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UCL events news and reviews


Did democracy cause the American Civil War?

By Ben Stevens H P Stevens, on 2 December 2011

The beauty of UCL’s Lunch Hour Lectures is that you don’t need any prior knowledge of the topic in question to enjoy one. This was certainly the case with Dr Adam Smith’s (UCL History) talk on 24 November, ‘Did democracy cause the American Civil War?’ – which is just as well, as my knowledge of that conflict is patchy at best.

Southern Chivalry: Argument versus Club’sAlthough I studied political history up to A level, American history rarely troubled the syllabus. However, I did learn, as every history student does, that wars very rarely have one, discrete cause.

In recognition of this, Dr Smith began by giving a succinct answer to the question in the lecture title: “No”. In fact, he said, the question was “phenomenally difficult to answer”, because although slavery is often cited as the main cause, it is actually the complex and unexpected interplay between democracy, slavery and modernity that lies at the heart of the conflict.


US Supreme Court Justice Breyer at UCL Laws

By Ruth Grenville, on 22 March 2011

On 17 March, UCL’s Judicial Institute was delighted to host a visit by US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, a rare occasion for our law students to hear about the American justice system, direct from the source.

Justice Breyer and Professor John Lowry

Justice Breyer brandishes a copy of the US constitution, as UCL Laws Vice-Dean for Staffing Professor John Lowry looks on


An evening with Noam Chomsky: Contours of Global Order

By Lara J Carim, on 14 March 2011

This year the Rickman Godlee lecture hosted Noam Chomsky, writes Jay Stone, UCL PhD student. He is inspirational to many and the event on 9 March had sold out quickly… I was running late and acutely aware that I needed to get there sharpish to get a seat!

With masses of people still piling in behind me I quickly made my way up into the rafters and settled in. A few moments later the audience erupted into deafening applause, everyone on their feet, with smiles on their faces and awe in their eyes. Noam Chomsky had made his way onto the stage.


Sir Gus O’Donnell on the Cabinet Manual: “More than just a Janet & John guide to the Queen and stuff”

By Lara J Carim, on 2 March 2011

Patrick Graham, an intern at the UCL Constitution Unit, provides an overview of a presentation by Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell, Britain’s most senior civil servant, about the proposed Cabinet Manual. The event, which was part of the Constitution Unit’s Public Seminar Series, took place on 24 February and was held at the Institute for Government.

Published by the Cabinet Office, a draft version of the Manual is currently being considered by three parliamentary Select Committees while a consultation period is scheduled to end on 8 March. Sir Gus explained that the Manual is intended to “help the public better understand how our democracy works” by making the inner workings of government more transparent. He emphasised, however, that it is not intended to be an exhaustive description of existing practices: rather, the Manual should act as a “high-level summary” of areas such as ministerial responsibility, devolution and hung parliaments.