Mercers' Lecture Review: Dr Bettany Hughes

Dr Hughes visited Dauntsey’s to give a lecture on her new book recounting the diverse city of Istanbul, aptly titled; Istanbul: A tale of Three Cities.

Before the lecture, Dr Hughes joined a group of Sixth Formers for an hour’s discussion followed by dinner at the Head Master’s House with the sixth form discussion attendees. Our conversation ranged from topics of the morals of industrialisation, to opiated wine, which according to Dr Hughes, the Ancient Greeks indulged in, which may well have been responsible for the wonders and fantasy described in the famous Iliad and Odyssey.

At the dinner we all had the opportunity to begin a more intimate one on one conversation with Dr Hughes. Her advice, based on her celebrated career working in the world of media, was of great interest for us all. In particular, I found her explanation of how, when producing historical documentaries, every minute not filming costs the agency and her team money. I was also surprised at how quickly her team are expected to turn around a documentary ready for editing - only a few days in some cases dependant on the contract.

We then all left the Headmaster’s House after dinner to attend the lecture. Dr Hughes was greeted by another full hall of pupils, teachers, and attendees from our local community, as seen with every Mercers’ lecture. Dr Hughes introduced her new book which she has spent the last decade researching and writing. Due to the current turbulence of Turkey’s government she expressed her discomfort of having to write and re-write her introduction and conclusion based of of the ever-changing political circumstances of both Turkey and Istanbul itself. This theme was continued as mid way through her presentation Dr Hughes recounted an anecdote about her first hand experience of being caught up in a riot in Istanbul with her two daughters. As she explained, the current political change in Turkey and Istanbul is just another chapter in the city’s vibrant history. The historical and geographical significance of Istanbul being occupied by many empires and even besieged by the Vikings combined with the cultural diversity seen in the city vindicates Dr Hughes in her description of Istanbul as the “Greatest city on Earth”.

Overall Bettany Hughes lecture, as all of the Mercers Lectures, was an absolute pleasure to attend. It was not only very thought provoking but provided an fresh outlook on a part of the world which is, once again, becoming increasingly significant on the world stage.
Ryan Cooper, U6 Pupil.

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