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The Rule of Law and its Enemies - The Human Hive

BBC Reith Lecture 

Date: Thursday 7 June 2012 
Time: 6.30-8pm 
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speaker: Professor Niall Ferguson
Chair: Sue Lawley

Niall Ferguson’s Reith Lecture 2012 series, entitled The Rule of Law and its Enemies, will demonstrate that historical change in the modern period – from economic growth to democratization – has been driven mainly by institutions: those complex, man-made organisations that lie somewhere between great men and impersonal historical forces. Ferguson’s lectures aim to push beyond naïve ideas about the success of capitalism and democracy over the past two centuries, and especially in the years since the Cold War. He will deliver the lectures in London, Edinburgh and New York, with audience contributions from the Middle East.

In this first lecture, The Human Hive, to be delivered at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) Ferguson takes as his starting point a graffito on a wall in post-Gaddafi Libya which roughly translates as: “We want a constitutional role and for the president to have less authority and the four year presidential term should not be extended.” This sounds bizarrely precise as a revolutionary slogan. But, Prof Ferguson argues, whoever wrote it had the right idea. Overthrowing a dictator and holding elections are necessary but not sufficient steps towards a free society. The devil lies in the constitutional detail.

The second lecture is entitled The Darwinian Economy The Landscape of Law is the title of the third lecture, and Professor Ferguson's fourth and final lecture is entitled Civil and Uncivil Societies.

Ferguson, born in Glasgow, is Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University and a Senior Research Fellow at Jesus College, Oxford. The author of a dozen books, he specialises in financial and economic history, as well as the history of empires. Ferguson has written and presented many major television series, most recently China: Triumph and Turmoil

The first Reith Lecture will be broadcast on Tuesday 19 June at 9am on BBC Radio 4 and also on BBC World Service (at various times) in that week.

More information about the Reith Lectures including recordings of past Reith Lectures can be found online.

Suggested hashtag for this event for Twitter users: #Reith


A copy of Professor Niall Ferguson's speech is available to download. Download 'The Rule of Law and its Enemies - The Human Hive' (PDF).


A podcast of this event is available to download from the Reith Lectures website.

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This event has been certified for CPD purposes by the CPD Certification Service. Self-Assessment Record forms will be made available for delegates wishing to record further learning and knowledge enhancement for Continuing Personal and Professional Development (CPD) purposes. For delegates who wish to obtain a CPD Certificate of Attendance, it is the responsibility of delegates to register their details with a LSE steward at the end of the event and as of 1 September 2014 a certificate will be sent within 28 days of the date of the event attended by the CPD Certification Service.  If a delegate fails to register their details at the event, it will not prove possible to issue a certificate. (For queries relating to CPD Certificates of attendance after a request please phone 0208 840 4383 or email info@cpduk.co.uk).