Past Events

Past Events

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The Huxleys: Revolutionising science, nature and culture @ the Royal Institution, London
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Huxley family profoundly reshaped how humans think about themselves and their effect on this planet.
Join Alison Bashford, in conversation with Adam Rutherford, as they explore three generations of Huxleys. From their scientific achievements to what went on in their private lives. In this conversation, discover these celebrated scientists that covered the fields of genetics, animal behaviour, ecology, psychology and more. Copies of Alison’s latest book, ‘An Intimate History of Evolution: The Story of the Huxley Family’, will be available to purchase at the end of the talk.

10 October 2022, 7-8.30pm (London), The Royal Institution.

Rethinking Population in an Age of Revolution
While intellectual histories of Malthus have long understood his demographic writings in the context of British anti-revolutionary politics, only recently have scholars begun to cast their vision beyond Britain, or continental Europe. In The New Worlds of Thomas Robert Malthus Bashford and Chaplin have globalised Malthus within an Anglophone world, showing how Malthus’ account of population in North America and Australasia was structured by the clash of settler colonialism with indigenous sovereignty. However, more work remains to be done, looking to other geographies, regions and transimperial relationships. Rethinking Population in an Age of Revolution invites scholars interested in this revolutionary moment of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to examine how emergent ideas of statecraft, population and empire took expression on both sides of the Mediterranean and across the globe. Read more

23-24 June 2022, UNSW Sydney.

Samuël Coghe, Population Politics in the Tropics
Abstract: From the 1890s, a devastating epidemic of sleeping sickness and shifting views on the colony’s ‘native’ population triggered mounting anxieties of depopulation among colonial officials in Angola, Portugal’s long-standing and arguably most important colony in Africa.

Population Politics in the Tropics traces this depopulation discourse through the first half of the twentieth century, showing how it was constantly reiterated by alarming reports about other deadly diseases, low fertility, high infant mortality, endemic labour scarcity and rampant emigration. Only after the Second World War did it gradually fade away, yet, just like many other colonies and/or states in Central Africa, Angola did not become part of the discourse of overpopulation that was increasingly gripping the emerging ‘Third World’. Read more…

6 April 2022, 6-7pm, Zoom.

Historians on Planetary Futures, 2021-2022 Seminar Series
The historians in this series bring a set of concerns and questions that broaden and deepen our collective conversations about possible futures of the planet Earth and the entanglement of such visions with the viability of human habitation. What pasts prefigure planetary futures? How have planetary futures been produced and reproduced by discrete projects of world-making? When and why do planetary futures revolve around the question of human population? Do planetary futures ever slip out of anthropocentric frames? How have world, earth, and planetary histories overlapped and how have they diverged? By asking questions like these historians might traverse the threshold between planetary pasts, presents, and futures, and strike a balance between the urgency of our times and what Donna Haraway calls the ‘sublime indifference’ induced by despair of what’s to come.

8 Feb – 11 April 2022, Online

Nicole Bourbonnais, “The Gospel of Family Planning”
In the early twentieth century, rising population growth rates in the decolonizing world became a subject of international concern and intervention for a variety of actors, from feminists to eugenicists to neo-Malthusians. Recent studies have explored the consolidation of a “population establishment” in the post-WWII period: a cohort of demographers and other experts (primarily men) tasked with advising dwindling colonial empires and emerging nationalist governments on how best to reign in their populations in the name of economic development and global security. But the mid-century planned parenthood movement also pulled in a more eclectic group of doctors, nurses, social workers, charity ladies and wives of colonial officials and international bureaucrats who portrayed their work as part of a humanitarian – even spiritual – mission to save the lives of women and children.

2 March 2022, 6-7pm, Zoom.

External: Cambridge Reproduction Forum – The Past, Present and Future of ContraceptionSupporters of the Laureate Centre may be interested in this year’s Cambridge Reproduction Forum.

The forum will explore the origins and methods of contraception from a historical, sociological and scientific perspective. This forum aims to inspire and reinforce the commitment to prioritise modern contraception programmes and research based on a multidisciplinary understanding of the history and future directions of family planning and contraception.

Speakers: Kim Alexander, Dr Aprajita Sarcar, Alice Pelton, Dr Beth Sundstrim and Professor Cara Delay, Stefanie Felsberger.

10 Feb 2022, 2pm (London time), Zoom.

Black and white portrait of Thomas Robert Malthus, 1834
External: Noel Butlin Lecture – Alison Bashford, Gender and Classical Political Economy
In this lecture, I re-read Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population and his Principles of Political Economy with the aim of understanding his inclusion of materials on what we call ‘gender’. Historical analysis of gender has energised my conceptual and substantive work for many decades now, but increasingly it does so at an empirical level as much as a conceptual or political one. That is, I am struck simply by the fact that past historical actors and thinkers considered gender far more often and fully than almost all subsequent analysts of them. It is therefore not just insufficient, but an empirical error, not to inquire into how ‘men’ and ‘women’ were considered, constructed, instructed, symbolised or valued in this canon. Classical political economists and their ‘universal historian/stadial theory’ predecessors especially of the Scottish Enlightenment considered gender routinely, even if in terms with which we would now disagree. I argue that the political economy canon was originally gendered (and comparatively so) because it so often sought a world history of population change, via stadial theory.

