Hay Festival

The books that have changed our view of the Universe, eruptions that shook the world and Stalin's fiercest henchmen are just some of the themes that will be under discussion during the popular Cambridge Series at this year's Hay Literary Festival.

We welcome the vision to open up Cambridge research on historic and contemporary India, among many other topics, to the Hay audience.

Nicola Buckley

University of Cambridge alumnus and Hay Festival director Peter Florence has invited the University to contribute a third annual speaker series to the world-renowned Festival, held between May 27 and June 5.

The Cambridge Hay series is a spin-off from the Cambridge Festival of Ideas, and features outstanding communicators from the Cambridge academic community.

Up to 5,000 people are expected to attend the talks and discussions in the Cambridge series and this year The Telegraph is the Festival’s media partner.

Highlights this year include philosopher Baroness Onora O'Neill debating the limits of toleration in today's society and Dr Amrita Narlikar on the rise of new powers Brazil, India and China and their impact on global governance. Dr Narlikar heads Cambridge's new Centre for Rising Powers.

India is one of the focuses for this year's Festival and Dr Kevin Greenbank and Dr Annamaria Motrescu will lead a session entitled “The Reel Raj: cinefilm and audio archive from the Centre of South Asian Studies”. This includes remarkable footage from some of the almost 300 home movies in their collection which offer a unique glimpse of life in India and other parts of South Asia during the final days of the British Empire.

Hay audiences can also look forward to Dr Ha-Joon Chang on 23 myths of capitalism and Professor Tony Wrigley in conversation with George Monbiot, discussing a new look at the industrial revolution and the links between the industrial revolution and our current energy crisis. Professor Nicky Clayton will talk about her research on crow behaviour which was featured in a series of online films made available by the University.

And with an event which may appeal to adults and children alike, Cambridge University Press Chief Executive Stephen Bourne will speak about the company’s decision to adopt a giant panda at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Foundation in China – a bid to build closer working links with the country and to help protect the endangered species.

Other speakers include:

  • Dr Simon Mitton, on the books that have changed our view of the universe, from Alexandria to Cambridge
  • Professor Michael Lamb on children in the legal system
  • Professor Gerry Gilmore on whether science claims to know the unknowable
  • Professor Rosamond McKitterick on history, memory and ideas about the past
  • Dr Ulinka Rublack on dress codes in Renaissance Europe
  • Dr Clive Oppenheimer on eruptions that shook the world
  • Professor Simon Blackburn on the relationship between language and action, pragmatism, and practical reasoning.
  • Dr Rachel Polonsky on Molotov, one of Stalin's fiercest henchmen.

Nicola Buckley, currently Head of Community Affairs, said: “The University of Cambridge is delighted to be contributing its speaker series to the Hay Festival once again. We welcome the Festival director’s vision to open up Cambridge research on historic and contemporary India, among many other topics, to the Hay audience, and we look forward to lively talks and debates.”

The full line-up for the Cambridge series at the Hay Festival is:

Fri 27/5, 5.15pm

Professor Sir Colin Humphreys

Cambridge Series 1 - "The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus".

Reconciling conflicting Gospel accounts and scientific evidence, the distinguished Cambridge physicist reveals the exact date of the Last Supper in a definitive new timeline of Holy Week and offers a complete reassessment of the final days of Jesus.


Fri 27/5, 6.30pm Professor John Barrow

The Book of Universes

The mathematician encounters universes where the laws of physics can change from time to time and from one region to another, universes that have extra hidden dimensions of space and time, universes that are eternal, universes that live inside black holes, universes that end without warning, colliding universes, inflationary universes, and universes that come into being from something else – or from nothing at all.


Fri 27/5, 7.45pm Dr Simon Mitton

From Alexandria to Cambridge

The historian of astronomy examines of Five Books That Changed Our View of the Universe: Ptolemy's Almagest, Copernicus' De Revolutionibus, Galileo's Siderius Nuncius and Dialogo, and Newton's Principia. A facsimile of the Copernicus manuscript will be displayed.


Sat 28/5, 2.30pm Professor Michael Lamb

Angels, Demons, Dunces

The developmental forensic psychologist examines our inconsistent views of children in the legal system.


