RHS Video Archive

2015 Prothero lecture: Professor Colin Kidd, ‘The Grail of Original Meaning: Uses of the Past in American Constitutional Theory’

RHS Prothero Lecture, Wednesday 1st July, 6pm, Gustave Tuck LT

Originalism has been a controversial presence in American constitutional jurisprudence since the 1980s. Reacting against the liberal ‘living constitution’ jurisprudence of the Warren and Burger Courts, conservative jurists urged fidelity to the original principles which had animated the Constitution in the late eighteenth century. However, the quest for original meaning is not as straightforward as conservatives have assumed. Not only is original intent tantalisingly elusive, it raises major issues of historical interpretation. How far do the assumed historical underpinnings of originalism mesh with the findings of academic historians? To what extent has the conservative invocation of the Founding Fathers obscured a lost American Enlightenment? Nor is ‘tradition’ in American constitutional law an unproblematic matter. How far does a desire to restore the original meaning of the Constitution ignore the role of ‘stare decisis’ (precedent) in America’s common law heritage? Colin Kidd explores the tensions between originalist jurisprudence and historical scholarship since the 1980s, and examines the various usable pasts in operation in American constitutional theory. Originalism, it transpires, has many mansions. Moreover, the various schemes of historical interpretation in American constitutional jurisprudence do not map easily onto a simple liberal-conservative divide. The lecture will also interrogate more general issues about the relationship between academic and ‘applied’ history.

Colin Kidd FBA is Wardlaw Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford. He is the author of Subverting Scotland’s Past (1993), British Identities before Nationalism (1999), The Forging of Races (2006), and Union and Unionisms (2008), all published by Cambridge University Press

 

Wellcome Miscellanea Medica XVIII, dating to 14th century

RHS Lecture: Dr Patricia Skinner, ‘Better off dead than disfigured’? The challenges of facial injury in the premodern past’

Gustave Tuck LT, 6pm, Friday 8th May 2015

People with disfigurements remain one of the last, under-represented minority groups in history. Their faces, often telling stories of violence and/or ravaging disease, present an uncomfortable subject for study. Modern surgical practices, capable of creating the most ‘realistic’ facial prostheses and thus ‘saving faces’, cannot repair the psychological damage of a changed face, nor address the prevailing social attitudes that either register and then ignore the person completely in the cause of ‘not staring’, or express horror or even disgust at the mis-arranged features confronting the gaze. This lecture is concerned with the historical continuities visible in such responses, suggesting that – as today – only those with a particular story to tell about their disfiguring injuries were ‘accepted’ for themselves and were able to ‘change face’. Victims of criminal acts and war veterans did – and still do – elicit a sympathetic response. But facial disfigurement in the premodern past – when surgery was not yet an option – was also a sign of punishment and/or dubious morality, meaning that the right story mattered. The lecture traces some examples, and argues for a better understanding not only of the challenges of disfigurement history, but of disfigurement itself.

Patricia Skinner is Reader in Medieval History at the University of Winchester. She is currently completing a project sponsored by the Wellcome Trust on medical and social responses to disfigurement in medieval Europe.

 

 

 

RHS Lecture: Professor Alec Ryrie ‘ “Protestantism” as a Historical Category’

Gustave Tuck LT, 6pm, Friday 6 February 2015

In the past thirty years, the ‘confessionalization’ thesis has framed our understanding of the Reformation era, and has divided post-Reformation religion into distinct, parallel confessions. On the Protestant side, this has favoured – and produced a false equivalence between – the two confessions legally recognised by the Peace of Westphalia, Lutheran and Reformed Protestantism. In this lecture, Professor Ryrie argues that the broader term ‘Protestant’ remains the indispensable analytical category for examining the non-papal Christianities of the West after 1517. ‘Protestants’ were both more diverse than the confessionalization model’s statist parameters allow, and also united by fundamental common features which many of them tried hard to deny: features visible across Europe in the early modern period and remaining clear even down to more recent times.

Professor Alec Ryrie is Head of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Durham.

 

RHS Presidential Address – Professor Peter Mandler ‘Educating the Nation II: Universities’

Gustave Tuck LT, 6pm, Friday 28 November 2014

In his first lecture, Peter Mandler argued that ‘meritocracy’ was an unstable basis on which to found universal secondary education, as from the early years of compulsory secondary education in the 1950s most people wanted one kind of education for their children – ‘the best’ – much as they only wanted ‘the best’ health service.   The same cannot quite be said about post-compulsory education, the subject of his second lecture.  A wider range of considerations went into the expansion of higher education – technocratic (what kind of higher education did the nation’s society and economy need?), meritocratic (who was capable of benefiting?), and democratic too (shouldn’t everyone have equal access?).   This mixture of motives, as well as a complex set of economic, demographic and fiscal considerations, are brought together to explain the strange go-stop-go pattern of expansion of higher education in Britain from the 1960s to the present.

