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2022: Liberty

How has the idea of liberty developed and evolved over the centuries? What does the concept mean for us today and what do we need to do in order to preserve the freedoms for which generations of men and women fought and even gave their lives?

In the 2022 Engelsberg Seminar we aimed to search for the origins of Western liberty in religion, and in the ancient world. We discussed the tension within the Christian doctrine of ‘living as free persons’, we studied the Roman world of slavery and Spartacus’ post-mortem odyssey from runaway slave to Hollywood star. We considered the contesting ideas of liberty from Athens to the Far East, how liberty was manifested in Renaissance art and its incarnations in empire and nations. Is liberty in our cultural or biological DNA?

We examined the role of art and politics in the Parisian world of decadence and counterculture and how technology and ideology in 1970s California would revolutionise what it means to be human. The men and women of the 20th century wanted to break free. It is therefore ironic that the freedoms won by the baby boom generation are being questioned today by their grandchildren. The culture war is real.

We concluded the Engelsberg Seminar by examining the geopolitical realities challenging the liberal West and the world as we know it. Witnessing Ukrainian soldiers showing that courage is indeed ‘the secret of liberty’, and confronted by enemies threatening nuclear Armageddon, the West has rediscovered its purpose and resolve. Will it be enough to avoid an authoritarian world order? And will Western values endure? Only one thing is certain: Freedom is not free.


Origins of Western Liberty

Richard Chartres: The Christian Roots of Western Notions of Freedoms

Crossbench member of the House of Lords, Honorary Fellow of Trinity College, University of Cambridge

Richard Miles: Spartacus and the Endless March of Liberty

Vice-Provost and Professor of Roman History and Archaeology, University of Sydney

Mark J. Schiefsky: Democracy and Liberty in Ancient Greece

Professor of the Classics, Harvard University, Director of Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies

Jessica Frazier: A Global History of Liberty

Dr, Lecturer in Theology and Religion, Trinity College, University of Oxford

The Quest for Liberty

Alexander Lee: Art and Liberty in Renaissance Venice

Dr, Fellow of Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick

Jeremy Jennings: Liberty in the Shadow of Napoleon Bonaparte

Professor of Political Theory, King’s College London, Visiting Professor, University of Buckingham

Christopher Coker: Marathon Revisited: Is Freedom in our Biological or Cultural DNA?

Professor, Director of LSE IDEAS, London School of Economics and Political Science

Margaret MacMillan: Liberty and Nationalism

Professor of History, University of Toronto and Emeritus Professor of International History, University of Oxford

Breaking Free

Marie Kawthar Daouda: Will Freedom Make us True?

Dr, French Language and Literature at Oriel College, University of Oxford

Agnès C. Poirier: Libération

Journalist, writer and broadcaster

Francis Gavin: Liberty and History – Reflections on California in the 1970s

Professor, Director, Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS

Alexander McCall Smith: Being Free to Write

Writer, former Professor of Medical Law, University of Edinburgh

The Meaning of Liberty

Fraser Nelson: Ten Years on the Front Line of the Culture War

Editor of The Spectator, occasional columnist, Svenska Dagbladet

Merryn Somerset Webb: Negligence and Profusion: What Adam Smith Got Right (and Wrong) About Other People’s Money

Editor in chief of MoneyWeek Magazine, Financial Times

Kemi Badenoch: Trying to Turn the Tide

UK Minister of State, Member of Parliament, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Creating the Free World

Brendan Simms: British Freedoms, ‘German Liberty’ and ‘the Liberties of Europe’

Professor in the History of International Relations, Director of the Centre of Geopolitics, University of Cambridge

John Bew: Benevolent Hypocrisy? Making the Modern West Through Foreign Policy

Professor in History and Foreign Policy, Department of War Studies, King’s College London

Katja Hoyer: Blue Jeans and Communist Cowboys – How the West Looked From Behind the Iron Curtain

Visiting Research Fellow, King’s College London, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Global Opinions columnist, Washington Post

Peter Frankopan: Freedom: A Global, Modern Perspective

Professor of Global History, University of Oxford, Associate Director of the Silk Roads Programme, King’s College, University of Cambridge

One for All, All for One

Charly Salonius Pasternak: Finland & Sweden in NATO: Reluctant Allies or Defenders of Liberty?

Lead Researcher, Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Senior Research Fellow at the institute’s Global Security Programme

Mary Sarotte: NATO and the Scandinavian Strategy

Professor, Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS

Janne Haaland Matláry: NATO: The Realpolitik of Values?

Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Oslo and the Norwegian Command and Staff College

Jonas Wikman: Strengthening the Security Situation in the Baltic Sea Region

Major General, Deputy Commander Joint Forces Command of the Swedish Armed Forces

Fighting for Freedom

Robert Johnson: Fighting Against All the Odds

Dr, Director of the Changing Character of War Centre, University of Oxford, Senior Research Fellow, Pembroke College

Iuliia Osmolovska: The Kremlin Style of Negotiations

Chairwoman, Transatlantic Dialogue Center, Executive Director, Eastern Europe Security Institute Ukraine

Alina Polyakova: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom: The Case Against a New Settlement

Dr, President and CEO, Center for European Policy Analysis

Kori Schake: Maintaining Western Leadership in a Multipolar World

Dr, Director of Foreign and Defense Policy, American Enterprise Institute

An Authoritarian World Order?

Sergey Radchenko: Our Long Game with Russia

Professor, Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS

Hal Brands: What if China Wins?

Professor, Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs, Johns Hopkins University, SAIS, Senior Fellow, American Enterprise Institute

Roel Sterckx: Liberty: A View From Ancient China

Professor of Chinese History and Civilization, University of Cambridge, Fellow of Clare College

Adrian Bradshaw: Building Western Deterrence Strategy

General Sir, KCB OBE DL, Senior Associate Fellow at RUSI, Visiting Professor, King’s College London

The Endurance of Western Values

Matthew Goodwin: The Universities and the Future of the West

Professor of Politics and International Relations, University of Kent

Juliet Samuel: The Enemy Within

Columnist, The Telegraph

Jesse Norman: Freedom and Responsibility

Dr, Conservative Member of Parliament since 2010