Quentin Skinner conference at the British Academy

Today is the first day of a two-day conference which Joanne Paul and I are running ‘at’ the British Academy (i.e. online), on Quentin Skinner’s ‘Meaning and Understanding’ After 50 years: Interdisciplinary Perspectives.

Skinner is one of the world’s leading historians of political thought, and someone who has influenced me throughout my career – starting with his brilliant undergraduate lectures, which I described here.

His essay on ‘Meaning and Understanding’ was a seminal essay that still bears close scrutiny today. Its key argument is that to understand historical texts, you need to read them historically. Skinner criticises many errors and ‘mythologies’ in the study of historical texts.

The conference features papers on many issues, including applying his ideas to ancient Greece and Rome; to philosophical reconstruction; to music theory; to Indian, Islamic and Chinese contexts; to rhetoric and ideological analysis; to digital humanities, quantitative text analysis and sociolinguistics; and to racism in political thought (my paper).

Registration is free, and you can come to as much or as little of the conference as you like.