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.

Secret violin concertos

Every classical music fan knows the great violin concertos – Mendelssohn, Bruch, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Brahms, and so on. But here are ten lesser-known concertos (or individual movements) which deserve more attention.



Kabalevsky, second movement of Violin Concerto in C major, op. 48 (1948).

Achingly beautiful. I could die to this music. And I do, a little bit, whenever I hear it.


SS HoelschSaint-Saens, Violin Concerto no. 1 in A major, op. 20 (1859).

Astonishingly condensed, utterly lovely. One of my favourite pieces of music.




Mendelssohn, Violin Concerto in D minor (1822).

Not the famous Mendelssohn concerto: this is the first one he wrote, aged 13. Yes, 13. (When I was 13, I could just about pronounce my own name; Mendelssohn could write this.)


ValE415Valentini, Concerto for Four Violins in A minor, op. 7 no. 11 (1710).

Lush baroque gorgeousness. A four-violin, seven-movement spectacular – the seventh movement is particularly spectacular.


Rodrigo, first movement of Concierto de Estio for violin (1944).RodOvru

Wow. Just … wow.


ShawThomas Shaw, second movement of Violin Concerto in G major (c. 1785).

I hate listening to this by myself: it’s the kind of thing I want to share with someone special.


Korngold, last movement of Violin Concerto in D, op. 35 (1945).KornEHnes

A romp.


ReiVCReinecke, last movement of Violin Concerto in G minor, op. 141 (1876).

How this isn’t a classic I do not know.


Khatch Kuchar 2


Khachaturian, last movement of Violin Concerto in D minor (1940).



GlaFisch2Glazunov, Violin Concerto in A minor op. 82 (1904).

The epitome of the Romantic violin concerto.