The lecture will showcase the latest developments in Exeter’s world-leading research.

Future of Europe seen through lens of Humanities at London Global Conversation

With June’s referendum bringing the debate about Britain’s future in the EU centre stage, academics from the University of Exeter will consider the issues in light of current research at a special event in London.

Taking place on Thursday 26 May at the British Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences, ‘A “New Europe”: Lessons from Ancient and Modern History’ is the latest in a series of worldwide Global Conversation lectures showcasing the latest developments in Exeter’s world-leading research.

Professor Richard Toye (History) and Professor Elena Isayev (Classics and Ancient History) will present the latest research on the UK’s historical relationship with Europe, examining what the evidence of the past can tell us about the Europe of today – and of the future.

Professor Toye will reflect on Sir Winston Churchill’s famous Zurich speech of 1946, which argued “We must build a kind of United States of Europe.” Professor Toye has published widely on Churchill’s rhetoric, mostly recently in his book The Roar of the Lion: The Untold Story of Churchill's World War II Speeches (Oxford University Press, 2013) and in other press.

Professor Toye said: “The issue of Europe always provokes a strong emotional response, and people on all sides of the debate have invoked Churchill’s name in support of their own positions. Arguably, Churchill’s real message is not one that can be easily exploited either by the Remain camp or by the Leave camp but nonetheless does illuminate our current European dilemmas.”

One of the defining features of the EU debate is without doubt European migration. Although regarded as a modern phenomenon, evidence from 2000 years ago shows the extent of mobility across an Ancient Europe that had no nation states, no territorial citizenship, no borders and no maps on which to draw them. Drawing on insights from her upcoming book, Professor Elena Isayev will explain how insights from the ancient world can shed light on migration today.

Professor Isayev’s monograph, Migration, Mobility and Place in Ancient Italy, which will be published in 2017 by Cambridge University Press, investigates the nature of human mobility in and through Italy in the last 500 years BC, arguing that much human mobility in the last millennium BC was on-going and cyclical. The book will explore stories of individuals and migrant groups, traders, refugees, expulsions, the founding and demolition of sites, and the political processes that could both encourage and discourage the transfer of people from one place to another.

Professor Isayev said: “we do not live in a unique age of migration - the difference between now and the Europe of 2000 years ago is not the level of mobility but its configuration. The relationship between territory, belonging and citizenship was not self-evident then, but nor is it now. I will examine the extent to which the nation-state system is still fit for purpose, and if the Europe of today is representative of the future or the past.”

Historian Dr. David Rosenthal and Exeter alumna Sophie Wardell (BA English 2009) will join the speakers for a panel discussion and Q&A. Dr. Rosenthal (Harvard Center for Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti, Florence) is a researcher on the AHRC-funded Hidden Florence project, led by academics at the University of Exeter. Sophie Wardell is a Programme Producer at the Free Word Centre, the only international centre for literature, literacy and free expression in the world.

Introduced in March 2015 in Hong Kong, the Global Conversation series explores how the University of Exeter, working in collaboration with its partners, is having an impact on many of the shared global challenges we face. Encouraging conversation between experts in their fields, guests and a wider public audience, Global Conversation has travelled the world exploring issues including dementia, the latest developments in climate change, and the search for habitable exoplanets.

The event will be tweeted live from @UoEGlobalConvo using #UoEGlobalConvo from 18:30 UK time on 26 May. The event is now fully booked but to join a waiting list contact

For more information regarding the Global Conversation series, please visit

Date: 19 May 2016

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