SU London set to commemorate ‘most neglected radical event in British history’
SU London set to commemorate ‘most neglected radical event in British history’October 26, 2007Daeya Malboeufdmking04@syr.edu
On Wednesday, Oct. 31, Syracuse University London (SUL) students, faculty and staff will commemorate the Putney Debates of 1647. Recently named “the most neglected radical event in British history” by The Guardian newspaper, the debates inspired many of the most basic rights and civil liberties of modern democracies.
“The Putney Debates were to the 17th century what Magna Carta was to the 13th, and they rival in importance the Petition of Right (1628) and the Bill of Rights (1689),” says Bruce Norton Ph.D.’70, an alumnus of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. “They foreshadowed debates about democratic rights and justice that were heard in Britain and the United States for the next 300 years and more, and indeed are still heard today.”
As part of the official Putney Debates commemoration, SUL will hold a debate, “Everyman and his Government: The American Premise,” chaired by Norton at St. Mary’s Church, Putney, where the debates originally took place. The event will bring together academics from British universities — Oxford, University College London, Warwick and Sheffield — to discuss the parallels between the Putney Debates and American political discourse of that era, how such discussions laid the foundation for contemporary democratic ideals, and whether those ideals have ever truly lived up to their promise.
Marking a new level of collaboration with British institutions, SUL was asked to participate in the commemoration activities because of the center’s growing reputation for provocative debates exploring American and U.K. perspectives, such as “Journalism about the Middle East: Propaganda or Free Speech?” co-sponsored last March by SUL and the Tully Center for Free Speech.
SUL Associate Director Meredith Hyde says: “I’m thrilled to have SU London be part of such an imaginative extension of what many students are doing in London, examining history as a crucial means of understanding the present.”
The debate is part of the 2007 Syracuse Symposoium on “Justice” and the Newhouse School’s Year of the First Amendment, and is a featured event on both the British Association of American Studies and the U.S. Embassy’s fall calendars.