British historian Quentin Skinner to give local lectures

MAKING HISTORY::The historian was invited by Academia Sinica to deliver three lectures on topics such as how the modern idea of the state took form

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Tue, May 14, 2013 - Page 3

Academia Sinica yesterday said it has invited Quentin Skinner, one of the most eminent contemporary historians of political thought, to deliver lectures at the institute and at National Taiwan University this week, which are all open to the public.

With multiple research interests including early modern European intellectual history, 17th-century political thought and a particular focus on the works of Thomas Hobbes, Academia Sinica said Skinner has authored or co-authored more than 20 books that have been widely translated.

One of his works, Foundations of Modern Political Thought, was named by the Times Literary Supplement in 1996 as one of the 100 most influential books published since World War II, the institute said.

Skinner is currently Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London, and also a fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Historical Society and the Academia Europea.

The first lecture in the series, titled “Truth and the Historian,” was delivered at the institute yesterday afternoon and the next lecture, titled “A Genealogy of Liberty,” is scheduled to take place at 3pm in the institute’s Humanities and Social Sciences Building tomorrow. The third lecture, titled “A Genealogy of the State,” is to take place at National Taiwan University’s College of Social Science at the same time on Thursday.

The institute said that in the first lecture, Skinner argued that the texts studied by historians are best approached not as expressions of belief, but as interventions in the intellectual debates of their time.

The historian is to present a debate on the concepts of freedom in traditional political thought in the second lecture and discuss the shaping of the modern idea of the state by the concepts of popular sovereignty, royal absolutism and the “fictional theories” of Thomas Hobbes in the third.

The contents of the lectures are to be translated and published by the institute, it said.