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Vice-Chancellor’s Distinguished Lecture Series

dls_220.jpgInaugurated in early 2011, the University of Warwick's Distinguished Lecture Series brings public speakers of the highest calibre from the worlds of academia, business, the arts and civil society to our campus to share their thoughts and ideas.

The purpose of the series is to provoke discussion and debate about a range of topics and subjects in the past have included energy sustainability and the value of wealth. The agenda is kept deliberately broad and the lectures are intended to be accessible to a general audience. We encourage attendance from across the wider University community and hope you will join us at the lectures.

If you would like to suggest a speaker for the series, please get in touch the Events Team at events at warwick dot ac dot uk

Our most recent lectures

Professor Mark SmithProfessor Mark Smith
Carolina Distinguished Professor of History and Director of Research for the Institute
for Southern Studies, University of South Carolina

Cascade Diplomacy: A Sensory History of Environmental Disasters and 19th Century US Foreign Policy
Wednesday 14 November, 6pm, International Digital Laboratory (IDL), Central Campus

Book your seat

Mark Smith is Carolina Distinguished Professor of History and Director of Research for the Institute for Southern Studies at the University of South Carolina. A winner of USC’s Michael Mungo Graduate Teaching Award, he has directed sixteen PhD dissertations. 

He is author or editor of a dozen books, including Mastered by the Clock: Time, Slavery, and Freedom in the American South (winner of the Organization of American Historians' 1997 Avery O. Craven Award); Debating Slavery: Economy and Society in the Antebellum American South; Listening to Nineteenth-Century America; How Race Is Made: Slavery, Segregation, and the Senses (a Choice Outstanding Academic Title); and Sensing the Past: Seeing, Hearing, Smelling, Tasting, and Touching in History. His most recent book, published in 2014, is The Smell of Battle, The Taste of Siege: A Sensory History of the American Civil War. It was named a Foreign Affairs Best Book of 2014. His work has been translated into Chinese, Korean, Danish, German, and Spanish.

His edited books include The Old South, Hearing History: A Reader, Stono: Documenting and Interpreting a Southern Slave Revolt, Writing the American Past, and, with Robert Paquette, The Oxford Handbook of Slavery in the Americas. He has published articles in the American Historical Review, Past and Present, the William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of Southern History, the Journal of Social History, The Chronicle Review, and the Journal of American History.

Recognized as one of the foremost scholars of the American South and as a pioneer in the history of the senses, he is also a noted scholar of the history of natural disasters. He is the author of Camille, 1969: Histories of a Hurricane and was co-author of Hurricane Katrina and the Forgotten Coast of Mississippi (with Susan Cutter, Christopher T. Emrich, Jerry T. Mitchell, Walter W. Piegorsch, and Lynn Weber), which was published by Cambridge University Press in 2014. This work was funded by a National Science Foundation grant. Smith has also earned funding for his work from the British Academy, the Mellon Foundation, and the Watson-Brown Foundation.

Smith has lectured in Europe, throughout the United States, Australia, and China; he has keynoted at the London Jazz Festival; and his work has been reviewed and featured in the New York Times, the London Times, Brain, Science, the Washington Post, Slate, the Wall Street Journal, Garden & Gun, and Foreign Affairs. He is the General Editor of the Southern Classics Series (University of South Carolina Press), co-editor of Studies in International Slavery (Liverpool University Press), co-editor of Cambridge University Press’ series, Studies on the American South, and General Editor of the Pennsylvania State University Press’ Perspectives in Sensory History. He has been a regular book reviewer for the Wall Street Journal.

Smith is currently working on three projects—a book on the intersection between disasters and US foreign policy in the post-Civil War period, a short book, A Sensory History Manifesto, and a co-authored work emotions and sensory history. His next book, Smell and History: A Reader, will be published in 2019.

Booking for this event is required. An email will be sent to all those who have booked nearer the time of the event to confirm the venue.

