Chapter 1: Purpose and theory
‘All roads lead to Rome’. Everybody has heard this phrase plenty of times. Maybe a little less if one belongs to a religious group other than Catholicism. One of the current etymological explanations of this saying is that in the Middle Ages, that city, with the Vatican in its center, was viewed as the (spiritual) center of the Christian world. The saying itself is derived from the ‘Liber Parabolarum’ written by Alanus de Insulis in the twelfth century, where he says: ‘Mille viae ducunt hominem per saecula Romam’ (a thousand roads lead mankind always to Rome). While this was of course meant in a positive sense, the phrase was later also used pejoratively, denouncing Rome’s overarching imperial control and intrusion. A more secular explanation just refers to the road system in ancient Rome, where all the empire’s roads radiated out from the capital city. The metaphorical meaning stays the same: if one has a goal, the essential thing is to get there – and one will get there. It doesn’t matter which way. There is not ‘the’ one right road. Everything depends on where one is and when, what means one disposes of, what one’s preferences are and what one thinks one should and shouldn’t do. The same can be said about academic progress, which is the core topic of this book. For scholars making their individual contributions, the essential thing is probably just to get there – provided that once you get there, you aren’t confronted with the bad surprise that...
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