh; came to London as a T.B. specialist; mother full of dynamism; brother and I evacuated with mother during the war; brother has written autobiography; moved many times and went to about six different schools before the age of twelve; father remained in London to deal with bomb damaged patients; experienced living in Wales during war; appalling education; went to a boarding preparatory school called Lambrook; scholarship to Charterhouse where brother was head boy; don’t recognise the Charterhouse I knew in the novels of Simon Raven and Frederick Raphael; it was pretty philistine – anti-intellectual; protected by prowess at sport; one sympathetic teacher, Harry Iredale; poetry group; at sixteen best subject mathematics; given bad advice to study classics
10:55:23 Tried for Oxford at seventeen; interviewed by Trevor-Roper; turned down; Patrick Wilkinson at Cambridge keen to recruit from Charterhouse and got a scholarship; gave up classics in last year at Charterhouse and did history and also learnt Italian from Wilf Noyce who had previously climbed Everest; came to King’s where brother had been a medical student; one group at King’s were people my brother had known, like Simon Raven, who were pretty unconcerned about exams and pretty dissolute; second group – the scholars – solemn and serious-minded, followers of right-wing Catholicism; third group included people like Neil Ascherson, Robert Erskine and Chris Foster; became an Apostle which included non-King’s men like Jonathan Miller, later Moses Finley; Noel Annan invited to become one quite late in life; Eric Hobsbawm was one
16:03:14 Coming to King’s was an absolute liberation after Charterhouse; could read what I liked, study what I liked; didn’t want to read classics here; had been advised by Noyce to see Prof. Vincent to see if I could read modern languages but not encouraging; classics teaching was very good – Patrick Wilkinson, Donald Lucas and John Raven; latter had come from Trinity; at that time writing ‘The Presocratic Philosophers’ with G.S. Kirk and giving very exciting lectures; did Part 1 and stayed with classics to do ancient philosophy because of Raven; encouraged by Patrick Wilkinson to widen experience; went to Leavis’s lectures etc., was taking lectures in philosophy and English literature; classics then was challenging from a linguistics point of view but not intellectually, so time to read widely; play reading society called ‘The Ten Club’ where Dadie Rylands appeared from time to time; met every Wednesday evening during term; Monday evening reading Greek plays organised by Frank Adcock
23:05:08 By third year seriously wondering what to do with life; considered training as a medical student but deterred by time it would take, also had done well in classics and could get money for research and was in love with Ji, my future wife; she was also a Lloyd; met at Pevsner’s art lectures on 14th February 1953; decided to try research; got two studentships, both of which dictated that I should live in classical lands; for three months of the year was either in Greece or Sicily or Italy; supposed to be working on ancient philosophy; 1954-5 in Athens, a very lively place; Sarah Rock, a friend who worked for World Council of Churches, introduced me to musicians; I bought and learnt to play a bouzouki, and did very little work; I was advised by T.B.L. Webster to study abstract terminology in Greek philosophy; Prof. Guthrie had not known what to advise but had introduced me to Greek medicine
29:28:03 Can’t remember when I first met Meyer Fortes, but reading anthropology and meeting him led to my PhD research - Polarity and Analogy; Durkheim and Levy-Bruhl suggested something to be done; wrote first draft of thesis in 3-4 months and put it in for the research fellowship competition at King’s College (Cambridge), which I got; due to start March 1957 by which time I had married; living in London where Ji worked as translator for Shell; learnt that I had been supported by Richard Braithwaite and Arthur Hibbert
33:35:00 Bought a little house in Cambridge but still had National Service to do; most friends at Charterhouse did their National Service immediately after leaving school; three friends died within three years of leaving school doing National Service; had seriously considered pleading I was a conscientious objector but warned by Neil Ascherson of the consequences; delayed doing it as long as I could but called up in 1958 when already married and a fellow of King’s, and had a son
