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Howe sees ancient influence on American politics

By David Gonnerman '90
October 1, 2010

Associate Professor of History Tim Howe recently returned from a symposium about Alexander the Great at Universidad de La Coruña in Spain. Only 18 speakers were invited to the event that was closed to the public and for whom all expenses were paid. Howe calls the symposium a “working seminar to figure out what the world was like after Alexander.”

Howe’s paper, “Constructing Alexander. The Diadochi, Invented Tradition, and Alexander’s Expedition to Siwah,” investigates in part how Alexander and his successors were able to manipulate the past to their advantage. “The ways in which we invent the past and reconstruct it have political purposes.” he says, “But one of the things I was looking at is how society goes along with this. Leaders frame the narrative, and society invests in it and allows for the change.”

The more dramatic the political shift, Howe explains, the more willing people seem to be “to buy into the new narrative” — a phenomenon that he says parallels current American politics. “We do this every time we get a political shift.”

Contact David Gonnerman at 507-786-3315 or