Tudor Festival Of Talks Marks A Big 500 At Gresham College

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Tudor Festival Of Talks Marks A Big 500 At Gresham College
Barnard's Hall
Barnard's Inn Hall in Holborn, where some Gresham lectures take place.

If you're the sort of person who loves attending free lectures, then reach for your diary now.

2019 brings a barnstorming programme of talks from Gresham College — a place where you can hear some of Britain's finest speakers for free.

The upcoming season of talks is an important one for the College. The new year marks 500 years since the birth of Thomas Gresham (you may have seen one of his grasshoppers in the streets around the Royal Exchange). A bequest in Gresham's will set up the public lecture programme that's been going ever since.

Now, the college's Tudor Festival of Lectures sees a range of talks that cover London in Gresham's day, or else explore human progress in the 500 years since his birth. The complete programme is reproduced below.

Thomas Gresham statue
Sir Thomas Gresham on Holborn Viaduct.

To attend a lecture, simply turn up and walk in (though arrive early as talks can fill up). There is no ticketing, pre-booking or charge.


Sir Thomas Gresham, London and Europe – Dr Ian Archer, Keble College Oxford

Wednesday 9 January 2019, 6pm at the Museum of London

London was crucially dependent on continental Europe for its economic resilience in the mid sixteenth century, and Sir Thomas Gresham’s fortune piggy-backed off the special relationship with Antwerp. The Reformation put the relationship under real strain. This wasn’t a sixteenth-century Brexit (the division was within Christendom), but it posed similar challenges. How did England cope?

Evolution since Gresham’s Time – Steve Jones

Tuesday 29 January 2019, 6pm at the Museum of London

Professor Jones will examine how changes since the sixteenth century have affected the evolution of human beings and that of the animals and plants around us. Professor Jones will deal with the accelerating shifts in plants, animals and humans as they cope with human activities from gold-mining to global warming, and will speculate about where life might be on Gresham’s 600th anniversary.

Gresham’s World: Global Traffic, Trade, and the Metamorphosis of England – Professor Nandini Das, University of Liverpool

Wednesday 6 February 2019, 6pm at the Museum of London

Many of Gresham’s contemporaries would say, that global trade and traffic altered sixteenth-century England beyond recognition. From its food, fashion, and language, to the look and feel of its cities and neighbourhoods. How did its subjects respond to this transformation? Using contemporary print and theatre, this lecture will discuss how England and Englishness was defined, even as the boundaries between the home and the world became increasingly diffuse.

How Astronomy Changed our View of the Cosmos: from Gresham to the 21st Century – Professor Joseph Silk, Gresham College

Wednesday 6 March 2019, 1pm at the Museum of London

Thomas Gresham lived from 1519 to 1579. The first telescope was designed in 1608 in the Netherlands, and first pointed at the heavens by Galileo a year later. The greatest discoveries since the pre-telescope era have been that of the existence of many other planets around distant stars, and the vastness of the universe. So much has happened since Gresham’s era, yet many of the questions about our cosmic origins still remain.

Gresham’s bequest to Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn – Margaret Willes, independent scholar

Monday 11 March 2019, 1pm at the Barnard’s Inn Hall

The valuable bequest of Sir Thomas Gresham to the development of scientific interest in seventeenth-century England can be traced through the testimony of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn - not only great diarists but also ‘particular friends.’

The Natural Environment of Tudor London – Professor Carolyn Roberts, Gresham College

Wednesday 10 April 2019, 6pm at the Museum of London

Tudor London is variously reported as a squalid seething mass of humanity choking on its own filth and fumes, and as a delightful garden where babbling brooks and sweet flowers tickled the senses of people such as Elizabeth I, Shakespeare and Erasmus. Drawing on evidence from contemporary maps, paintings and writings, and modern environmental science, the lecture will offer a walk around the City with Sir Thomas Gresham, evaluating these different perspectives on the City’s air, water, soil and wildlife.  

500 Years of Mathematics: Are We Living in a New Golden Age? – Professor Chris Budd, Gresham College

Tuesday 30 April 2019, 1 pm at the Museum of London

Much has happened in the 500 years since the birth of Thomas Gresham, and mathematics is no exception. Most mathematicians were then in awe of the Greeks and felt little had been done since. But the start of modern mathematics soon followed, marked by the solution of the cubic equation. Mathematics has grown explosively since then and we are now in an age of great discovery. The last 500 years of progress in maths will be reviewed, to see where it is going next and ask whether we are truly living in a mathematical Golden Age.

Gresham’s Exchange – Professor Stephen Alford, University of Leeds

Wednesday 8 May 2019, 6pm at the Museum of London

‘Go to the Exchange, crave gold as you intend’ wrote William Haughton in Englishmen for My Money (1598). Sir Thomas Gresham's first great contribution to the life of London was the Royal Exchange, the purpose-built merchants' bourse which opened in 1567. Why did Gresham finance and build it? What did Londoners (and others) do there? And what does the Exchange tell us about Gresham's ambitions both for himself and for London?

Sir Thomas Gresham, 1519-2019 – Dr John Guy, Clare College Cambridge

Thursday 13 June 2019, 6pm at the Guildhall Old Library

Banker to Queen Elizabeth I, founder of the Royal Exchange, and perhaps a gun-runner too? To commemorate the 500th Anniversary of the birth of the College’s founder and benefactor Sir Thomas Gresham, Dr John Guy will tell us what he has uncovered about this fascinating and influential figure in research for his new biography.

Last Updated 17 December 2018

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