James Corke-Webster: The Persecution of Christians in the Ancient World: From the Ground Up (50th Episode)

One of the perennial questions in society is how we should deal with difference. In particular, the issue of religious difference has vexed societies around the globe: this is true not just for our present times, but also for ancient civilisations such as the Roman Empire. In its heyday, the Roman world spanned Europe, the Middle East and North Africa and inevitably it included people of various faiths and convictions, notably Jews and Christians. Often when we think of Roman persecution of the latter group, we think of the systematic targeting of Christians as a religious minority. But with new advances in scholarship, a much more complex picture is emerging of the interactions between Romans and Christians in the ancient world.

In the landmark 50th episode of The Provocateur, I talk to James Corke-Webster, lecturer in Roman history at King’s College London, about the persecution of Christians in the ancient world. We discuss how James came to be interested in the subject, the history of scholarship on the persecution of Christians, how James argues for a more ‘bottom-up’ approach, the documentary evidence for persecution from both the Christian and the Roman sides, the various punishments that were meted out to Christians and the differences between the reality of persecution and the memory of it. We also discuss the significance of James’ work for later Roman history and even the present day. 

You can listen to the podcast here:

Further Reading:

Barnes, Timothy D. (1968) “Legislation Against the Christians”, JRS 58: 32–50.

Corke-Webster, J. (2017) Trouble in Pontus: The Pliny-Trajan Correspondence on the Christians Reconsidered”, TAPA 147.2, 371-411.

de Ste Croix, G. E. M. (1963) “Why Were the Early Christians Persecuted?”, Past & Present 26.1, 6–38.

Moss, C. (2013) The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom. San Francisco: HarperOne.

Rives, J. (1999) “The Decree of Decius and the Religion of Empire”, JRS 89: 135–54.

Shaw, B. (2015) “The Myth of the Neronian Persecution”, JRS 105: 73–100.

Robbie Smith: Haiti and the Complexities of Giving

In this second episode of The Provocateur, I talk to Robbie Smith, CEO and founder of NGOs United, about the political situation in Haiti and how his initiative can improve the efficacy of development aid in the country. Join us for a fascinating discussion that takes in the history of this oft-forgotten Caribbean state; the impact of recent natural disasters such as the 2010 earthquake and Hurricane Matthew; and the ongoing challenges to effective aid delivery.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

Further Reading:

Berry, N. S. (2014) ‘Did we do good? NGOs, conflicts of interest and the evaluation of short-term medical missions in Solola, Colombia’,  Social Science & Medicine 120, pp. 344-351.

Kidder, T. (2011) Mountains Beyond Mountains. London: Profile Books.

Minn, P. H. (2011) “Where They Need Me”: The Moral Economy of International Medical Aid in Haiti. PhD thesis, McGill University.

Pfeiffer, J. (2003) ‘International NGOs and primary health care in Mozambique: the need for a new model of collaboration’, Social Science & Medicine 56, pp. 725-738.