11 Feb 2022, 3.45-5.20pm (AEST).

Aprajita Sarcar, “The Family Within a Triangle: The creation, circulation and afterlife of a family planning campaign”
The paper explores the visual artefact that represented the national family planning programme in India: Hum Do Hamare Do (We are Two, will have Two Children), created in 1967. It consisted of a couple with two children: a boy and a girl in an inverted triangle. The inverted red triangle, simultaneous to the campaign, became the symbol of the international family planning movement. Tracing its creation and circulation helps unearth the assumptions of developmental modernity that guided its ideation. The slogan and its visual partner travelled across and beyond India to signify the nearest family planning centre. Posters, signposts and travelling theatrical performances showcased the power of the symbol and its impact on the developing world. The paper will trace the history of this campaign and ask what factors enabled its creation. The mythical family within the inverted triangle attained a life beyond governmental advocacy to become a cultural marker of modernity in postcolonial India. In many ways, it became a visual representation of the Indian middle class.

8 December 2021, 6-7pm, Zoom.

AHA Keynote: Alison Bashford, “How do we think about population in the Anthropocene?”

This lecture expores first how modern (post c. 1780) population changes have entered discussion on the Anthropocene. Secondly, it asks how historians specifically, might (not should) begin to answer this question, with attention both to accelerating global net population growth and local population decline, caused amongst other dynamics by the fertility, mortality, and migration impacts of colonisation..

1 December 2021, 5pm, online.

Andrew Moeller, “Be Fruitful and Multiply? Anglican Justifications for Fertility-Manipulation Schemes in Interwar England”
In 1930, the Church of England became the first major Christian denomination in Europe or North America to formally condone the use of birth control. The Bishop of Winchester, Theodore Woods, led the reform campaign, and he did so for the expressed purpose of encouraging an increase in the birthrate amongst the English middle and upper classes. Drawing upon Woods, this paper explores the moral logic offered by Anglican leaders on behalf of their widespread efforts to manipulate both the ‘quantity’ and ‘quality’ of the English population during the interwar period. As it will show, such efforts were often justified as a means of tangibly combating ‘erroneous’ conceptions of human purpose, or the matter of to what ends a person ought to direct their life. I conclude by examining how the moral framework utilized by Woods and other Anglican leaders might help explain the pervasiveness and enduring appeal of fertility-manipulation schemes amongst religious and nonreligious actors in England (and beyond) during the first half of the twentieth century.

3 November 2021, 6-7pm, Zoom.

Poster image of a woman raising a child, with Chinese characters at the top. The text translates to: "Practicing birth control is beneficial for the protection of the health of mother and child"
Tina Johnson, “100 Years of China’s Population Strategies: From Sanger to the Three-Child Policy”
2022 marks the 100th anniversary of Margaret Sanger’s first visit to China.  Her visit prompted public discussions of birth control in the service of improving China’s population that continue to the present day.  These conversations and subsequent policies expanded to include many aspects of reproductive health like screenings for sexually transmitted infections and cervical cancer.  They also corresponded with conflicting policies through the 1960s, as (primarily) women’s calls for more control over reproduction clashed with paternalistic pronatalism.  China’s restrictive population policies in the following decades have today given way to incentivizing birth to balance an aging population, with the “three-child policy” announced in May 2021.  In all cases, the Chinese state’s focus on women’s fertility and their reproductive health is the fundamental method of implementing population policy.

Image: Stefan R. Landsberger collection, Translation: “Practicing birth control is beneficial for the protection of the health of mother and child.” Early 1960s, artist unknown.

6 October 2021, 6-7pm, Zoom.

Black and white portrait of Thomas Robert Malthus, 1834
EXTERNAL (Humanities Research Centre, ANU): Alison Bashford, “Works that Shaped the World: Malthus and the Modern World”
As the planet approaches 8 billion, international debate on population will be ignited again, and as with 7 billion, 6 billion and 5 billion, discussion will still circle around Thomas Robert Malthus and his Essay on the Principle of Population (1798). Why does a controversial text from the classical political economy canon, and from a pre-industrial time, endure as a touchstone? Malthusian ideas and their discontents have endured as a policy benchmark. They have done so across massively diverse global polities, cultures and languages (India, China, Japan, Australia), for leaders and policymakers across time (Nehru, Mao, Deakin), and for the world’s key global thinkers (Mill, Marx, Keynes). But this is not just a matter of the past. 

30 September 2021, 5pm, Zoom.

EXTERNAL: Alison Bashford, “The Intimate History of Evolution: The Huxleys, 1825-1975”
Watch the Lecture Here

At Life Magazine’s 1947 photoshoot, Julian Huxley self-consciously arranged himself in front of a portrait of his grandfather, Thomas Henry Huxley. In the foreground, a well-known mid-twentieth century science writer, zoologist, conservationist—that generation’s David Attenborough. In the background, a mid-nineteenth century natural scientist – Darwin’s most outspoken spokesman. Between them, Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–1895) and Julian Huxley (1887–1975) communicated to the world the great modern story of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Together, they were ‘trustees of evolution’, a phrase that Julian Huxley often used to describe all of humankind, but which I use to describe the Huxleys themselves.

4 August 2021, 6.30pm, Zoom.

Dan David Foundation logo. A cream-coloured square with the words 'Dan David Foundation'.
EXTERNAL: 2021 Dan David Prize Award Ceremony – Prof Alison Bashford
Professor Alison Bashford, Director of the Laureate Centre for History & Population, will be officially recognised for her wide-ranging work on public health, medicine, disease control, borders, and quarantine on Sunday the 9th of May. Professor Bashford will accept her award alongside Prof. Katherine Park, Prof. Keith Wailoo, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Prof. Zelig Eshhar, Dr. Carl June, and Dr. Steven Rosenberg.

The broadcast of the award ceremony will begin at 6pm BST (London), 1pm EST (New York), and 10am PST (Los Angeles). For those in Asia the ceremony will begin at 10.30pm IST (New Delhi), 1am CST (Beijing and Hong Kong), and 3am AEST (Sydney).

9 May 2021, 6pm BST, Zoom.

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