Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Lessons of the New Deal: Did President Obama Learn the Right Ones? (28 January 2016)

Aldous Huxley wrote 'That men do not learn very much from the lessons of history is the most important of all the lessons that history has to teach'.

When Professor Tony Badger comes to Bath for our first lecture of 2016 his subject will be The Lessons of the New Deal: Did President Obama Learn the Right Ones? When Franklin D Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in 1932 he faced an economic crisis of unprecedented severity. What characterised Roosevelt's approach to it was his humanity and his willingness to innovate and to improvise in order to test what would work in the circumstances. Roosevelt was an outstanding communicator and a shrewd political operator.

Barack Obama's presidency began in January 2009, soon after the collapse of Lehman Brothers bank and during a very sharp decline in stock prices on the New York Stock Exchange. Toxic debt was causing the foreclosure of many thousands of mortgages. Business were facing bankruptcy or laying off workers.

Roosevelt was re-elected three times and Obama was given a second term by the American people. Did the similarity of the challenges faced by the two men lead to a similarity of approach? Had Obama learnt the lessons of history?

Tony Badger is a leading specialist in American political history. Until 2014 he was the Mellon Professor of History at the University of Cambridge and Master of Clare College. His book FDR: The First Hundred Days (Hill & Wang, 2008) was widely acclaimed. Among his other publications The New Deal: The Depression Years 1933-1940 (Palgrave Macmillan, 1989) has particular relevance to his lecture on 28 January.

I will be publishing details in January of a members' visit to Bath Record Office on Thursday 10 March. The evening visit will begin with an introductory talk by Colin Johnson, Principal Archivist, and will be followed by a tour of the archives.

Finally, let's end with a somewhat gloomy thought from George Santayana: 'Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it'.

Mike Short         

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Modern Significance of Stoic Ideas and Practice (26 November 2015)

Stoicism was one of the four principal schools of philosophy in ancient Athens. The others were Plato's Academy, Aristotle's Lyceum and Epicurus's Garden. Stoicism flourished in Athens for 250 years. Subsequently it was taken up by the Romans Seneca, Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Their works continue to influence ideas and practice to the present day.

The three great Roman Stoics focused on practical advice and guidance on how to achieve wellbeing or happiness. Four central ideas are the importance of developing an excellent rational mental state, overcoming negative emotions based on mistaken judgements and embracing positive emotions, living in harmony with nature, and understanding what can be controlled (our mental state and judgements) and what cannot (external processes).

On 26 November Christopher Gill, Emeritus Professor of Ancient Thought at the University of Exeter, is coming to the Friends Meeting House to talk to us about The Modern Significance of Stoic Ideas and Practice. His most recent books have been a translation of Marcus Aurelius's first six books of Meditations with an introduction and commentary (Oxford University Press, 2013) and Naturalistic Psychology in Galen and Stoicism (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Marcus Aurelius wrote 'You have power over your mind, not outside events. Realise this and you will find strength'.

I hope that, if you come to the Friends Meeting House on 26 November, you will be stimulated and entertained. Perhaps you will also be strengthened.

Mike Short 

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Shanghai British and the First World War (22 October 2015)

I have written before about Professor Robert Bickers's excellent book The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (Allen Lane, 2011). In it Robert tells the epic story of opium wars, conquest and rebellion in the last years of the Qing imperial dynasty and the European colonial 'scramble' for China.

Robert's lecture for us moves on to the First World War. Nearly 200 Britons, resident in China in 1914, died in service during the war. Hundreds more joined the colours. Robert, who is Professor of History at the University of Bristol, will explore the experience at home in Shanghai, and on active service, of the Shanghai British community. He will show how difficult it proved cleanly to break apart the pragmatic alliances forged by the British and Germans in China.

Our visits to the archives and library of Downside Abbey have been enjoyed greatly by those members who have attended. A third visit will take place on Thursday 5 November. Please contact me if you are interested in joining it.

Mike Short (01225 812945)

Friday, 4 September 2015

The invention of Magna Carta in the early modern period (24 September 2015)

Anyone who went to the British Library's excellent exhibition Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy will have been reminded that Magna Carta has meant many different things to many people throughout the world.

