On the Spot: Eleanor Robson

We ask 20 questions of leading historians on why their research matters, one book everyone should read and their views on historical drama …

One of the Hatra Halls at the Iraq Museum in Baghdad. Image: Wiki Commons/Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin.

Why are you a historian of the ancient Middle East?

I wanted to start at the beginning of the history of mathematics and numeracy. Thirty years later, I’m still not done with cuneiform culture.

What’s the most important lesson history has taught you? 

That ‘the past is now’. 

Which history book has had greatest influence on you?

E.H. Carr’s What is History?

What book in your field should everyone read?

Karen Radner’s A Short History of Babylon.

Which moment would you most like to go back to?

To late 1990, to persuade George Bush Sr to find another way to get rid of Saddam Hussein, one which didn’t lead to war, ISIS and decades of poverty, oppression, chaos and terror for Iraqis.

Which historians have had the greatest influence on you?

Jim Secord and Simon Schaffer.

Which person in history would you most like to have met? 

The Iraqi archaeologist and historian Taha Baqir (1912-84).

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