Like many of the works we all study, there is no original record of the birth of the Oxford Byzantine Society (OBS), now Oxford University Byzantine Society (OUBS): there is oral tradition, there are memories from the members who witnessed the birth and growth of this group of scholars, students and even amateurs who gathered together under the one flag of Byzantinism.
The first memory of a social event is a party in Christ Church organised by Anne McCabe, who worked with Prof. Cyril Mango on horse medicine. From 1998 it appears as one-day graduate (first just Oxford then wider) conferences were held regularly.
President Scott Johnson and his secretary James George were very energetic in organising one-day conferences. In 2001/02, the Committee (Teresa Shawcross, Daniel Farrell and Marina Bazzani) were all at Exeter College, the traditional Byzantinist college. From 2004, the records become more consistent and precise. In 2005/06, Jennifer Fry became president, and started having regular cocktails and dues to pay for them.
During the presidency of Meredith Riedel (2006-08), the tradition of weekly emails with information and schedules began. Meredith Riedel also made paying the dues as a prerequisite for voting for the next president and committee, and, actually, made this election official and regular.
From 2007, moreover, the graduate student conference became a regular event in the OBS tradition. During the presidency of Jesse Simon (2008-10), the weekly emails were divided into the Byzness and the OxByzList. On February 2009 there was a bigger graduate student conference on “Facing East/Facing West”.
During Prerona Prasad’s presidency (with secretary Sean Leatherbury and treasurer Jesse Simon, our designer for some years) (2010-11), the Society became increasingly institutionalised: the website was created, the annual newsletter The Byzantinist was first issued and the Society itself was officially registered with the University Proctors. The annual graduate conference, in March 2011, had the theme “Between Constantines: representations and manifestations of an empire”. The first DPhil Forum, to let DPhils and MSt/MPhil students in the area of Byzantine studies know each other and each other’s work, was held in Trinity 2011.
In the 2011/12 academic year, the conference theme was “Reality and Illusion: seeing through the Byzantine mirage”.
In the last presidencies, termly dinners and termly drinks accompanied the annual graduate conference, which moved from being an Oxford graduate conference to a bigger, wider conference: the 2012 conference had speakers from 23 different countries, as far afield as the USA and Russia, all scholars who have not yet obtained their doctorate.
We thank very much Dr Mary Whitby (Oxford), Prof. Meredith Riedel (Duke), Dr Prerona Prasad (Cambridge) and Dr Simon Ford for the help in reconstructing some of these memories.
The three logos of the Society:
An incomplete list of OUBS Committees
P: President, S: Secretary, T: Treasurer
2001-02: Teresa Shawcross (P), Marina Bazzani (T), Daniel Farrell (S)
2004-05: Peter Schadler (P), Jennifer Fry (S)
2005-06: Jennifer Fry
2006-08: Meredith Riedel (P), Tara Andrews (T), Rebecca Megan (social secretary)
2008-10: Jesse Simon (P), Bec McGann (social secretary)
2010-11: Prerona Prasad (P), Jesse Simon (T), Sean Leatherbury (S)
2011-12: Douglas Whalin (P), Edward Zychowicz-Coghill (T), Alexis Gorby (S)
2013-14: Nik Matheou (P), Theofili Kampianaki, Lorenzo Bondioli
2014-15: Andrew M. Small (P), James Moreton Wakeley, Kirsty Stewart
2016-17: Mirela Ivanova (P), Hugh Jeffery
2017-18: Adele Curness, Stephanie Forrest
2018-19: Katerina Vavaliou (P), Dan Gallaher (T), Callan Meynell (S)
2019-20: Dan Gallaher (P), Josh Hitt (T), Lorenzo Saccon (S)
2020-21: Lorenzo Saccon (P), James Cogbill (T), Alberto Ravani (S)