Besterman Lectures

The Besterman Lecture of the Voltaire Foundation is an annual highlight of our activities, delivered by internationally renowned scholars of the Enlightenment.

This year’s Besterman Lecture took place on 9 November 2023, and was delivered by Professor Richard Bourke (King’s College, Cambridge), on ‘Hegel’s Enlightenment’.

The recorded lecture can now be watched here or on our YouTube channel.


Previous Besterman Lectures are available as podcasts or on YouTube (*) and over the past years the topics have included:

* November 2022: Professor Helena Rosenblatt (CUNY), ‘Napoelon’s Nemesis: Madame de Stael and the Origins of Liberalism’.

* November 2021: Professor Sophia Rosenfeld (University of Pennsylvania), ‘How the Enlightenment understood truth — and why that matters’.

* November 2020: Professor William Doyle (University of Bristol), ‘Who were the French Revolutionaries?’.

* November 2019: Professor Lorraine Daston (Director Emerita, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin), Rule Mania in Enlightenment Paris

*November 2018: Professor Keith M. Baker (Stanford University), ‘Writing Rights in 1789’.

*July 2018: Professor Martin van Gelderen (University of Göttingen), ‘Methuselah and the unity of mankind: late Renaissance and early Enlightenment conceptions of time’.

*December 2017: Professor Willard McCarty (King’s College, London), ‘Digital Rhetoric, literae humaniores and Leibniz’s dream’.

*June 2017: Professor David Wootton (Anniversary Professor of History at York University), ‘Adam Smith: Poverty and famine’.

*2016: Professor Ritchie Robertson FBA (University of Oxford), ‘Writing the Enlightenment: Reflections on Work in Progress’.

*2015: Professor Colin Jones CBE (Queen Mary University of London), ‘The French Revolutionary Terror: Proto-Totalitarian or Public Sphere?’

*2014: Professor Joachim Whaley (University of Cambridge), ‘True Enlightenment can be both achieved and beneficial’ – The German Enlightenment and its Interpretation.

2013: Professor Céline Spector (Université Bordeaux 3, Membre honoraire de l’Institut Universitaire de France), ‘Civilisation et empire: la dialectique négative de l’Europe au siècle des Lumières’.

2012: Professor Ourida Mostefai (Boston College), ‘Jean-Jacques Rousseau et les conflits des Lumières’;

and *Dr Nathalie Ferrand (École Normale Supérieure, Paris),  ‘Rousseau, archive et invention’.

2011: Dr Katie Scott (The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London), ‘Emulation: Anxieties of Influence and the Progress of Plagiarism in Eighteenth-Century French Art’.

2010: Professor Pierre Frantz (Université de Paris-Sorbonne), ‘Le théâtre de Voltaire: dramaturgie et politique’.

2009: Professor Gregory S. Brown (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), ‘Beaumarchais and the Bastille: An Aristocratic Villa in Revolutionary Paris’.

2008: Professor Marie-Hélène Cotoni (Université de Nice-Sophia Antipolis), ‘Les Dégoûts de Voltaire. Impressions et expression’.

2007: Professor Hubert Bost (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris), ‘La Beaumelle, huguenot éclairé: quelques enseignements de sa correspondence’.

2006: Professor Antony Mckenna (Université Jean Monnet, Saint-Etienne), ‘Faith and Reason in the Classical Age: Pierre Bayle in the Light of New Research’.

2005: Professor Catherine Volpilhac-Auger (ENS Lettres et Sciences humaines, Lyon), ‘Comment inventer des manuscrits inédits de Montesquieu?’

2003: Professor José-Michel Moureaux (Université de Caen), ‘Voltaire éditeur’.

2002: Professor François Moureau (Université de Paris-Sorbonne), ‘Itinéraires jésuites en Chine ou les Lumières naissent à l’Est’.


For events at the Maison française d’Oxford (including the Early Modern French seminars), and to download the Hilary term card, see Maison française d’Oxford website.

Voltaire Foundation

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