 

RHS lecture – Professor Mark Cornwall ‘Traitors and the Meaning of Treason in Austria-Hungary’s Great War’

Gustave Tuck LT, 6pm, 26 September 2014

Treason is a ubiquitous historical concept yet one that is singularly under-researched. This lecture explores the “landscape of treason” in the Habsburg Empire in its final years. It places it in a broader historical context, theoretically and legally, then explores how and why the legal weapon of treason as wielded during the Great War in Austria-Hungary.  It especially seeks to understand what we can learn – the meaning of treason – from the notorious large-scale trials that were staged of Serb and Czech traitors. By 1918 most of the traitors had been amnestied and were turning the accusation of treason upon the Habsburg monarchy itself.

Mark Cornwall is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Southampton and a leading authority on the Austro-Hungarian empire.

 

 

RHS seminar: Gender Equality and Historians in UK Higher Education

Gustave Tuck LT, 2-5pm, Thursday 18 September 2014

To accompany the RHS Gender Survey for historians in UK Higher Education, the RHS held a seminar to discuss its findings with a view to making recommendations to improve gender equality in the sector. Most of the afternoon was devoted to workshops discussing the policy recommendations which will inform the final report which is due to be published in early 2015.

CHAIR: Nicola Miller, Chair of the RHS Research Policy Committee and Professor of Latin American history, UCL

KEYNOTE SPEAKERS:

Peter Mandler, President of the RHS and Professor of Modern Cultural History, University of Cambridge
Bronach Kane, Lecturer in History, Cardiff University
Jo Fox, Honorary Director of Communications and Professor of History, University of Durham

RHS Gender Seminar Programme

 

RHS Prothero Lecture – Professor Tim Blanning ‘Richard Wagner and the German Empire’. View lecture.

RHS Lecture, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL, 2 July 2014

The (partial) unification of Germany as ‘The German Empire’ in 1871 was the great political event of Wagner’s life (1813-83). In August 1876 the new German Emperor William 1 went to Bayreuth to attend the first complete performance of The Ring of the Nibelung in the Festival Theatre Wagner had built for the purpose. The relationship between these two events, however, was much more problematic than the chronology suggests. In this illustrated lecture, Tim Blanning will argue that Wagner’s attitude to the new German state was highly critical, despite an initial burst of enthusiasm for Prussia during the war of 1870-1. He will pay particular attention to the influence of Friedrich Schiller and Constantin Franz, concluding with an examination of the much-misinterpreted final scene of The Mastersingers of Nuremberg.

 

 

Professor Peter Mandler ‘Educating the Nation 1: Schools’. View lecture.

Presidential Address, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL, 22 November 2013.

This is the first in a series of lectures that consider the impact of mass education (at secondary and university levels) on postwar Britain. Their emphasis is on the ‘democratic political theory’ of education – what do voters and their elected representatives want from an educational system in conditions of universal suffrage? The first lecture focuses on the instability of the allegedly ‘meritocratic’ system established by the Butler Act in 1944, which brought universal secondary education to Britain for the first time. It assesses how a democracy (in which everyone is politically equal) co-exists with a meritocracy (which is designed to accept and nurture inequality).

RHS Peter Mandler Lecture I

 

Professor Ann Hughes ‘Preachers and hearers in revolutionary London’. View lecture

RHS Lecture, Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, UCL, 27 September 2013

Ann Hughes has been Professor of Early Modern History at Keele University since 1995. She served as Head of the School of History and Classics, 2000 -2003, and currently acts as Director of Research in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. She won the Alexander Prize of the Royal Historical Society in 1980 and her major publications include Politics, Society and Civil War in Warwickshire 1620-1660 (1987), The Causes of the English Civil War ( 2nd edition, 1998), Gangraena and the Struggle for the English Revolution (2004), Gender and the English Revolution (2011). She has edited (with Richard Cust) Conflict in Early Stuart England (1989), and (with Tom Corns and David Loewenstein) The Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley (2009). She is now working principally on a reassessment of the impact of parliamentarian preaching during the English.

RHS Ann Hughes Lecture