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Those who teach shall also learn & those who learn shall also teach

Wednesday Lectures

This series of weekly lectures will take place in the Debating Chamber of Cambridge Union Society,
9a Bridge Street, CB2 1UB starting at 2.15 pm.

All members are welcome to attend.  Please have your membership cards ready to show on entry.
Non-members may attend as guests for a fee of £2 per lecture, subject to availability of space.

Any last minute changes to the programme of Wednesday lectures will be publicised in the weekly bulletin


Wednesday Lecture programme amendment

The lecture scheduled for 8 March entitled Displaced by War by Susan Pares will now take place on 15 February. The lecture originally scheduled for that date entitled The SKA Project by Rosie Bolton will now take place on 8 March.

11 January          


Professor Catherine Barnard, Professor of European Law, Faculty of Law, Cambridge University

They are changing the guard at Westminster Palace: Brexit and the legal problems it has caused.

To view the slides from this lecture click here


18 January          

The London Blitz and its Myths

Professor Nick Bullock, Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge

Angus Calder’s ‘The People’s War’ (1969) set aside grand considerations of strategy, diplomacy and the national economy to provide a first comprehensive account of how the war as felt by the people of Britain. It was an immediate success, and astonishingly he wrote it when he was only 26. Twenty odd years later, older and more sceptical, he looked back to his first book to write ‘The Myth of the Blitz’ (1991). In the lecture I plan to contrast the two accounts of the Blitz and to reflect on some of the ways in which the myths of the Blitz have served us since.


25 January          

Memory and how it works

Professor Susan Gathercole, FBA, OBE, MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences, Cambridge

We have many different kinds of memory that operate on different timescales from a few seconds (what was that new password that I now need to type in another box?), months (what did I buy my sister for her birthday last year?), to decades (I can remember so clearly walking into the building on my first day at school). Each memory system retains different kinds of information and can fail us in very different ways. Strategies for remembering usually involve using alternative memory systems from the ones we would typically use in a new situation. In this lecture I will introduce the main systems of memory and how they can both support and fail us in our everyday lives.

To view the slides from this lecture click here


1 February          

Why trust public science?

Professor Simon Schaffer, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge

The last decades have seen major crises of trust in the claims of public science, ranging from controversies such as the effects of the MMR vaccine to debates on the safety of genetically modified organisms and of fracking. It is often alleged that such episodes show that trust in the public claims of the sciences has declined, and that it has become harder to secure the authority of scientific claims. But histories of the sciences call this allegation into question: there is little evidence that past sciences commanded more or more easily secured public authority than they now do. It is important to make sense of the mechanisms of trust and authority in sciences, so that a better account of public belief and public knowledge can be established.

To view the slides from this lecture click here


8 February          

Bankruptcy, fraud, suicide and transportation for life: the history of the London Underground

Stephen Halliday, historian and author

The London Underground entered service in January 1863. Its early history depended on a succession of fraudsters, and confidence tricksters without whom it would never have become the most extensive underground railway system in the world. This talk, based on the speaker’s book ‘Underground to Everywhere’, will examine its extraordinary history, illustrated by contemporary prints.


15 February        

Displaced by war: Gertrude Powicke and Quaker refugee relief in France and  Poland during and after the First World War

Susan Pares, Author

This talk has two strands: the refugee relief and rehabilitation programme initiated by the British Society of Friends in 1914; and my great-aunt Gertrude Powicke’s part in that work from 1915 to 1919. The Friends recruited non-Quakers as relief workers and in this way my great-aunt, daughter of a Congregationalist minster, was accepted by the Society. The Quakers sent her to northeast France to help with the flow of refugees and she administered relief in various forms. After the end of hostilities, she agreed to join a new Quaker unit in Poland. Its first task was to help in the anti-typhus campaign in the country. Gertrude and a fellow-worker contracted typhus and both died in Warsaw in December 1919.



22 February        

Churchill: The War Leader

Allen Packwood, OBE, Fellow at Churchill College

This talk comprises an examination of Churchill’s 1940-1945 premiership drawing upon his archives and those of his contemporaries. The talk will take you through the doors of the secure strong rooms of the Churchill Archives Centre to examine Churchill’s own accounts of the war.


1 March               

The Power of Praise and Blame in the daily life of a couple

Terri Apter, psychologist, writer and Leverhulme Emeritus Fellow

In marriage, a couple may embrace the idea of ‘total acceptance’, yet in the course of a marriage each partner is exposed to a wide range of judgements; these include judgements about behaviour, words, feelings, fairness, consideration, attentiveness, and even the quality of his/her love. Judgement is inevitable, but the ways praise and blame are expressed and received play a crucial role in the life of a couple. This lecture explores the complexities in these matters.


8 March               

The SKA Project: Building the world’s biggest radio telescope

Dr Rosie Bolton, Senior research associate, Battcock Centre for Experimental Astrophysics, Fellow and director of studies at Selwyn College

The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope is likely to revolutionise our understanding of the Universe – as it will be able to detect radio waves with unprecedented sensitivity and image fidelity – and could help unravel some of the biggest mysteries of the Universe such as the role of dark energy and dark matter. This talk explains the complexity of building it, and its potential for future understanding.


15 March             



Details of past lectures can be found here

To contact the Wednesday lecture planning team, email:

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