Arthur Evans


Arthur Evans : biography

8 July 1851 – 11 July 1941

Fiasco at Göttingen

Green has his events slightly confused, as Lapland was not in Arthur’s itinerary for that year. In the spring of 1875 he applied for the Archaeological Travelling Studentship offered by Oxford, but, as he says in a letter to Freeman later in life,. he was turned down thanks to the efforts of Benjamin Jowett and Charles Thomas Newton, two Oxford dons having a low opinion of his work there. He was bitterly disappointed. In April–July of that year he attended a summer term at the University of Göttingen at the suggestion of Henry Montagu Butler, then headmaster at Harrow. Arthur was to study with Reinhold Pauli, who had spent some years in Britain, and was a friend of Green. The study would be preparatory to doing research in modern history at Göttingen. The arrangement may have been meant as a remedial plan. On the way to Göttingen, Arthur was sidetracked, unpropitiously for the modern history plan, by some illegal excavations at Trier. He had noticed that the tombs were being plundered surreptitiously. For the sake of preserving some artifacts, he hired a crew, performed such hasty excavations as he could, crated the material and sent it home to John..

Göttingen was not to Arthur’s liking. His quarters were stuffy, and the topics were of little interest to him, as he had already demonstrated. His letters speak mainly of the discrepancy between the poor peasants of the countryside and the institution of the wealthy in the town. His thinking was of a revolutionary bent. Deciding not to stay, he left there abruptly to meet Lewis for another trip to the Balkans. That decision marked the end of his formal education. Bosnia and Herzegovina were then in a full-blown state of insurrection. The Ottomans were using Bashi-bazouks to try to quell it. Despite subsequent events, there is no evidence that the young Arthur might have had ulterior motives at this time, despite the fact that Butler had helped to educate half the government of the United Kingdom. He was simply an adventurous young man bored with poring through books in a career into which he had been pushed against his real interests. The real adventure, in his mind, was the revolution in the Balkans.


Agent in the Balkans

Private adventurer

After resolving to leave Göttingen, Arthur and Lewis planned an adventure in Bosnia and Herzegovina starting immediately in August 1875. They knew that the region, a part of the Ottoman Empire, was under martial law, and that the Christians (mainly the Serbs) were in a state of insurrection against the Bosnian Muslim beys placed over them. Some Ottoman troops were in the country in support of the beys, but mainly the beys were using mercenaries, the Bashi-bazouks, private armies recruited from anywhere, loosely attached to the Ottoman military. Large numbers could be assembled on short notice. Their notorious cruelty, which they practised against the natives, helped to turn the British Empire under Gladstone against the Ottoman Empire, as well as to attract Russian intervention at Serbian request, the very sequence of events that, when the region was under the Austro-Hungarian Empire, would result in world-wide conflagration. At the time of Arthur’s and Lewis’s initial adventure, the Ottomans were still trying to lessen the threat of intervention by placating their neighbors. Arthur sought and obtained permission to travel in Bosnia, even though at war, from its Turkish military governor.

The two brothers experienced little difficulty with either the Serbs or the Ottomans but they did provoke the neighboring Austro-Hungarian Empire, and spent the night in "a wretched cell." After deciding to lodge in a good hotel in Slavonski Brod on the border, having judged it safer than Bosanski Brod across the Sava River, they were observed by an officer who saw their sketches and concluded they might be Russian spies. Politely invited by two other officers to join the police chief and produce passports, Arthur replied, "Tell him that we are Englishmen and are not accustomed to being treated in this way." The officers insisted and, interrupting the chief at dinner, Arthur suggested he should have come to the hotel in person to request the passports. The chief, in a somewhat less than civil manner, won the argument about whether he had the right to check the passports of Englishmen by inviting them to spend the night in a cell..