The Bishnodat Persaud Memorial Lecture 2018

Sir Vince CableRt Hon Sir Vince Cable MP Leader of the Liberal Democrats, MP for Twickenham

Thursday 11 October, 6pm, Central Campus

Professor The Honourable Bishnodat Persaud CHB, PhD, FRSA (1933 – 2016) was a Guyanese economist who made an enormous contribution to economic policy making in developing countries from the 1970s to the 1990s, especially in the area of international trade, the environment and the vulnerabilities and viability of small states. He served as Alcan Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of the West Indies and Director of Economic Affairs, Commonwealth Secretariat. In November 2013 he was awarded The Companion of Honour in Barbados for his contributions to regional and international public service.

Persaud spent eighteen years in the service of the Commonwealth Secretariat, with eleven of those years spent as Director and Head of the Economic Affairs Division. Before joining the Commonwealth Secretariat, he was Research Fellow at the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Barbados and served for a period as head of the Eastern Caribbean branch of the Institute of Social and Economic Research in Barbados.

Together with Sir Vince Cable, he co-wrote Developing with Foreign Investment (1987), a book that encouraged investors to consider emerging markets. He visited Warwick many times and had a close friendship with former Chancellor Sir Shridath Ramphal. More information about Bishnodat Persaud can be found here.

Sir Vince Cable

Sir Vince read Natural Sciences and Economics at Cambridge University where he was President of the Union, followed by a PhD at Glasgow University. He was Treasury Finance Officer for the Kenyan Government (1966-1968), First Secretary in the Diplomatic Service in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (1974-1976), Deputy Director of the Overseas Development Institute, Special Advisor on Economic Affairs for the Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Sonny Ramphal (1983-1990), Chief Economist for Shell International, MP for Twickenham, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills (2010-2015) and is currently the Leader of the Liberal Democrats. Further information abour Sir Vince can be found here.


alan rivettAlan Rivett, Director of Warwick Arts Centre

Our Futures with the Arts and Culture

Thursday 21 June, 6pm, Warwick Arts Centre

Book your seat

Outgoing Director of Warwick Arts Centre, Alan Rivett, a trustee of Coventry City of Culture 2021 Trust, The British Association of Concert Halls and the Audience Agency, will explore the future for arts and culture at a time where a single artwork can sell for £100+m, study and training in the arts is for ‘posh people’ and technology is revolutionising access.

Since being appointed in 2001 Alan has successfully steered Warwick Arts Centre’s programme to a position where it regularly hosts high profile, contemporary, international theatre, music, visual arts and interdisciplinary events. Warwick Arts Centre regularly commissions new work from leading artists and has a generative programme for emerging artists.

Alan is a board member of Shared Experience Theatre Company and 501 Arts. He has been a member of the University of Warwick Council and was Chair of Fierce Festival ltd, leading an annual festival of contemporary live art and performance in Birmingham. Alan also chaired Dance Touring Partnership for a number of years, standing down in 2016.

Previous Lectures

peter ammom Ambassador Dr Peter Ammon

The Return of Geopolitics: managing risk in the 21st century

Listen to Peter Ammom's lecture

A staunch advocate of free trade, Ammon takes strong interest in what it takes to build a rules-based, peaceful and prosperous global order. In London, Ammon's agenda is focused on minimising economic and political risk after the BREXIT referendum.

lem Dr Lee Elliot Major

Stuck: Britain’s Social Mobility Problem

Listen to Lee Elliot major's lecture

Chief Executive of The Sutton Trust, Trustee of The Education Endowment Foundation. Low social mobility, particularly at the bottom and top of society, and widening educational inequality are arguably the biggest social challenges of our times.

Lorraine DastonProfessor Lorraine Daston

The Sciences of the Archives: Big Science, Big
Humanities, and the Pathos of Positivism

Lorraine Daston is Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, and Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.

Listen to Lorraine Daston's lecture

oliver hart 90Oliver Hart

Incomplete Contracts and Control

Oliver is the Andrew E Furer Professor of Economics at Harvard University. This lecture was a version of his Nobel Prize Lecture, originally delivered on 8 December 2016 at the Aula Magna, Stockholm University. A recording of the lecture will be available shortly.

reza_photo.jpgReza Moghadam

Lessons from the Euro Crisis

Reza Modhadam is Vice Chairman, Global Capital Markets & Head of Sovereign Debt Coverage at Morgan Stanley. He joined the Firm in 2014 from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), where he served for 22 years.

