Peter Pouncey was born in Tsingtao, China. He was educated in English boarding schools and at Oxford. He was dean of Columbia College and served as president of Amherst College for ten years. In The New York Review of Books, W.S. Merwin wrote that Pouncey’s novel, Rules for Old Men Waiting, “confronts its primal subject with a lucidity and plainness that appears to be descended from the historians and poets we have labeled classical.”
Thucydides called his History of the Peloponnesian War “a possession for all time,” and perhaps more than any other classical history it speaks to us with a contemporary voice. Working closely with the text, Peter Pouncey lays bare its intellectual framework, which directs the historian in his selection of material and guides both him and his readers to an understanding of the rise and fall of a society. In this framework, the primary factors of fear, aggression and self-interest first impel a city to concerted action for security and profit, and ultimately create large power blocs polarized against each other.
Pouncey’s Thucydides won Columbia’s Lionel Trilling Award.