James HollandThe Nature of Power: Leaders, Empires, Media, Corporations and People Power

Written by Creative Director: James Holland.

At the festival, we’re very interested in the threads of history and those patterns from the past that can help inform the present. It was with this in mind that we devised our series of discussions on the nature of power.

We wanted to look at the effects of individual power through history – whether a tribal chief, a king or queen, or a modern autocrat. But we also wanted to think about different aspects of power too. In the modern world, for example, global businesses are some of the wealthiest and well-known brands across the globe, whether Apple, Nike, Microsoft or Tesla.

But what does the past tell us? Are their lessons and patterns that can shed light towards the future for today’s dominant brands? That’s why we’re discussing earlier conglomerates such as the immensely powerful medieval Hanseatic League or the East India Company. How do international businesses evolve? And are all global businesses destined to decline eventually?

We are also looking at the power of empires and how such growth occurs and what limitations there are to such expansion. Also in this series we’ll be discussing the power of the people, whether it be Spartacus, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, the Suffragette movement or Tianamen Square.

Our aim is to draw upon a number of experts to help us to think about the nature of power through history and what it can teach us about today.

Power Talks

Tracy Borman, Tim Bouverie, Michael Wood
Tuesday 25th June 17:30 
What is it about certain individuals that separates them from their fellows? What is the significance of the strong man – and woman – and what is the importance of hereditary and elected leadership? In the first in our series of talks that look at who wields power in our society, Tim Bouverie, Michael Wood and Tracy Borman discuss the factors that enable certain individuals to emerge as leaders.

Ali Ansari, Tom Holland, Helen Thompson
Wednesday 26th June 17:30
In the second in our Power series, Ali Ansari, Helen Thompson and Tom Holland look at key questions concerning the rise and fall of empires. What conditions lead to the emergence of empires and are there patterns that can be discovered? Are all empires doomed to fail and if so, why? And is the age of empire over or are the patterns of the past destined to be repeated in the future?

Phil Tinline, Jeremy Black, Tom Clark
Thursday 27th June 17:30
From the Gutenberg Press to Tiktok, the ever increasing speed of the spread of information has led to major societal changes throughout history. Whose voice wins? States, companies, individuals – who controls the message? Find out in the third of our Power series of talks with author and journalist Phil Tinline, historian Jeremy Black and Tom Clark, contributing editor of Prospect Magazine.

Ali Ansari, Lynne Jones, Erica Benner
Friday 28th June 17:30 
How have the massed voices and actions of ordinary people played a part in our history? From the self-ruling peoples of Ancient Greece and Renaissance Florence, to the protests of Les Barricades, Tianamen Square and Extinction Rebellion, our expert panel comprised of Ali Ansari, life-long activist Lynne Jones OBE and politcal philosopher Erica Benner will bring to bear their deep knowledge and personal experience of people power through time in this wide-ranging discussion.

William Dalrymple, Helen Thompson, Jens Tholstrup
Saturday 29th June 13:30
The world today is dominated by household brands that seem to traverse nations, religion and culture. Is this a new phenomenon or should we be looking at patterns from the past? Is there anything to be learned from the ancient Assyrians or the Hanseatic League? Or is their clout really a product of the growth of global communications networks? And if so, how does their influence transcend national boundaries and how are they likely to help or hinder the world’s future development? Historian William Dalrymple, Jens Tholstrup, Executive Chairman of Oxford Innovation Finance, and Helen Thompson, Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge University, promise a lively discussion.

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