Sun 29/5, 2.30pm Dr Ha-Joon Chang

23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism

The economist turns all received wisdom about free markets, globalisation and the digital revolution on its head and offers an utterly compelling alternative. Chaired by Jesse Norman of the Treasury Select Committee.


Mon 30/5, 4pm Professor Tony Wrigley

Opening Pandora's Box: a New Look at the Industrial Revolution

All material production requires energy.  All pre-industrial economies derived the bulk of their energy from agriculture.  Production horizons were tightly bounded.  The use of fossil fuel overcame this limitation.  Chaired by George Monbiot.


Tues 31/5, 1130 Stephen Bourne

Panda-monium: social responsibility in China

Cambridge University Press has adopted the young giant panda Jian Qiao at the Chengdu Research Foundation in China. Its CEO reports on the practicalities and symbolism of this new relationship, and we'll meet Jian Qiao on the big screen.


Tues 31/5, 1pm Professor Simon Blackburn

Practical Tortoise Raising

The Philosopher explores the relationship between language and action, pragmatism, pluralism and practical reasoning.


Tues 31/5, 1pm Professor Clive Oppenheimer

Eruptions That Shook The World

The volcanologist explores geological, historical and archaeological records to ask how volcanic eruptions have shaped the trajectory of human society through prehistory and history. He looks at the evidence for

volcanic cataclysm and considers how we can prepare ourselves for future catastrophes.


Tues 31/5, 5.30pm Dr Amrita Narlikar

The Rise of New Powers and the Challenges of Global Trade Governance

No good deed goes unpunished: the WTO’s timely response to accommodate the new powers – Brazil, China, and India – at the heart of its decision-making has created new opportunities but also generated unanticipated new problems. What insights can be learnt about the rise of new powers within the WTO and in other multilateral organisations?


Tues 31/5, 7pm Dr Kevin Greenbank / Dr Annamaria Motrescu

The Reel Raj: cinefilm and audio archive

An overview of the digital holdings of the Centre of South Asian Studies and their potential in the teaching of British and South Asian imperial history. Chaired by Hannah Rothschild.


Weds 1/6, 11.30am Professor Gerry Gilmore

Past, present and infinite future?

Was there anything before the beginning, why does science claim to know the apparently unknowable; where do I come from? What do we know about the infinite future?


Weds 1/6, 4pm Rev Dr John Polkinghorne

Quantum Theory

"The mathematician, theoretical physicist and priest explains the strange and exciting ideas that make the subatomic world so different from the world of the every day."


Thurs 2/6, 2.30pm Dr Ulinka Rublack

Dressing Up: Cultural identity in Renaissance Europe

Historian Dr Rublack will show why clothes made history and history can be about clothes. Her research imagines the Renaissance afresh by considering people´s appearances: what they wore, how this made them move, what images they created, and how all this made people feel about themselves.


Thurs 2/6, 5.30pm Dr Rachel Polonsky

Molotov's Magic Lantern

A luminous, original and unforgettable exploration of a country and its literature, viewed through the eyes of Vyacheslav Molotov, one of Stalin's fiercest henchmen.


Fri 3/6, 2.30pm Professor Nicky Clayton

The Ape On Your Bird Table

Crows are as smart as apes. They manufacture tools, they are socially sophisticated, and they plan where to cache for tomorrow's breakfast. These findings have led to a re-evaluation of avian cognition, and resulted in a theory that intelligence evolved independently in apes and crows.


Sat 4/6, 2.30pm Professor Rosamond McKitterick

History, Memory and Ideas About the Past

The historian focuses on uses  of memory and the problems of the relation between memory and written, especially narrative and records of memory. Particular memories can also be exploited to reinforce an identity or even an ideology. Modern historians have distinguished between official and popular history and memory, as well as collective and individual manifestations and uses of memory. She will explore how helpful modern experience may be in interpreting the distant past. Case studies of historical narratives and epitaphs inscribed on stone from the early middle ages (c. 500-c.900) will serve to highlight both the kind of material with which an early medieval historian works, and its implications for historical knowledge and interpretation more generally.


Sun 5/6, 2.30pm Baroness Onora O'Neill

Is Toleration Still A Virtue?

The philosopher is an exacting examiner of great issues such as freedom of  speech, assisted suicide and

stem cell research. Here she explores a fundamental assumption of liberal societies.

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