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The Betty Behrens Seminar on Classics of Historiography

Date: Wednesday 8 May – Wednesday 5 June 2024, 2pm
Location: Richard Eden Suite, West Court, Clare Hall, Cambridge CB3 9AL
Booking: via Eventbrite

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.

As we know, a classic is recognized as such insofar as it retains its value as an intellectual and cognitive tool, helping us to gain an understanding of the past as well as the present from a particular cultural viewpoint. Classics still have the capacity to resonate and speak to us about current problems. They produce perspectives that are implicitly comparative and dynamic, thanks to the historical dimension passing through both them and us.

These considerations are even more relevant when we speak about the classics of historiography because the same historical dimension is present on several more levels. These classics challenge us to contemplate some historical problems which are only fully understood when properly contextualised. In the same way, even the classic itself can fruitfully produce its own intellectually provocative value only when read through the eyes of the present but interpreted with a historicist approach.

The seminar will endeavour to underline the importance of the classics of historiography for their relevant intellectual function in creating critical political thought.

The seminar will take place between the 8th of May and the 5th of June and will be composed of four weekly meetings. The charming and fresh atmosphere of the Richard Eden Suite in Clare Hall, West Court, Cambridge, will be the location for the discussions.

Each meeting is composed of two hours. The guest speaker will introduce the classic by talking for half an hour. After that, each participant may 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, everyone might read some pages of the work under scrutiny. The selection of pages is chosen by the guest speaker and is downloadable from this webpage (look for the ‘Download the text here’ link).

Before and during each seminar meeting, coffee and tea will be available. After each event, the participants will enjoy a further informal exchange of viewpoints over a glass of juice or wine.

There are a few posts available to guarantee the close dynamics of the discussion and the full involvement of the participants. Those interested can even apply for just one meeting.

To attend the seminar, please register via Eventbrite  

For any queries, please contact Professor Davide Cadeddu, who is convening this seminar series, via

Information on each session

Seminar 1 – Wednesday 8 May 2024, 2pm-4pm

Paul Seaward (Former Director of the History of Parliament Trust, London)

The History of the Rebellion (1702-1704) by Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon – Download the text here.

Seminar 2 – Wednesday 15 May 2024, 2pm-4pm

Tessa Rajak (Emeritus Professor of Ancient History, University of Reading)

The Jewish War (ca. 75) by Flavius Josephus – Download the text here.

Seminar 3 – Wednesday 22 May 2024, 2pm-4pm

Michael Nylan (Distinguished Professor, University of California, Berkeley)

Documents [Shū] (ca. 221 BC) by Fu Sheng – Download the text here.

Seminar 4 – Wednesday 5 June 2024, 2pm-4pm

Brian Young (Professor of Intellectual History, University of Oxford)

A History of Histories (2007) by John Burrow – Download the text here.

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