events archive

The Academy 2015

University as it should be: three-day summer school for anyone interested in studying ideas.

7:00pm, Friday 17 July 2015, Wyboston Lakes, Bedfordshire

From February 2019, The Academy is run under the auspices of a new charity, boi. For the latest information for The Academy 2019, and to buy tickets, visit the boi website.

From 18-20 July, the AoI ran its fifth Academy. The Academy is a three-day residential event, open to anyone from 18 to 80+, designed to remind us just what universities should be like, and to demonstrate the importance of scholarship through an examination of subjects in depth. The attendees range from new undergraduates through to pensioners looking to gain the kind of education they missed out on earlier in life. The only qualification to attend is a desire to learn, discuss and engage with big ideas.

The theme of the Academy in 2015 was the public. How has the idea of the public been conceptualised and given form through history - from its beginnings in the republics of Athens and Rome, via the city-states of Renaissance Italy, to the definitive emergence of public opinion as a force in its own right in the Enlightenment, through to the massively expanded and mobile global publics of today? Of particular interest is the relationship of the public sphere to that of the private and the question of the relationship of the individual to society as a whole. What kind of conflict is there between the individual and society and what kind of conflict is involved in the idea of a public itself?

The plenary lectures – on political philosophy this year – examined some foundational texts, including Aristotle’s Politics, Locke’s Two Treatises, Hegel’s path-breaking conception of the role of private property and the social in constructing the individual in his Philosophy of Right, and de Tocqueville’s classic, Democracy in America. The final lecture of the Academy asked if the liberal spirit has now retreated from Western public life.

In the history strand, the focus was the medieval city: how did its emergence and its forms shape the public that it made possible and to what extent was it shaped by the needs of that public? One of the aspects of the public that this Academy explored is the role that conflict plays in shaping a public: something that can be seen very clearly in civil war. One lecture looked at the European wars of religion that followed the Reformation and the demands they created for the tolerance necessary to allow publics of different faiths to live together. Another looked at the American Civil War: asking the question why a public that had so recently self-constituted should so soon be at war with itself. The final lecture examined the massive change in the public (quantitatively and qualitatively) represented by the expansion of the franchise to women following another conflict within society, this time the struggle by the Suffragettes to achieve equal public standing.

The series of lectures on literature covered the theatre, that most public of art forms, a space allowing private and public judgement on the representation of individuals in public. The series covered the expansion of theatre from its beginnings in medieval morality plays into the Elizabethan drama of Marlowe and Johnson before moving onto the roots of opera in public, often comic, entertainments. The final two lectures looked at the staging of ideas in public for the public (Ibsen, Shaw and Schiller) and the politicisation of theatre in the twentieth century (Brecht and Bond).

The classics lectures started with theatre too: the tragic trilogy that is Aeschylus’ Oresteia, an examination of the tension between private vengeance and public justice in ancient Greece. The next two lectures looked at the end of the Roman republic through the prism of two of its key protagonists. Cicero, statesman and theorist of the republic, and Julius Caesar, victor of one set of civil wars but the victim of a system that had no effective way to restrict the freedom of private individuals in the interests of society as a whole. The final lecture looked at the creation of new sorts of public space and architecture (alongside changing ideas of the citizen who inhabited them) in the city-states of the Italian Renaissance: themselves a conscious echo of what they imagined the Roman republic to have been.

Optional lecture shorts on the Sunday covered the Magna Carta 800 years on, the birth of the Enlightenment salon, changing conceptions of private space and the family, and more.

The long weekend as a whole was a unique opportunity to get to grips with some of the key ideas about the public in the Western intellectual tradition and to explore and discuss them with equally interested and interesting attendees.

Programme of lectures

Scholars’ Day (Friday 17 July, 12 noon start)

12.00 - 12.45

12.45 - 13.00

13.00 - 14.15
LECTURE: Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere
Josie Appleton

14.45 - 16.00
LECTURE: Foucault, Society Must Be Defended
Dr Vanessa Pupavac

16.15 - 17.30
LECTURE: Arendt: public and private life and space
Penny Lewis

Day One (Saturday 18 July, 11am start)

11.15 - 11.30

11.30 - 13.00
PLENARY: The emergence of the public
Professor Frank Furedi
Abstract and readings

13.00 - 14.30

14.30 - 16.00
CLASSICS: Aeschlyus, The Oresteia
Professor Edith Hall
Abstract and readings
HISTORY: ‘The birth of the modern city
Alan Hudson
Abstract and readings
LITERATURE: English Medieval and Renaissance Drama - creating the audience
Part 1: Medieval morality plays – preaching to the masses?
Richard Swan
Part 2: Grave Understanders: playing to The Groundlings
Patrick Spottiswoode
Abstract and readings

16.00 - 17.00

17.00 - 18.30
PLENARY: Locke, Two Treatises of Government
Dr Hannah Dawson
Abstract and readings


Day Two (Sunday 19 July)

09.30 - 11.00
CLASSICS: Cicero, de re publica
Angus Kennedy
Abstract and readings
HISTORY: The Reformation, toleration, and partisan publics in early modern Europe
Dr Jacqueline Rose
Abstract and readings
LITERATURE: Comedy, satire and social critique in pre-revolutionary France
Dr John Leigh
Abstract and readings

11.30 - 13.00
PLENARY: Hegel, Philosophy of Right
Josie Appleton
Abstract and readings

Sunday Shorts
14.30 - 15.30
Sex and the birth of the Salon, Professor Dennis Hayes
Edgar - I nothing am (why everyone should read King Lear), James Breen, a teacher of English and Latin

15.45 - 16.45
Trivium 21st Century, Martin Robinson
The Family Trap: the problem with the ‘private’?, Ann Furedi

17.00 - 18.30
PLENARY: de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Professor Georgios Varouxakis
Abstract and readings

Day Three (Monday 20 July)

10.00 - 11.30
CLASSICS: The Fall of the Roman Republic
Professor Matthew Fox
Abstract and readings
HISTORY: A House Divided: The American Civil War
Dr Adam Smith
LITERATURE: Realism on stage: the individual vs society
Claire Fox
Abstract and readings

12.00 - 13.30
CLASSICS: Machiavelli: between the Many and the Few
Professor Frank Furedi
HISTORY: Suffragettes: women in public
Jennie Bristow
Abstract and readings
LITERATURE: Brecht and the need to Alienate the Public
Martin Robinson

14.30 - 16.00
PLENARY: The liberal retreat and the privatisation of the public
Professor Frank Furedi
Abstract and readings


James Van Horn Melton, The Rise of the Public in Enlightenment Europe, Cambridge University Press
Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, Polity Press
Michel Foucault, Society Must Be Defended, Penguin
Jean Baudrillard, In the Shadow of the Silent Majorities, MIT Press
Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition

(Political) Philosophy:
Aristotle, Politics, Oxford World’s Classics
John Locke, Two Treatises of Government, Cambridge University Press
GWF Hegel, Philosophy of Right, Oxford World’s Classics
David Rose, Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Routledge
de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Penguin Classics
Lionel Trilling, Sincerity and Authenticity, Oxford University Press

Aeschylus, The Oresteia
Edith Hall, Greek Tragedy: suffering under the sun
Cicero, Republic
Christian Meier, Caesar
Machiavelli, The Prince

Lewis Mumford, The City in History
Mark Greengrass, Christendom Destroyed: Europe 1517-1648
Dr Adam Smith, The American Civil War
JS Mill, Considerations On Representative Democracy and The Subjection of Women

The Castle of Perserverance (text online here)
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
James Shirley, The Doubtful Heir
Moliere, Tartuffe, The Misanthrope
Beaumarchais, The Barber of Seville, The Marriage of Figaro, The Guilty Mother
Ibsen, An Enemy of the People, The Master Builder
George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Major Barbara
Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and Her Children, Life of Galileo, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Caucasian Chalk Circle



The Academy 2015 will again be held at Wyboston Lakes, Bedfordshire. The Robinson Executive Centre is a professional conference centre with free access to swimming pool, gym and leisure facilities. Costs include two or three nights’ accommodation in double ensuite rooms and full catering.


The site is child friendly and under-14s can stay in their parents’ rooms for free. Reduced rates are available for 14- to 16-year-olds. The venue does not run a crèche so parents should consider pooling duties. If you plan to bring children, or have any queries, do get in touch with Geoff Kidder:

Arrival times:

Arriving on the Friday night, 17 July: includes dinner that night and full catering through to lunch on Monday 20 July.

Arrival on Saturday morning, 18 July: catering starts with lunch that day. Please ensure you can be checked in and ready for the first session to start promptly at 10am.

Cancellation charges

If you need to cancel your booking, you must give us written notice and a level of charge will be applicable depending on the amount of notice we receive from you.

Written notice received by us Percentage of contracted revenue to be charged
More than 20 weeks before the first day of the event No charge
15 to 20 weeks before first day of the event 25%
10 to 15 weeks before the first day of the event 35%
5 to 10 weeks before the first day of the event 50%
2 to 5 weeks before the first day of the event 75%
Less than 2 weeks before the first day of the event 90%