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Cambridge Centre for Political Thought


The John Robert Seeley Lectures are given biennially by a distinguished visitor to Cambridge, on a topic in Political Thought and its History. The lectures are given in odd calendar years, dovetailing with the Faculty of History's other major lecture series, the George Macaulay Trevelyan Lectures.  The Seeley Lectures are generously supported by the Cambridge University Press, and are subsequently published by them.  For a list of previous Seeley lecturers, see 'Previous Lectures'.

The J.R. Seeley Lectures for 2015 were given by Professor Josiah Ober (Stanford University), on the subject:


The programme of the lectures was:

Tuesday 20 October 2015: What democracy is

Thursday 22 October 2015: What democracy is good for: I Natural capacities

Tuesday 27 October 2015: What democracy is good for: II Freedom, equality, dignity, wisdom

Thursday 29 October 2015: What democractic theory is good for

For a podcast of the lectures:

Professor Ober is Professor of Political Science and Classics (and, by courtesy, Philosophy) and Constantine Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities & Sciences, Stanford University.

He is a leading authority on ancient political thought, and in particular on Athenian Democracy.  His work is distinguished for its active interrogation of ancient thought in the perpective of modern social science.  His books include:

The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece (Princeton, 2015)

Democracy and Knowledge: Innovation and Learning in Classical Athens (Princeton, 2008)

Athenian Legacies: Essays on the Politics of Going on Together (Princeton, 2005)

Political Dissent in Democratic Athens: Intellectual Critics of Popular Rule (Princeton, 1998)

The Athenian Revolution: Essays on Ancient Greek Democracy and Political Theory (Princeton, 1996)

Mass and Elite in Democratic Athens: Rhetoric, Ideology, and the Power of the People (Princeton, 1989) Winner of the Goodwin Award: American Philological Association

Fortress Attica: Defense of the Athenian Land Frontier, 404-322 B.C. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985).