The Betty Behrens Seminar on Classics of Historiography

The Betty Behrens Seminar on Classics of Historiography offers a unique opportunity for students and scholars to reflect on some great historical works and engage in discussion with renowned experts.

The charming and refreshing atmosphere of the Richard Eden Suite in Clare Hall will be the location for the first three discussions. The last meeting will take place in Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge, and will be followed by a tour of the reading rooms for a glimpse behind the scenes.

Each meeting will last for three hours. The guest speaker will introduce the classic by talking for half an hour. After that, each participant will briefly express their understanding of the work by addressing some questions to the other participants and the guest speaker. In order to be ready for the dialogue, each participant is asked to read about fifty pages of the work under close scrutiny and then send a paper of 1,500-3,000 words to the seminar’s convener before each meeting. The selection of pages is chosen by the guest speaker and can be downloaded from the Clare Hall website.

There are only twelve posts available to guarantee the close dynamics of the discussion and the full involvement of the participants. Those interested may even apply for just one meeting. However, preference will be given to those who sign up for all four meetings. In addition, there will be space for a good number of auditors who will not actively participate. The sign-up deadline has been set as 6 September. 

This seminar series - running on 8 September, 15 September, 22 September and 30 September - will endeavour to underline the importance of the Classics of Historiography for their relevant intellectual function in creating critical political thought.


The first seminar takes place on Thursday 8 September 2022 from 2pm, in the Richard Eden Suite at Clare Hall.

Opening speech: Betty Behrens: a personal recollection and reflection - Gillian Sutherland, Fellow Emeritus, Newnham College, Cambridge.


The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1789) by Edward Gibbon. Download the text here.

David Womersley, Thomas Warton Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford.


Catherine Betty Abigail Behrens (24 April 1904 – 3 January 1989), published as C.B.A. Behrens and known as Betty Behrens, was a British historian. Her early interests included the early modern period of English history, with her later research focused on the Kingdom of France from the Middle Ages to the French Revolution. She was elected a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, in 1935, and moved to become a Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge, in 1967, after the publication of The Ancien Régime, when she achieved an international reputation. Betty Behrens became the first Emeritus Fellow of Clare Hall in 1972. She published her best work, Society, Government and the Enlightenment (1985), at the age of 81.


Find further details and register via Eventbrite.

For any queries please contact Professor Davide Cadeddu, who is convening this seminar series, via davide.cadeddu@unimi.it