36:08:15 Recruited into the Northamptonshire Regiment; traumatic; learnt about institutional torture and humiliation; on arrival at the barracks had to clean the urinals with a bayonet; trying to get out of this regiment and thought I could use fluency in modern Greek to help in the Cyprus situation where E.O.K.A. was conducting a war of independence against Britain; introduced to Philip Noel Baker, possibly by Noel Annan, an M.P. with Greek connections; he suggested I talk to people in the Foreign Office; interviewed prior to going to the Northamptonshire Regiment and told they were looking for interrogators; offered lots of money but not what I wanted to do; later became an officer in the Intelligence Corps; despite wanting to stay in England I was sent to Cyprus; had not told them I spoke Greek; arrived in Famagusta, then taken to register in Nicosia in a lorry driven by a Cypriot who’d been a patient of my father’s; started talking to him in Greek; other soldiers reported me; asked why I was speaking Greek and told they had never had a Greek speaker in the Intelligence Corps in Cyprus! Given job in Famagusta harbour in port and travel control
41:50:16 There was one person on the black list that I did have to check out; he was on the black list as wanted to have a university career and there was no university in Cyprus so he went to Warsaw and did a PhD in philosophy; assumed to be a communist and when he in all innocence came in via Famagusta I was called to translate; asked him what he was doing – writing on Aristotle’s categories; started to talk surrounded by non Greek speaking soldiers; later became a good friend and a professor in Toronto; spent a year in Cyprus and Ji and eldest son came to join me; 1959 the agreement had been signed and Greeks and Turks on much better terms than later
45:59:00 Back to Cambridge in 1960; significant conversation with Edmund Leach who had been to America in 1961; we were in the chapel waiting to admit a new fellow; started talking about right and left and Leach as a result introduced me to Rodney Needham; inspiring; this was a different sort of anthropology from Fortes’s, acknowledged in the book which came from PhD research, ‘Polarity and Analogy’; by then I was using anthropology to analyse ancient Greeks and Levi-Strauss was all the rage; my copy of ‘Anthropologie Structurale’ I bought in 1960; devoured it and studies he referred to; Meyer Fortes had encouraged my interest in anthropology but it was my meeting with Leach that really made me take it much more seriously
49:21:10 ‘Polarity and Analogy’ came out in 1966; got to know Moses Finley soon after I got back in the 1960’s; he was an inspiration and a great person; ‘The World of Odysseus’ showed how sociological insights could throw light on ancient texts; helped me and also Ji as he gave her her first translating job; Finley had been taken up by the French; article by Vidal-Naquet on the works of Moses Finley in ‘Annales’ published in 1965, and very complimentary; Finley invited him and Vernant to Cambridge; I met them both at a dinner party in Finley’s house which was a further important turning point; led to my going to Paris to lecture where I also met people like Detienne
53:10:16 There had been a major quarrel in the classics faculty over a university assistant lectureship that had been advertised in 1963-4; two camps, one of which said it must go to a philologist, the other, Finley, who suggested Lloyd; appointments committee hung so Finley suggested all resign and a new committee; I was appointed in 1965 which meant I would probably be making my career in Cambridge; by then an assistant tutor in King’s; doing quite a bit of writing and assisting John Broadbent, the senior tutor, also heavily involved in admissions; we entertained students at our house every Sunday evening during full term; King’s not co-residential then so had to persuade unsuspecting New Hall or Newnham girls to come
57:02:08 1966 ‘Polarity and Analogy’ came out to very mixed response; became involved in rather more popular books and 1968 published book on Aristotle which is still in print; Moses Finley got me to do two books on Greek science; reception of ‘Polarity and Analogy’ by classics was bemusement, in philosophy that it was totally unphilosophical - very critical review by David Hamlyn; Rodney Needham wrote a favourable review in ‘American Anthropology’ saying that this was the sort of applied anthropology that should be encouraged; taken up by the French; Brunschvig, who later translated my books on science, warmly welcomed the book; popular in other circles but not main-stream classics; use of anthropology caused scepticism even with my PhD supervisor, Geoffrey Kirk
