Saturday, 24 January 2015

Free Public Lectures

Barnard's Inn, London. Source
Daily series to expand the mind

This year, The Forum Populares will be covering a selection of the over 400-year-old lecture series in the heart of London

SEEKING knowledge has always been a journey that each person traverses on their own. Inspiring, illuminating, and sometimes controversial, the path to furthering our minds can take on many shapes and forms, involving individuals and groups of people from around the world. Often extensively highlighted during university and college years, this building of knowledge often times ceases to function for many once undergrad and post-education studies have been completed and the monotony of work takes its toll. It need not be so.
     In the afterglow of higher studies, there are countless ways to consistently maintain the expansion of our knowledge and understanding of the world, both historical and contemporary. They do not have to be isolated ventures, sitting in deep recesses of libraries, but can also be engaging, contemporary and interactive. For this kind of journey, there exists the Free Lectures series, conducted by the Gresham College in London, England. From the month of September to June each year, for over 400 years, the lectures at Gresham have covered expansive topics of the world. At an almost daily rate the lectures are given by an abundance of current and visiting professors from Gresham College. Bright minds holding varying and unique perspectives. It is as if you are taking an endless course of global knowledge, without any tuition fees, essays or exams to speak of. Pure scholarly indulgence.
     Barnard's Inn Hall and the Museum of London are the preferred venues in the heart of the City. Of bright note is the Barnard's Inn, which was established as an Inn of Chancery in 1542. Described by Charles Dickens in Great Expectations, the actual Hall where the lectures are conducted date from the 14th century, with the chalk and tile foundation preserved in the wall of the Council Chamber below originating in the Saxon period. It is a marvellous setting for an hourly lecture and discussion in the early evening after a hard day at work.
     It is with great joy and satisfaction that The Forum Populares is proud to announce its coverage of a selection of the last six months of these exciting and intriguing lectures through our blog. But to grasp the importance of this venture, a little background knowledge to understand the Gresham lectures is surely needed.
     Gresham College was founded on the behest of Sir Thomas Gresham (1519-1579), to be established by the Corporation of London and the Mercers' Company following his wife's death after his own. Seven professors were to be appointed to read lectures daily on seven subjects: Astronomy, Divinity, Geometry, Law, Music, Physic and Rhetoric. And it has been that way to this day, with the addition of Commerce and Environment in 1985 and 2014, respectively. Sir Thomas Gresham himself was a man of many talents. First and foremost an English merchant and financier, he worked for a tidy collection of historical figures, including Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary and Elizabeth I. Born in London, descended from an old family, Sir Thomas studied at Cambridge and was so adept at finance as a merchant and financial agent of the crown, that his advice was regularly sought for on various financial issues. He was also a skilled diplomat.
     The man's immense talent and knowledge beamed through his accomplishments. But what also stood out from a close examination of Sir Thomas is his aim to promote the city he was born in, through his legacy. That is what Gresham College stands for, among many other things. As for the lectures that go with it, they stand for something even greater. A fluid repository of thoughts, ideas and pondering, all for the enjoyment of the resident city folk, visiting international student, scholar or those who are simply curious. We hope you enjoy The Forum Populares's take on the lectures as much as we will enjoy bringing them to you.

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