News within the department
Professor Martin Dzelzainis
School of English
This lecture engages with the neglected topic of the relationship between the poet and politician Andrew Marvell (1621-78) and the Royal Society. While most aspects of Marvell’s post-Restoration life and writings been subjected to prolonged and intense scrutiny in recent years, his relation to this newly-founded institution – its members, activities, and interests – has been largely overlooked. However, as this lecture will demonstrate, it is now certain that he read Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal-Society of London, first published in book form in 1667. Moreover, a survey of Marvell’s writings reveals the remarkable extent to which his varied preoccupations – including, amongst other things, poisons, comets, and the properties of glass – overlapped with those of the Royal Society’s virtuosi. Can Marvell’s intellectual eclecticism, which is so often seen as an efflorescence of his so-called “metaphysical” wit, in fact be assimilated to the norms prevailing in the scientifically-minded community of his day?
Professor Simon James
School of Archeaology and Ancient History
I am an archaeologist, and I study corroded bits of metal from Roman times, some of which I’ve dug up myself, though most are in museum collections. They comprise ancient martial material culture—or in plainer English, the kit of fighting men, from Rome’s armies, and those of her far-flung foes. Many of these fragments look pretty non-descript, yet may have startling tales to tell us about our past, and the histories and fates of civilisations. I want to talk about one particular artefact in the store of Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut, one of the world’s archaeological treasure-houses which contain many still-untold secrets in their stores and archives.
This object, given the bland identifier ‘H278’ when it was discovered in 1934, is especially close to my heart, as in this small decorative copper-alloy casting are brought together most of the themes of my research: the nature and construction of human identity groups, especially peoples and their communities of fighting men; of cultural conflicts but also the paradoxical interactions and exchanges which ensue; of the fates of the great ‘cultures’ of our standard histories—and not least how we, today, imagine them to have been.
For in its form, nature, origins and context of discovery, this small piece of metal involves not just the story of the rise of Roman imperialism, but the fate of the ancient ‘Celtic world’ at Rome’s hands—and also of the rise of the great Iranian empire of the Sasanids. It thus embraces more than one great ‘clash of civilizations’ in Antiquity, which apparently prefigure current global confrontations.
The curious history of H278 illustrates how the tiniest human artefact can have encoded within it clues to the grandest themes of history and scholarly research. It underlines the key independent contribution which study of ancient material culture can make to our understanding of history; and not least, it reiterates the importance of our museums and archives.
Lecture by Vincent Courtillot
Should we consume less, more or differently? Mixed messages and multiple meanings in modern marketing.
Professor James Fitchett
School of Management
The basic idea of marketing is that organisations exist to serve the needs and desires of customers. In the long run organisations that serve customers well succeed whereas those that are not able to do so will fail. In this model the consumer occupies a central position in the effectiveness of marketing systems. All that is required of consumers to fulfil this important economic function is to have ever increasing expectations and demands. This provides the opportunities for organisations to innovate, opening up new potential markets and future opportunities for growth. Ultimately it is consumers who determine the course and direction of markets and, therefore, the many aspects of social and cultural change in which consumption is now implicated. Where consumers go the market and marketers must follow, and anticipating these future trends is one of the most crucial roles of modern marketing strategy. Consumption is now deeply implicated in our sense of self and in our experience of daily life which makes understanding the consumer more difficult and complex. Given the important consequences of consumer decisions it is understandable that consumption is now the subject of much debate, argument and disagreement. What obligations do individuals have to consume more responsibly? Should consumers take into consideration the credentials and activities of the organisations they buy from? Should we all be aiming to consume less, or perhaps be aiming to consume more? In his inaugural lecture Professor James Fitchett considers some of the controversies surrounding modern consumption and the role that marketing might be expected to play in addressing some of these questions. The lecture will consider the different roles that marketing can play in structuring certain types and forms of consumption, and in the process shaping consumer expectations and identities.
Professor Graham Martin
Department of Health Sciences
For perhaps 30 years or so, health care, like other fields of public service provision, has been characterised by various kinds of attempts to monitor, influence and control the behaviour of professional staff. Long gone are the days when professionals such as doctors and nurses were trusted to care for patients without outside supervision, and when the professions to which they belong were left to take care of individual practitioners who abused that trust. Nowadays government regulators, hospital managers, commissioners of services who hold the purse strings, and even patients themselves are asked to hold professionals to account, to contribute to decisions that would previously have been the sole purview of professionals, to incentivise ‘good behaviour’, and to expose poor practice.
Governments of differing political persuasions have put forward policies that vary on this theme, but common to all is an increasingly interventionist approach to the regulation of professional behaviour. An equally common theme, illustrated by decades of social scientific research in health care and other fields, is the unintended consequences that arise from such efforts, as professionals respond to external pressures by adapting their behaviour in unanticipated ways: working around regulation, massaging figures to hit performance targets, following the letter but not the spirit of managerial instructions. As the perverse consequences of efforts to control professional behaviour emerge—including, at worst, the prioritisation of bureaucratic requirements over the quality and safety of patients’ care—governments claim to draw back from control, demonising managers and ‘re-empowering’ professionals. But in practice, the state’s will to control professional behaviour remains, albeit couched in softer, more appealing terms such as leadership, engagement and collaboration.
What, then, are the prospects for an approach to the regulation of clinical behaviour that ensures the quality and safety of care without inviting the unintended consequences of government intervention in professional conduct? Drawing on his own and others’ work, in this lecture Professor Martin argues that the answer is not to be found in a return to a ‘golden age’ of professional self-regulation. Nor, he suggests, is there any prospect of perfecting health care governance such that perverse incentives are ‘designed out’. Rather, he argues, the most promising approaches are those which rely on a hybrid of external regulation and trust in the professional institution, seeking to secure accountability without undermining judgement and intrinsic motivation. Above all, Professor Martin suggests, such efforts need to stop taking a behaviourist approach to the problem of behaviour, recognising instead the weaknesses and limitations of incentives and disincentives as a means of seeking to influence the conduct of professionals, managers and patients, and the potential benefits of a more sophisticated understanding of human behaviour.