The main site at the Hay Festival.

Cambridge is fielding a series of talks and debates by leading academics on a range of global challenges at this year's Hay literary Festival.

The Cambridge experts cut through the political and media spin on big issues and look at them with real attention and intellectual rigour.

Peter Florence

A series of talks and debates by Cambridge academics on pressing contemporary issues kicks off this week at the Hay Festival.

This year is the 25th anniversary of the Festival and the fourth year running that the University of Cambridge has run a series of talks there as part of its commitment to public engagement.

This year's line-up includes Paul Cartledge, A.G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture, who will be participating in three of the 10 sessions on in the Classics series on Herodotus, the “Father of History”, on Plato and on the aspirations and concepts of civilisation, democracy, drama, virtue, victory, liberty and xenia and what the study of Classics has meant in the wider world.

For the first time, Cambridge academics will take part in a series of debates about contemporary political and social issues, including Europe, democracy and urban violence.  Among those taking part in the Europe debate is Professor Robert Tombs who has written a blog on the implications for France and Europe of the election of Francois Hollande as president of France.

Another debate covers the broader cultural implications of current events, with Professor Adrian Poole, Professor Alison Sinclair and Jennifer Wallace discussing the modern meaning of tragedy and literary representation of current events. Other speakers include Professor Susan Golombok on alternative family structures, Professor Martin Jones on the archaeology of food, Carolin Crawford on the birth and death of stars, Dame Patricia Hodgson on media regulation in the shadow of the Leveson Inquiry, Professor David Spiegelhalter on our risk society and Professor Stefan Collini on what universities are for.

Professor Lawrence Sherman will talk about how science is transforming policing in a session entitled “The new police knowledge”. The session will be introduced by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Constabulary Sir Denis O’Connor.

Brendan Burchell, senior lecturer in the Sociology Department, will be in conversation with Julia Hobsbawm, honorary visiting professor in networking at Cass Business School, about the future of work.

Other Cambridge academics speaking at Hay are Professor John Thompson, Professor Robert Macfarlane, Professor Martin Rees, Professor John Barrow, Dr Julian Allwood and Professor David MacKay.

Nicola Buckley, head of public engagement at the University of Cambridge, said: “The Cambridge series is a wonderful way to get the fascinating research being done at the University out to the public. The Hay Festival draws an international cross-section of people, from policy makers to prospective university students. It is a fantastic platform for our research and this year’s debates aim to highlight the broad range of what we do at the University and its relevance to the key issues we face today.”

Peter Florence, director of the Hay Festival, said: “What’s thrilling about this year’s series is how exacting it is about society. The Cambridge experts cut through the political and media spin on big issues and look at them with real attention and intellectual rigour  - from policing to European integration and 21st century family structure and risk. It’s a timely reminder about the value of authority; an aspiration that ‘policy’ might be formed by the best ideas and analysis rather than doctrinaire inclination or what’s easiest to sell. What else would you want from the world’s greatest University but the best thinking on subjects that matter?”

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