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The Annual John Bonython Lecture

The Annual John Bonython Lecture

‘History As The Story Of Liberty: A Globalised Western Civilisation

The Annual John Bonython Lecture will be held in Auckland on October 24th 2006.

Dr Arthur Herman will be presenting the lecture ‘History As The Story Of Liberty: A Globalised Western Civilisation.’

In his lecture, Dr Herman will be examining how and why the West became (and for the most part remains) the dominant force on the face of the globe. He will also discuss how some history bears repeating, especially certain aspects of the history of Western civilization.

‘The West can offer the lessons of its past to the rest of the world’s future. Viewing the history of the West as the rise of liberty may be the most significant gift we can give to the rest of the world today – even more than food or disaster relief, or constitutions or collective security.’

‘That history can serve as a powerful active template for social and political reconstruction in the face of challenges of globalization – the very same challenge the West itself had to face more than five hundred years ago.’

Dr Herman will outline how liberty in the Western tradition forges human connections and how we can follow its growth in four historical stages: the ancient world, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the idea of social and economic liberty which arose in the eighteenth century.

Dr Herman will also discuss how the non-West (specifically the societies of Africa and the Middle East) now face the same challenges and peril that Europe and the societies of European origin faced three to four centuries ago.

‘Developing countries are dealing with the impact of a globalizing economy, failing political institutions, burning social resentments and deep-seating ethnic and religious rivalries, and exploding demographics – societies in which the median age is in the mid-twenties.’

‘Where have we seen all this before? In France and Germany in the sixteenth century, England in the seventeenth century, Russia in the eighteenth century. How these countries came to deal with these problems and overcame them (or in the case of Russia, failed to do so) represent a powerful set of lessons for the future of countries like Iraq, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan and elsewhere.’

According to Dr Herman it is the western idea of freedom which has set the history of Europe and the West apart. In no other civilization has there been the same acceptance and development of institutions that foster that kind of liberty.

Dr Herman is a historian and was Coordinator of the Smithsonian Institution’s Western Heritage Program. He has been a Professor of History at both George Mason and Georgetown Universities. Dr Herman has served as historical consultant to Time-Life Books and is the first non-Scot to serve on the Scottish Arts Council. His books include ‘The Scottish Enlightenment: The Scots’ Invention of the Modern World’ and ‘The Idea of Decline in Western History.’ His most recent book ‘To Rule the Waves: How the British Navy Changed the World,’ was nominated by the UK’s Mountbatten Prize for the best book in naval history in 2005 and is now in its third US paperback printing.


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