New mayor of London grew up on the classics

Historians in the News

The new London mayor, Boris Johnson, has been accused of lacking experience and political nous, but he has always boasted one qualification for government - a good grasp of Latin, Greek and classical history. So just what lessons can a modern politician learn from antiquity?

The place of classics in the great British education has declined in recent years.

Once upon a time, an Oxbridge classics degree was considered the cream of all qualifications, a gold standard for young people planning a career in the professions, the civil service and even government.

Boris Johnson's father Stanley summed it up in a newspaper interview at the weekend, saying: "In the days when Britain ruled more than a quarter of the world, a classical education was considered more than adequate training for the job of handling populations certainly as large and diverse as London's."

Johnson himself has spoken of the value of the classics in understanding modern politics, having written a book comparing the European Union with the Roman Empire, and suggesting every child be taught Latin....
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