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Seminars 2018

16 January

Gareth Stedman Jones (London)
History and Nature: Marx, Engels and Darwin

At Marx’s funeral Engels stressed the close parallels between the work of Darwin and that of Marx. But Marx’s idea of history contradicted the Darwinian idea of nature. This lecture will distinguish between Engels’s idea of Marxism and Marx’s inheritance from the German Idealist tradition and consequently his distance from Darwin’s idea of nature.

Gareth Stedman Jones is Professor of the History of Ideas, Queen Mary University of London, Director of the Centre for History and Economics, University of Cambridge, and a Life Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. His latest work is a study of Marx in the nineteenth century, Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion (2016).

23 January

Ben Fine (London)
Marx Versus Economics: Which is Fit for Purpose?

Marxist political economy, let alone Marx’s own political economy, has negligible if not zero presence in mainstream economics. In this respect, there is a sharp difference with all other major social sciences in which Marx is seen not only as an important source for understanding the history of its constituent disciplines and subject matter, but also as a vital part of continuing debate and scholarship. Why should Marx be present in other disciplines but absent in economics, and at whose and what expense?

Ben Fine is Professor of Economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His books include Marx’s Capital (with Alfredo Saad-Filho, 6th edn, 2016), From Political Economy to Economics: Method, the Social and the Historical in the Evolution of Economic Theory (with Dimitris Milonakis, 2009), and From Economics Imperialism to Freakonomics: The Shifting Boundaries Between Economics and Other Social Sciences (with Dimitris Milonakis, 2009).

6 February

Mike Savage (London)
Karl Marx and the Twenty-First Century Analysis of Social Class

The much discussed growth of top incomes and wealth across many nations has led to a new interest in whether Marx’s emphasis on the prime class divide between bourgeois and proletarian has renewed relevance today. This lecture will review the critical arguments of economists such as Piketty, Stiglitz, and Milanovic to consider whether we can usefully detect a ‘global capitalist class’. It will further consider how we can use Marx’s concept of accumulation to give analytical insights into the nature of contemporary class formation.

Mike Savage is Martin White Professor of Sociology at the London School of Economics, where he is Co-Director of the International Inequalities Institute. He has long-standing interests in the analysis of social class, and his co-authored book, Social Class in the 21st Century (2015), which draws on his research on the BBC’s Great British Class Survey, has been a best-seller.

27 February

Christoph Henning (Erfurt)
Marx’s Critical Theory and its Absence in Contemporary Social Philosophy

Karl Marx started his career as a philosopher, and philosophical topics remain visible even in Capital. Twentiethcentury philosophers such as Sartre, Adorno, and Negri were often inspired by Marx, but in the twenty-first century there is not much ‘Marxism’ left in social philosophy, even in the midst of an intensified debate about capitalism. This lecture will suggest some reasons for this disappearance, such as the ‘normative’ misreadings of the later Frankfurt School. It will also present an alternative reading of Marx’s philosophy, reconstructing his work as a Critical Theory that is still impressive as a social philosophy of contemporary society.

Christoph Henning is Junior Fellow for Philosophy at the Max Weber Centre for Advanced Cultural and Social Studies at Erfurt University. His research interests lie in social, cultural, and political philosophy, critical theory, and the history of thought. His books include Philosophy after Marx: 100 Years of Misreadings and the Normative Turn in Political Philosophy (2015), Theorien der Entfremdung zur Einführung (2015), and Marx und die Folgen (2017).

1 May

Pat Thane (King’s College London)
Divided Kingdom: Inequalities in the UK since 1900

This paper surveys patterns of equality in the UK since c.1900, in particular, how income inequality narrowed, especially from 1945 to the late 1970s, but has now returned to much earlier levels. It asks how changes—for better and worse—in this and other inequalities, including gender, race, and age, have come about.

Pat Thane, MA (Oxon), Ph.D. (LSE), FBA, is Research Professor in Contemporary British History, King’s College London. Her research interests include gender, welfare, and social inequalities in Britain in the last century. Her recent publications include Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth Century Britain, with Tanya Evans (2012). Her monograph Divided Kingdom: A History of Britain since 1900 will be published by CUP in May 2018.

15 May

Keith Robbins
Oxford University Press 1970–2004: Organizing a Publishing History

Oxford University Press reasonably claims to be the largest university press in the world, operating in many different locations and meeting complex needs. It is the unusual department of a great university and committed to its educational purpose and academic mission. The challenge before it in this period has been to survive and prosper during decades of publishing turbulence and technological change. Its situation can be put simply: making a surplus is not its purpose but it has had to make a surplus in order to survive. This talk explores how it has responded.

Keith Robbins, FRSE, FRHistS, FLSW, has been Professor of Modern History at Bangor and Glasgow universities and Senior Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wales. He has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth-century political, diplomatic, cultural, and religious history including Munich 1938 (1968); Sir Edward Grey (1971); Nineteenth-Century Britain: Integration and Diversity (1988); Britain and Europe 1789–2005 (2005); England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales: The Christian Church 1900–2000 (2008).

