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The Betty Behrens Seminar on Classics of Historiography

Date: Friday 20 October – Friday 10 November 2023, 2pm
Location: Richard Eden Suite
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, 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 20th of October and the 10th of November 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.

Before each seminar meeting, the Clare Hall dining hall will be available for lunch. 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 davide.cadeddu@unimi.it


Information on each session

Seminar 1

20 October – Fernando Cervantes (University of Bristol), Bartolomé de Las Casas’s Apologética historia sumaria (1552-1559) — Download the text here – Link: http://www.columbia.edu/acis/ets/CCREAD/lascasas.htm

Seminar 2

27 October – Cally J.-B. Hammond (Gonville & Caius College, University of Cambridge), Julius Caesar’s De bello Gallico (ca. 58-49 BC) — Download the text here

Seminar 3

03 November – Rosalind Love (Robinson College, University of Cambridge), Bede‘s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (731) — Download the text here

Seminar 4

10 November – June Purvis (University of Portsmouth), Sylvia Pankhurst‘s The Suffragette Movement (1931) and Christabel Pankhurst ‘s Unshackled (1959) — Download the text here


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