Listen to Reza Moghadam's lecture

nt.jpgSir Nigel Thrift

The University of Life

Professor Nigel Thrift was Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Warwick from 2006 until January 2016.

Watch Sir Nigel Thrift's lecture

ABAndrew Blake

Machines that learn: big data or explanatory models?

Andrew Blake took up his current post as Institute Director of The Alan Turing Institute in October 2015. He was previously a Microsoft Distinguished Scientist and the Laboratory Director of Microsoft Research, Cambridge.

Watch Andrew Blake's lecture

dk1.jpgSir David King

Sustainable Futures: Survival of the City

Professor Sir David King is the UK Foreign Secretary’s Special Representative for Climate Change. He previously worked as the Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, working with Prime Ministers Blair and Brown, during which time he raised awareness of the need for governments to act on climate change

Watch Sir David King's lecture

MarkLowcockMark Lowcock

International Development and Economic Growth in a Changing World

Mark Lowcock is Permanent Secretary for the Department for International Development. He began his career in DFID (formally the Overseas Development Administration) in 1985.

Watch Mark Lowcock's lecture

Norman AugustineNorman R Augustine

Research and Education in Developed Countries and the Dinosaur: They Never Saw it Coming

Norman R Augustine attended Princeton University where he graduated with a BSE and MSE in Aeronautical Engineering. He has served as Under Secretary of the Army and later Acting Secretary of the Army and as CEO of Lockheed Martin.
Watch Norman Augustine's lecture

Jon Cruddas

Jon Cruddas

Labour Value - Trade Unions and the Politics of the Common Good

Jon Cruddas became a policy officer with the Labour Party in 1989 before becoming the chief assistant to the General Secretary of the Labour Party in 1994. He is now head of Labour's policy review and is a member of the Shadow Cabinet.

Watch Jon Cruddas's lecture

Helen Ghosh

Dame Helen Ghosh

For ever, for everyone. Reinventing the National Trust in the 21st Century

Dame Helen Ghosh spent seven years in central government before becoming Director-General of the National Trust in 2012, where her interest in history, people and places, and her commitment to the environment come together.

Watch Dame Helen Ghosh's lecture

Vernon EllisSir Vernon Ellis

Beyond Public vs Private: Creating Entrepreneurial Public Value

Sir Vernon Ellis is Chair of the British Council, where he has led the Board and management through an extensive reframing of the strategy and organisation structure.

Watch Sir Vernon Ellis's lecture

michael_barber.jpgSir Michael Barber

Getting every child into school and learning; why wait?

Sir Michael Barber is a leading authority on education systems and education reform. He is Chief Education Advisor at Pearson, leading the company's worldwide programme of research into education policy and efficacy.Watch Sir Michael Barber's lecture

Watch Sir Michael Barber's lecture

Richard MillerRichard K Miller

From the Ground Up: Rethinking Engineering Education

Richard K Miller was appointed President and first employee of Olin College of Engineering in 1999. Prior to this he served as Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Iowa.

Watch Richard Miller's lecture

Sir Malcolm GrantProfessor Sir Malcolm Grant

Developing the potential of the NHS as a global leader in research and innovation

Professor Sir Malcolm Grant is Chair of NHS England, providing strategic leadership and ensuring proper governance for the board.

Watch Professor Sir Malcolm Grant's lecture

mona_siddiquiedited.jpgMona Siddiqui

Faith in public life - hope or hindrance?

Mona Siddiqui joined the University of Edinburgh’s Divinity school in December 2011 as the first Muslim chair in Islamic and Interreligious Studies. Prior to this she was Professor of Islamic Studies at Glasgow University for 15 years.

Watch Mona Siddiqui's lecture

nick_pearceedited.jpgNick Pearce

Politics as vocation in a post democratic age?

