Professor Ludmilla Jordanova, RHS Lecture — 2 November 2021

‘Portraits, Biographies and Public History’


2021 Colin Matthew Lecture for the

Public Understanding of History

In co-operation with Gresham College, London


Professor Ludmilla Jordanova (Durham University)


Tuesday 2 November 2021

18.00 BST – at the Museum of London


The Colin Matthew Lecture is jointly organised by the Royal Historical Society and Gresham College.

Watch the recording of this event



Immense curiosity exists about the lives of people who lived in the past. Portraits and biographies play a major role in bringing the dead to life, but they may mislead and distort as much as they illuminate.

Using writings about nineteenth-century British figures alongside images of them, Professor Ludmilla Jordanova will explore the intertwined roles of biography and portraiture in public history, suggesting ways in which it is possible to be constructively critical of current practices.


Speaker biography

Ludmilla Jordanova is a historian and writer with an interest in museums, cultural history, interdisciplinary scholarship, public history and contemporary culture. She has held chairs at the University of Essex, University of York, King’s College London, and Durham University, where she is Emeritus Professor of History and Visual Culture. Her training was at Cambridge in history and philosophy of science and at Essex in art history and theory.

Between 2001 and 2009 she was a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, London, and more recently of the Science Museum Group (2011-21). Books since 2010 include The Look of the Past: Visual and Material Evidence in Historical Practice (2012); Physicians and their Images (2018) and History in Practice (3rd edition, 2019). Ludmilla lives in the Scottish Borders and is currently writing about the ethical dimensions of historical practice and the intricate relationships between portraits and biographies.


Watch the Lecture


The Colin Matthew Lecture for the Public Understanding of History

The annual lecture is named in memory of the historian, Professor Colin Matthew (1941-1999), who was a leading figure in the promotion and application of historical understanding.

Videos and transcripts are available for previous lectures, 2004-19 are available here.


RHS Lecture and Events: Full Programme for 2022 >