News & Events

24 April 2018

Prof Geoffrey Blainey – Distinguished Speakers Program

On Wednesday 4 April, the renowned Australian historian, Professor Geoffrey Blainey, delivered the inaugural lecture in the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation’s Distinguished Speakers Series. The title of Professor Blainey’s lecture was: ‘The Glass Ballot Box: Australia, the World Powers and the Advantages of Democracy’.

 

 

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24 April 2018

Liberals are undermining western civlisation

Progressive critics should not abuse the freedoms that our chequered history has given us.

An Australian philanthropist has caused a row by leaving a vast sum of money to promote the teaching of “western civilisation” in universities. Universities love benefactions, and two jumped at the offer. But many academics loathe the proposal: to them it smacks of racism, imperialism and claims to ethnic or cultural superiority. Students agitate to “decolonise the curriculum” and there are now tours of British museums and art galleries designed to trace “the history of empire and genocide”; participants wear badges with the slogan “Display it like you stole it”.

In my own university, Cambridge, once-popular courses called “The Expansion of Europe” and “The West and the Third World” have long been replaced by a decentred “World History”. Simon Schama and Mary Beard now celebrate not “Civilisation” in their BBC TV series but “Civilisations”. Some of this is modish destruction of straw men. Some has serious intellectual purpose. Often it is a valuable enrichment and a salutary recognition of the achievements of others.

Nevertheless, there is an important thing called western civilisation, defined by history, not geography. It is the sum total of our laws, our values, our arts, our institutions, of the habits of mind and heart that enable us to live, fairly harmoniously, together: to trust each other (to some extent); to look out for each other (sometimes grudgingly); to understand each other (sometimes imperfectly); even to tell jokes about each other.

These are great and rare achievements. If I were Chinese, or Indian, or Japanese, I would argue the same — that the best aspects of my civilisation need to be cherished and taught. This in no way involves disparaging others or cutting oneself off from the wider world. A society cannot just pull up its civilisational roots and choose some other value system; remember the disastrous attempt to create “Soviet Man”. But you can weaken your civilisation by neglecting it and despising it, and we have arguably gone too far along that road already.

This is not to say that we should be uncritical of our inherited values, blind to past misdeeds, or resistant to all change. Indeed, western civilisation has always been quarrelsome, diverse and flexible. Some major civilisations trace themselves back to a single immutable source: Confucius, or Muhammad, or the Buddha. But the West has no single ideology, no single scripture, no single prophet. It is indebted to ancient Greece for the foundations of its philosophy, partly transmitted by Arabic scholars; to ancient Rome and medieval England for its two great legal systems; to the 17th-century scientific revolution and the 18th-century Enlightenment for much of its modernity — themselves stimulated by contacts with the rest of the world. So western civilisation cannot be, by its very nature, wholly stable, wholly orthodox or wholly united. Its diversity, eclecticism and capacity for evolution are defining characteristics.

The great Scottish Enlightenment philosopher and historian David Hume said loftily that we owed our advances to “a great measure of accident with a small ingredient of wisdom and foresight”. The western civilisation we have inherited is the result of a painful, slow, dangerous, accidental and faltering invention of a set of rules for life, the best we have managed over many centuries, and certainly in need of constant maintenance and improvement, but also worth defending and proclaiming.

Is there a core of ideas, practices and institutions that provide a bedrock? Most of us would perhaps optimistically say yes, and even agree broadly on what they are. We would say tolerance; largely an invention of the 18th century. Then rationality and the scientific method; also largely from the 17th and 18th centuries, but with a link back to ancient Greece. We would probably say “the rule of law”, which derives from the ancient world and the Middle Ages. We would surely too say “democracy”, although only a 19th and even 20th-century development, with distant links to the Greek and Roman republics. We would also say “equality”, or at least some notion of equality before the law, or equality of opportunity as an ideal: that too goes back to the 17th and 18th centuries. We would probably also say things like rights, justice, fairness, which we could trace back to the Middle Ages and to documents such as Magna Carta. And deep in the foundations are Judeo-Christian principles: charity, love, peace, justice, forgiveness.

Of course, these are the ideals, which we fail to put fully into practice. But very few of them could we openly reject, and those who have rejected them (we might think of the Bolsheviks and the Nazis) only ever had a short, although catastrophic, influence on history.

