Students come to university to discover answers. It is the job of a university to convince them that what they want is less important than what they need. They want answers, but they need to learn how to ask questions.
The world is awash with people who have answers. If you want answers there are plenty of people in the pub or on Twitter who can give you answers. What we lack is the ability to ask the right questions. Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) realized this when he had the super computer Deep Thought come up with the answer to life, the universe and everything. 42 was the answer, but unless we understand the question the answer is meaningless. The problem is that the questions need to be so complex if we are to even come close to providing workable answers. What is more, the world (should I say worlds?) keeps shifting. What may have been true yesterday can become false today. Worse, something may remain true at one angle, but becomes false from another.
Hence the name of this site: The Dregs of Romulus. Even the story behind this name is complicated. No, actually it would be better to say it is wrong. Cicero did not write of M. Porcius Cato that “he delivers his opinions as though he were living in Plato’s Republic rather than among the dregs of Romulus”. This is actually a cleaned-up version. He actually said “the shit of Romulus” (although the excellent Mary Beard opts for the less vulgar ‘crap’ in SPQR).
This is a site dedicated to discussing the complex world that we live in… or, rather the bits of it that interest me and that I feel I can talk about with a little authority. It accepts, indeed wallows in, the complexity of our world to which there are no simple answers… and the answers are less important than the questions.
Since I mainly write in the history of international thought many of the blogs will deal with subjects in that field, although I cannot promise to stay there. The dregs of Romulus that we live in is an exciting place that throws up so many interesting topics that need questioning and interrogation.
Wherever the questions take us, let’s just enjoy the ironies and complexities of living in the dregs of Romulus.
It is in the nature of humanity to forget its past. I try to make sure that people remember.
I am a professor in the Department of Political Science at Memorial University of Newfoundland, where my main area of research is the history of international thought. People often make the mistake of asking me where I am from, which is actually an impossible question for me to answer. having lived in four countries, while holding three nationalities, and with an immediate family born over three continents, where I am ‘from’ is complicated. I suppose I am one of those people Teresa May calls ‘citizens of nowhere’… No wonder I study international relations.
While my interest in space was forced upon me, my fascination with time was adopted voluntarily. Perhaps it is easier if you have been a ‘foreigner’ all your adult life to understand the past, since the past is a foreign country remembered only in fragments. My research has taken me on a journey in one particular corner of time and space: the history of international thought. The best way I can sum up researching in this field is through an analogy I used in the prologue of my 2014 book:
“Studying the past is like investigating the aftermath of an explosion. The pieces that can be put together to make a coherent story are spread in a seemingly random pattern. While some materials have evaporated entirely, or at best been left scorched and incomplete, others are present in their entirety, but are ripped up and spread around the site. You usually arrive on the scene after others have already tried to make sense of the scene, leaving behind attempts to reconstruct what had been present. These are the stories constructed by those who have already tried to reconstruct, in whole or in part, what had happened. Some have done their job well, while others have made leaps of logic that you now realise are wrong. Others still have made ill-informed assumptions about what had been there, and have failed to properly investigate the material. Even while piecing together what you find, you realise that the task in front of you keeps revealing an increasingly complex picture. You piece together what you can, draw your conclusions, but also realise that you don’t quite have all the information you need (and probably never will), and that perhaps someone someday will find something in the debris that you missed.”
My major publications (books, articles, & book chapters) can be accessed here: Ashworth publications May 2020
Lucian M. Ashworth
Department of Political Science
Memorial University of Newfoundland