The first lecture in the series looks at the initial expansion of Europe, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. It explores the great empires established by the British, Dutch, French, Ottomans, Portuguese, Russians and Spanish, and looks at their origins, their growth, and their mutual rivalries. It examines how these empires were ruled, the role of slavery in their establishment and administration, and their impact on the peoples they colonized. To a degree these were ‘mercantilist empires’, extending European patterns of control to overseas territories and confining them to a particular, limited role as recipients of European manufactures and providers of raw materials on which to base it. Trade restrictions imposed by the colonizing powers were increasingly resented by emerging colonial elites. Most of the pre-industrial European empires collapsed with startling suddenness in the half-century from the mid-1770s to the mid-1820s, and the lecture concludes with a discussion of why this happened, and what remained afterwards.
As well as being the Gresham Professor of Rhetoric, Professor Richard J. Evans FBA is Regius Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. He has lectured extensively all over the world at a variety of literary festivals and events, is widely published and is a frequent contributor to the broadcast media and the press.
He has been Editor of the Journal of Contemporary History since 1998 and a judge of the Wolfson Literary Award for History since 1993. His most recent publication was the third volume of his monumental large-scale history of the Third Reich, The Third Reich at War, which was published in 2008.
Professor Evans's area of research interest lies predominantly in German history, especially social and cultural history, since the mid-nineteenth century. He has worked on movements of emancipation and liberation, including the feminist movement and the labor movement, on social inequality in the urban environment, and on the social history of death and disease. His work on the history of crime has involved examining literary discourses and their interaction with social models of deviance, both those articulated by the authorities and those lived by deviants themselves.
Since acting as principal expert witness in the David Irving libel trial before the High Court in London in 2000, his work has dealt with Holocaust denial and the clash of epistemologies when history enters the courtroom.