Nick Pearce is Director of IPPR. He rejoined the institute in September 2010 after two years as Head of the Policy Unit at No 10.

Watch Nick Pearce's lecture

Richard Ellis

Professor Richard Ellis

Let There Be Light: Finding the Earliest Galaxies

Richard Ellis is the Steele Professor of Astronomy
at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
in Pasadena.

Watch Professor Richard Ellis' lecture

roly_keating_web.jpgRoly Keating

The idea of the library in a connected age

Roly Keating took up the post of Chief Executive at the British Library in September 2012.

Watch Roly Keating's lecture

oliver_sacks_dls.jpgDr Oliver Sacks

Narrative and Medicine: The Importance of the Case History

Oliver Sacks was a professor of neurology at NYU School of Medicine and a Visiting Professor at the University of Warwick.

Watch Dr Oliver Sacks' lecture

Professor David HarveyProfessor David Harvey

The Contradictions of Capital

David Harvey is the Distinguished Professor of
Anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City
University of New York.

Watch Professor David Harvey's lecture


Professor Ian GoldinProfessor Ian Goldin

Mind the Gap: Politics, Economics and Technological Change

Professor Ian Goldin is the first Director of the Oxford Martin School. He was Vice President of the World Bank from 2003-2006.

Watch Professor Goldin's lecture

Steven KooninDr Steven Koonin

The Promise of Urban Science

Dr Steven Koonin is Director of NYU’s Center for Urban Science and Progress.

Watch Dr Koonin's lecture

Tachi YamadaDr Tachi Yamada

Lessons from Global Health

Dr. Tadataka (Tachi) Yamada is MD, Chief Medical & Scientific Officer, Executive Vice President & Board Member - Takeda Pharmaceuticals .

Watch Dr Yamada's lecture

Ghillean PranceProfessor Sir Ghillean Prance

Towards Global Sustainability: a Faith perspective

Ghillean Tolmie Prance is Scientific Director of the Eden Project in Cornwall and Visiting Professor at Reading University (1988-).

Watch Professor Prance's lecture

Mario Vargas LlosaMario Vargas Llosa

In Conversation

Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the world’s greatest contemporary novelists, a playwright of distinction and a leading public intellectual. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2010.

Watch the discussion with Mario Vargas Llosa

paul_nurse_.jpgSir Paul Nurse

The Great Ideas of Biology

Sir Paul Nurse is a geneticist and cell biologist who has worked on how the eukaryotic cell cycle is controlled and how cell shape and cell dimensions are determined.

Watch Sir Paul Nurse's lecture

Marina WarnerMarina Warner

The Tales Things Tell: Charmed Goods in the World of the Arabian Nights

Marina Warner is a writer of fiction, criticism and history.

Watch Marina Warner's lecture

j-cleverdon.jpgDame Julia Cleverdon

Companies and communities in tough times

Listed by The Times as one of the 50 most influential women in Britain, Dame Julia Cleverdon, DCVO, CBE is a renowned speaker on corporate responsibility, leadership and career development for women.

Watch Dame Julia Cleverdon's lecture

p-forbes.jpgPeter Forbes

Science Morphing into Art

Peter Forbes is a writer who has consistently worked at the interface between art and science. His book Dazzled and Deceived won the 2011 Warwick Prize for Writing.

Watch Peter Forbes's lecture

neil-macgregor.jpgNeil MacGregor

Objects of Concern

Neil MacGregor has been Director of the British Museum since August 2002. In 2009 he received an honorary DLitt from the University of Warwick.

Watch Neil MacGregor's lecture

james-smith.jpgJames Smith

Stepping Up To The Energy Challenge

James Smith was appointed Chairman of Shell UK in 2004. He is President of the Energy Institute and chairs the Advisory Board of the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

Watch James Smith's lecture

robert-skidelsky.jpgLord Robert Skidelsky

The Economics Of The Good Life

Lord Skidelsky is Emeritus Professor of Political Economy at the University of Warwick.

Watch Lord Skidelsky's lecture