Most of Magna Carta's clauses have long since been repealed or superseded by other legislation, and those that remain do not stand up well to modern legal interpretation. But, as Chief Justice Lord Bingham wrote, 'the significance of Magna Carta lay not in what it actually said, but in what later generations claimed and believed it had said'.

For our first lecture of the 2015-16 season we welcome the President of the Historical Association, Professor Justin Champion from Royal Holloway University of London. Justin will take up the theme of what various people have thought Magna Carta is and what it actually was when he talks to us about The invention of Magna Carta in the early modern period

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Lecture Programme 2015-16

Our summer break (but it isn't - see below) is a good time to look back and look forward.

Looking back at last season's varied series of lectures we find that those given by Professor Munro Price (University of Bradford) on the downfall of Napoleon and Professor Lord Morgan (University of Oxford) on the rise and fall of British coalitions from 1890 to 2015 were the best-attended. Our average attendance for the seven lectures was 49.

One party of members recently visited Badminton House, the home of the Duke of Beaufort, and another will go in a few days to Lacock Abbey. There will be further visits to the library and archives of Downside Abbey in the autumn.

The details of our lecture programme and Christmas event for 2015-16 were published at the Annual General Meeting.

24 September 2015: The invention of Magna Carta in the early modern period
          Professor Justin Champion (Royal Holloway University of London),
          President of the Historical Association

22 October 2015: The Shanghai British and the First World War
          Professor Robert Bickers (University of Bristol)

26 November 2015: The Modern Significance of Stoic Ideas and Practice
          Professor Christopher Gill (University of Exeter)

10 December 2015: Members' Christmas Reception and Visit at the Fashion Museum,

28 January 2016: The Lessons of the New Deal: Did President Obama Learn the Right
          Professor Tony Badger (Clare College Cambridge)

25 February 2016: The Admiral's Wife: Family, Navy and Nation in the Life of Elizabeth
          Wynne Fremantle
          Professor Elaine Chalus (Bath Spa University)

24 March 2016: Charlemagne and Rome: Alcuin's epitaph for Pope Hadrian I in St
          Peter's Old and New
          Professor Jo Story (University of Leicester)

28 April 2016: James, Duke of Monmouth
          Dr Anna Keay (Director of the Landmark Trust)


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Masked Condominia: Pan-European Collaboration in the History of Imperialism, c1500 to the present (23 April 2015)

The 'Scramble for Africa' is the phrase often used to describe the apparent competition between European countries - Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Spain - for territory, people and resources between 1880 and 1914. Professor Robert Bickers (University of Bristol), who will speak to us in October about 'The Shanghai British and the First World War', has written, superbly, about The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils and the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (Penguin, 2011).

Scrambling, competing, each imperial nation seeking to outdo its rivals ... Our speaker this month, Richard Drayton, Rhodes Professor of Imperial History at King's College London, has focused on the ways in which, from the sixteenth century onwards, European imperial powers collaborated in linking together the human communities of their various empires into one world society, deploying science, Christianity, political economy, myths of empires as drivers of development and universal improvement, and extraordinary violence. Professor Drayton's lecture will examine this process and its legacy in the uneasy and unequal contemporary relationship between Europe and its diaspora and the peoples of Asia, Africa, South and Central America and the Pacific.

Professor Drayton's lecture will be followed by the Bath Branch Annual General Meeting, at which the lecture programme for the 2015-16 season will be published.   

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Weeping Britannia: Beyond the stiff upper lip 26 February 2015

Our lecture this month will be given by Dr Thomas Dixon, Reader in History at Queen Mary University of London. Dr Dixon is the Director of the Centre for the History of the Emotions.

Dr Dixon describes himself as 'a historian of philosophy, science, medicine and religion, with particular expertise in the history of the emotions and in Victorian intellectual and cultural history. In this lecture he will challenge the stereotype of the British 'stiff upper lip'.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Lecture Programme 2015-16

We expect to publish the programme for next season at this year's AGM on 23 April.