Second Part
0:05:17 Appointed senior tutor, Edmund Leach was then Provost; sent to U.S. 1968-9 to investigate situation in a number of American campuses; talked to people who had demonstrated at Columbia and Berkeley; varied reasons for student protests from Vietnam to internal politics; period of the sit-in in Cambridge; student representation on committees; back in 1969 to problem of co-residence; not enough places for women in Cambridge; three colleges went co-residential, King’s, Clare and Churchill first; difficult for first generation of women; appointed women dons and tutors
6.03.07 Leach a controversial Provost because of his Reith Lectures; pretty autocratic; I found him rather difficult; decided after three years as senior tutor only to do another year; however, intellectually very stimulating; enjoyed dealing with undergraduates, one of whom was Charles Clarke; got to know him quite well as visited a friend of Clarke’s who had had a nervous breakdown together; found him very considerate and imaginative; students were not a problem within the college at that time, though later were when Bernard Williams was Provost
9:57:02 Didn’t have much to do with College administration until I became involved with the Research Centre; next personal development was going to the Far East; invited to Japan in 1981 by a translator of one of my books, Kawada Shigeru; marvellous person; Kawada was a pupil of Tanaka Michitaru, a pacifist, who had worked on Western humanist scholarship as a counterbalance to nationalism; we travelled extensively with Kawada explaining Japanese culture; later invited him to Cambridge; he had never been outside Japan but adapted very easily; since then have been to Japan four or five times
14:49:02 1987 invited to Beijing to lecture; marvellous time to be there as it was very open; people talked openly about the Cultural Revolution and we never found anyone who supported it; my students were absolutely amazing; lecturing about Greek mathematics, medicine and philosophy; axiomatic style in Euclid’s proof debated; forced me to learn enough classical Chinese to be able to study Chinese mathematics, medicine and philosophy in the original; got permission for my host, Li Jun, to come to Cambridge to study together; also taught by a graduate student, Bridie Andrews, who took me through basics of Chinese classical grammar; didn’t make much progress with regular texts but when I concentrated on mathematical texts, as so interested, ideograms stuck; within about two years confident enough to read on my own; do not find modern Chinese so easy and have to collaborate on Japanese texts; chief collaborator is Nathan Sivin with whom I wrote ‘The Way and the Word’
20:36:23 Began to be heavily involved in Chinese studies; invited by head of Institute of Natural Sciences, Liu Dun; Zhu Kezhen lectures televised; find students amazingly talented and very persistent; now half my time spent on comparative studies; memories of Joseph Needham; became a trustee of the Needham Research Institute 1989-90 when it appeared rather moribund; keen to help revitalize it; marvellous library which I had begun to use; 1991-2 became chairman; programme of reform with proper accounting and publication board; successfully raised finance so that it is now flourishing; have my office there although chairman now Lady Pamela Youde
28:20:10 Went to Darwin College in 1989 as Master; had little money but managed to raise some for fellowships; two Finley fellowships and a lively research fellowship programme; college founded in 1964 as co-resident research college; graduates come from all over the world; really enjoyed the eleven years spent there; Darwin Lectures
32:22:02 Memories of Eric Hobsbawm and Jack Goody; Ji and three sons; Ji a translator of 60-70 books; won Scott-Moncrieff prize twice; description of translations; always travel together
40:28:21 Have found that I couldn’t write for more than a few hours a day; find administration a great relaxation; would work at home until mid-morning, then go in to teach and do administrative work; Darwin allowed me to take off time in Spain where we have a place, fully equipped with dictionaries etc. where I have done lots of my writing; in Spain the relaxation is picking almonds or making olive oil by hand
43:05:06 Anthropology and history; reflections on life; King’s and Darwin and the value of collegiate interaction

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