So what’s the problem? Simply that our attachment in practice to the principles we think we hold is fraying. If we routinely denigrate “western” values, we weaken solidarity and promote indifference to political principles and institutions. We encourage intransigent assertions of entitlement and magnified claims to victimhood — two sides of the same coin, and two of the most annoying symptoms of demoralisation.

We have dangerously undermined free thought, free speech, equality before the law and the right to a fair trial: “western” values that would not long ago have been considered sacrosanct. If all of a sudden we have a chilly sense of our civilisation under threat, the fault is largely our own.

Professor Robert Tombs is author of The English and their History

Please see at link to the Times to read the full article.

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4 April 2018

John Howard and Geoffrey Blainey to open Ramsay Centre building

John Howard and Geoffrey Blainey to open Ramsay Centre building

Sydney, Wednesday 4 April 2018: Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Blainey AC will today deliver the inaugural lecture at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation to mark the opening of its new building by the Honourable John Howard OM AC, 25th Prime Minister of Australia.

Former Prime Minister John Howard said, “Professor Blainey is one of Australia’s greatest historians. He has made an enormous contribution to the intellectual life of this nation and internationally. I cannot think of a better person to give the inaugural lecture at the Ramsay Centre.”

Professor Blainey said, “I am slightly nervous but very pleased to be giving this inaugural lecture. It is important that we understand the vital role that Western Civilisation has played in the growth of our nation, as well as the contribution Australians have made to the advancement of Western Civilisation.”

Board member of the Ramsay Centre and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “It’s an honour to have Professor Blainey speak at the opening of the new Ramsay Centre building. Professor Blainey has dedicated his life’s work to promoting a better understanding of Australian and world history, all of which is vital to the work of the Ramsay Centre.”

Board member and Principal of Queenwood, Elizabeth Stone said, “Western Civilisation is one of the great world civilisations. Crucial modern values – human rights, rule of law, the scientific method, freedom of speech – were developed over centuries of trial and error and now benefit all Australians. New challenges require further evolution so rigorous, scholarly examination through the work of the Centre is both essential and timely.”

CEO of The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation Professor Simon Haines said, “The opening of the Centre building comes at an auspicious moment. For some months, we have been engaged in detailed discussions with the Australian National University regarding a new undergraduate degree in Western Civilisation. We hope to make an announcement about those talks in the very near future.”

Emeritus Professor Geoffrey Blainey, AC, FAHA, FASSA has published 40 books, held chairs in history and economic history in Australia and was a visiting professor at Harvard University. He has been awarded the Britannica Award for the dissemination of knowledge and is a Companion of the order of Australia. He will speak on the subject of Australian Democracy and Western Civilisation.

The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation was created with an endowment from the late Paul Ramsay AO, founder of Ramsay Health Care, to promote a deeper appreciation of Western civilisation through the creation of university degrees, Ramsay Scholarships, summer schools and public lectures.

Media Contact: Emma-Kate Bos 0414 445 453 emmakate.bos@ramsaycentre.org

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12 January 2018

Legacy draws Australian universities back to Western civilisation

Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, funded by £1.7 billion bequest, to fund degree courses in several institutions

Two significant trends have shaped much of the scholarship in Australian universities in recent years: one is a drive to build an appreciation of the country’s Aboriginal heritage, and another is the influence of Chinese research funding and student flows.

See the full article from Times Higher Education

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29 November 2017

A vote of confidence in Western Civilisation

An Australian philanthropist has endowed a program for studying the Great Books

Australian businessman Paul Ramsay made a fortune in private health care and regional television. When he died in 2014, he left his A$3 billion fortune to establish a philanthropic foundation. A good chunk of that is being invested in The Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, a program for revitalising the study of the humanities in Australia. MercatorNet spoke with Dr Stephen McInerney, Executive Officer (Academic) at the Ramsay Centre, about this ambitious project.

For the full interview see The Mercatornet

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21 November 2017

Howard and Beazley unite to launch Ramsay Centre

At the launch of the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, Kim Beazley praised John Howard as “the most effective conservative leader there has been in the history of this country”, adding with a rueful laugh that it was to Mr Beazley’s great detriment.

To read the full article see The Australian

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