29 May

Amanda Power (St Catherine’s College Oxford)
Medieval Histories of the Anthropocene

The ‘global middle ages’ is a relatively new idea in both medieval and global history. The conventional view of ‘the global’ as a post-1500 process extends the work that ignorance of the medieval past has long done to legitimize the political, economic, and intellectual regimes of modernity. It strategically obliterates the planet itself by locating the meanings and significance of ‘the global’ narrowly in the history of human connections. The concept of a ‘global middle ages’ can run against all this. Drawing on new work in the environmental humanities, anthropology, political theory, the ‘nonhuman turn’, and much else, medievalists can develop fresh approaches to invigorate both the discipline of global history, and the study of our own period.

Amanda Power is Associate Professor in History at the University of Oxford. She works on questions of religion, power, and public rationality in medieval Europe and is involved in the development of the new field of global medieval history. Her publications include Roger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom (2012).

12 June

Matthew P. Fitzpatrick (Flinders, South Australia)
The Kaiser’s Weltpolitik? Constitutional Monarchy in the Age of Empire

Via a series of case studies, this lecture interrogates the idea that Wilhelm II was the guiding hand on Germany’s foreign policy tiller. Through a discussion of the genocidal war in South-West Africa, the development of the Baghdad Railway, and the aftermath of the Boxer Rebellion, the lecture looks at the royal prerogative in action and suggests that despite claims to the contrary, the Kaiser’s scope for independent action was surprisingly limited.

Matthew P. Fitzpatrick is Associate Professor of International History at Flinders University, South Australia. He is the author of Purging the Empire: Mass Expulsions from Germany, 1871–1914 (2015) and Liberal Imperialism in Germany: Expansionism and Nationalism in Germany, 1848–1884 (2008). He is a past winner of the Chester Penn Higby Prize and has been a Humboldt Fellow at the Westphalian Wilhelms University in Münster.

13 November

Lauren Kassell (Cambridge)
Inscriptions, Digitization, and the Shape of Knowledge: Lessons from the Casebooks Project

Day by day, around 1600, a pair of English astrologer–physicians documented their consultations, filling 30,000 manuscript pages with cases. This is one of the largest surviving sets of private medical records in history. Reflecting on what it means to create a new archive out of an old archive, this talk focuses on the Casebooks Project, a tool for searching these records. It brings together approaches from the histories of science and medicine to the production of knowledge, both on paper and in xml, with broader questions about the history of record-keeping and the nature of scholarship in the twenty-first century.

Lauren Kassell is Professor of History of Science and Medicine at the University of Cambridge. She has published on the occult sciences, gender, and generation. She is Director of the Casebooks Project, a digital edition of early modern medical records that has produced a dataset, a web-based search interface, and explanatory material.

20 November

Miles Ogborn (London)
The Great Map of Mankind: The Historical Geography of Early Modern Knowledge

This talk considers the history of knowledge as a geographical problem, suggesting that where knowledge was produced matters to how it was produced and to its contents and uses. Drawing on research on the English East India Company in India and on the slave societies of the British Caribbean—and focusing on modes of communication in speech, script, and print—the talk will demonstrate the different scales, and the different sorts of spaces, places, and networks that need to be taken into account to understand the history of knowledge about Europe and the world beyond it.

Miles Ogborn is Professor of Geography at Queen Mary University of London and the author of Spaces of Modernity: London’s Geographies, 1680–1780 (New York, 1998); Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company (Chicago, 2007); and Global Lives: Britain and the World, 1550–1800 (Cambridge, 2008).

4 December

Nico Stehr (Friedrichshafen)
The Atmosphere of Democracy: Will Climate Change Trump Democratic Governance?

This talk focuses on what climate change discussions may call an ‘inconvenient democracy’. This refers to the huge gap that exists between the claims of scientific knowledge and good policy. The resulting sense of political futility leads to a disenchantment with democracy and the conclusion that the state, led by experts, should be a source of security for society in the face of extreme risk and danger from climate change. The talk argues that these gloomy views about the efficacy of democracy are mistaken.

Nico Stehr is Karl Mannheim Professor of Cultural Studies at the Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen, Germany. His recent books include Knowledge (with Marian Adolf; London, 2014); Understanding Inequality: Social Costs and Benefits (with Amanda Machin; Wiesbaden, 2016); Information, Power and Democracy (Cambridge, 2016); and Is Knowledge Power? (with Marian Adolf; London, 2017).

11 December

Martin Kintzinger (Münster)
History of Knowledge in the Middle Ages: Discussions and Perspectives

Moving away from the institutional and legal history of schools and universities, research on the history of knowledge has recently undergone a fundamental change. Instead of focusing on the social history of learned scholars or the traditions and challenges of education, it has started to look at knowledge systems in dynamic processes of change within contemporary societies: the construction of a learned elite; the migration of ideas; and the reception of foreign knowledge through intercultural communication. This talk will argue that global aspects of medieval history will lead to a new definition of what defined knowledge in medieval European societies.

Martin Kintzinger is Professor of Medieval History at the University of Münster and President of the Gesellschaft für Universitäts- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. He works on the history of universities and knowledge; intellectual history; the history of international relations, foreign policy, and diplomacy; and the beginnings of international law in the Middle Ages.


Seminars — Spring 2018 — "Capital — 150 Years on: Karl Marx and the Social Sciences Today"  (PDF file)

Seminars — Summer 2018  (PDF file)

Seminars — Autumn 2018 — "New Approaches to the History of Knowledge"  (PDF file)