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 organized by Anne McCabe, who worked with Cyril Mango on horse medicine. This happened around 15 years ago. From 1998 it appears as one-day Graduate (first just Oxford then wider) conferences were held regularly.
One of the most memorable past presidents of this society was Scott Johnson, now an established scholar at Georgetown, who worked on the Miracles of Thecla. Both he and his secretary James George were very energetic in organising one-day conferences.
In 2001-2 Teresa Shawcross was president, with secretary Daniel Farrell and treasurer Marina Bazzani – all three from Exeter, the historical Byzantinist college (with Cyril Mango and Elizabeth Jeffreys both members there). They organised a one-day colloquium on Byzantine poetry the 11th of May 2002.
From 2004 the records become more consistant and precise: Peter Schadler had as secretary Jennifer Fry, until 2005.
In 2005-6 Jennifer Fry became president, and started having regular cocktails and dues to pay for them.
Meredith Riedel, president in the academic years 2006-8, with Tara Andrews (who was symposiarch for the December Symposium) as tresurer and Rebecca Megan as social secretary, started the tradition of the weekly email shot with informations and schedules. The first graduate student symposium, with Marlena Whiting as symposiarch, was held in Lincoln College on the 3rd of March 2007, with theme of “Conflict and Resolution”. Another graduate student symposium on “Land and Sea”, with Tara Andrews as symposiarch, was held on the 1st of December 2007 at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies.
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.
Jesse Simon took over the role of president from 2008 to 2010: under his presidency, with Bec McGann as social secretary, the weekly emails were devided into the Byzness and the OxByzList. On February 2009 there was a bigger graduate student conference on “Facing East/Facing West”.
Prerona Prasad (with secretary Sean Leatherbury and tresurer Jesse Simon, our designer for some years) was elected president for the year 2010-11. During her precidency, the OUBS went spread its area of influence: the website was set, the yearly newsletter “The Byzantinist” was first issued and, in reality, the OUBS was firstly registered with the proctors as an official student society. 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 Master students in the area of Byzantine studies know each other and each other’s work, was held in Trinity 2011.
Douglas Whalin was elected president for the 2011-2012 academic year, with Alexis Gorby as secretary and Edward Zychowicz-Coghill as treasurer: the annual conference’s 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 Prof. Mary Whitby, Meredith Riedel, Prerona Prasad and Simon Ford for the help in reconstructing some of these memories.
The three logos of the OUBS: