LSE Public Lectures: Major Series

The Public Lectures collection can be grouped into certain lecture series. Below are short descriptions of the main series.

Lionel Robbins Memorial Lecture

Lionel Robbins, Baron Robbins of Clare Market (1898 - 1984) was an economist, public servant and administrator of the arts. After working as a research assistant for William Beveridge, Robbins lectured at Oxford and LSE before becoming Professor of Economics at LSE in 1929, a position he held until 1961. During the Second World War, Robbins was Director of the Economic Section of the War Cabinet from 1941 to 1945. He was also one of the leading British delegates at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in 1944 at which a series of conferences established the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Robbins chaired the Committee on Higher Education in 1963, and its report, known as the Robbins Report, encouraged expansion in tertiary education in the UK. Lionel Robbins died in 1984 and this lecture series was inaugurated in his honour.

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Darwin Seminars

This series of public lectures was established to make evolutionary theory accessible to a wider audience. The first series of lectures ran from 1995 to 1998 with the second series beginning eight years later. There are talks by John Maynard Smith, Margo Wilson, David Buss, Richard Dawkins and Simon Baron-Cohen.

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Malinowski Memorial Lecture

Bronislaw Malinowski (1884-1942) was a Polish anthropologist who is considered to be one of the most influential anthropologists of the twentieth century. He developed the field of social anthropology and, together with Radcliffe-Brown, established a methodology for field working and was not afraid to mix research disciplines. His research centred on the people of Melanesia where he carried out his famous study of the Trobrianders.

Malinowski became a lecturer of Social Anthropology at LSE in 1923, promoted to Reader a year later, and Professor of Anthropology in 1927, a post he held until his death in 1942.

The first lecture of this series was delivered in 1959.

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Chorley Lectures

This series of lectures was inaugurated in honour of Robert Chorley, first Baron Chorley of Kendal (1895-1978), barrister, academic, Labour politician and conservationist. He was the founding editor of the Modern Law Review in 1937 continuing in this position until 1971. Lord Chorley believed that the study of law should not be confined to the select few, but that law as a subject should be of interest to all. Lord Chorley lectured at the Law Society's School of Law and at the University of London until 1946. He was also active in the Association of University Teachers. In 1970 he was made an honorary fellow of LSE.

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Ralph Miliband Lecture Series

Ralph Miliband (1924-1994), a political theorist, fled to England with his father on the last boat from occupied Belgium in 1940. He became an LSE student in the following year. He was an assistant lecturer at LSE from 1949 until 1972 when he took a Chair in politics at the University of Leeds. In 1978, he took up lecturing in the United States and Canada.

Ralph’s first major book, Parliamentary Socialism, published in 1961, was a critique of the Labour Party. The book was very influential and Ralph emerged as an important figure on the intellectual left. He co-founded the annual Social Register in 1964, editing it until his death, hoping to reinvigorate the left. Miliband remained a socialist throughout his life and was an inspiring teacher through his lectures and writings. He died in 1994.

The Ralph Miliband lecture series was set up in 1996 after an anonymous benefaction from a former postgraduate student. The series is very popular and has become one of LSE’s most prestigious public lecture series.

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Director’s Lecture and Director’s Dialogue

The first lecture in this series was delivered by Professor Lord Anthony Giddens in 1997, who was Director of LSE from 1997-2003. Anthony Giddens studied sociology at the University of Hull, was awarded a Master’s Degree at LSE and a doctorate from Cambridge. He taught social psychology at the University of Leicester from 1961 and moved to King’s College, Cambridge, where he became Professor of Sociology. He is known for his theory of structuration, which explores the connections between individuals and social systems. He is also known for developing the theory of the Third Way, a political philosophy which seeks to redefine social democracy for a post-Cold War and globalised era. Because his advice is sought by senior figures across the world, Giddens is an extremely influential academic. He had a major impact in the development of New Labour in the UK and took part in the Blair-Clinton dialogue from 1997 onwards.

The Director’s Lecture became the Director’s Dialogue where the Director entered into a public debate discussion on contemporary issues with key public figures from a variety of disciplines, for example: George Soros (LSE alumnus and philanthropist); Susie Orbach (psychotherapist and psychoanalyst).

The Director’s Dialogue was continued by Sir Howard Davies who succeeded Giddens as Director of LSE from 2003 until 2011. Before this, Davies was the first Chair of the UK Financial Services Authority from 1997-2003. He also served as Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry. He is now a professor at Sciences Po in Paris.

Howard Davies’ first Director’s Dialogue was with Michael Crick, broadcaster, journalist and author, who was a founding member of the Channel 4 News Team in 1982. Another notable dialogue was with Dame Clara Furse, a LSE alumna and Chief Executive of the London Stock Exchange between 2001 and May 2009. She was the first woman to hold this position.

Lakatos Lecture

Imre Lakatos (1922-1974) was an internationally-renowned philosopher of mathematics and of science. He fled his native Hungary at the time of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and obtained a Rockefeller Foundation scholarship to study at Cambridge for a second PhD (the first was awarded at Debrecen University in 1948). He attended Karl Popper’s seminar at LSE and then lectured at LSE in the Department of Philosophy, Logic and Scientific Method from 1960 until his death in 1974. He was made Professor of Logic in 1969.

The subject of Lakatos’s second PhD formed the basis of ‘Proofs and Refutations’, a seminal work in the philosophy of mathematics. It was published initially as a series of journal articles and posthumously as a book in 1976. From 1968, Lakatos proposed a new scientific method called ‘The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes’, which remains influential today.

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Jane Jacobs Lecture

Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) was an American journalist, author and activist who is best known for her work on urban studies. In 1961 her work The Death and Life of Great American Cities, became one of the most influential American texts about the inner workings and failings of cities. Rather than advocating the demolition of slums and opening out inner-city spaces, Jacobs recommended a place-based, community-centred approach to urban planning, decades before such strategies were considered sensible.

In the early 1960s, Jacobs became Chair of the Joint Committee to Stop the Lower Manhattan Expressway, in an attempt to stop Robert Moses plans to build a highway through Manhattan’s Washington Park and West Village. Her activism led to her arrest during a demonstration in 1968, but her actions are often considered the turning point in the development of New York City.

Jacobs moved to Toronto in 1968 as a protest against US involvement in the Vietnam War. She continued to be critical of top-down urban planning and, in the early 1970s, helped to prevent the construction of a major highway through some of Toronto’s neighbourhoods.

The Jane Jacobs lecture series began in 2001, organised by the Cities Programme, to reflect her work on the economy of cities. The first recorded lecture in this collection was delivered by Joseph Rykwert, a leading authority on the history of art and architecture whose ideas and work have influenced generations of architects and designers.