In conversation with Orlando Figes

This programme is part of the festival Forum on European Culture, 17 – 20 September 2020 in Amsterdam.

If salons, travel guides, print books, opera houses and an emerging train network brought Europeans closer together in the 19th century, what cultural forces drive the same dynamic in our present day?

In his internationally lauded work The Europeans, historian Orlando Figes narrates the birth of a shared European cultural sensibility in the rapidly modernizing European society of the 19th century. Considering literature, the arts and also the early train network as a unifying, democratizing and barrier-breaking force on the continent, what lessons can we learn for European society today? Can we take lessons for a new basis for a European demos, or is there no such thing at all, as populists like to claim? Figes explores the central theme of this year’s Forum on European Culture “We, the People”, with an essay specially written for this festival edition, followed by a conversation with the author.

Orlando Figes (United Kingdom, 1959) is a professor of history at Birbeck College, University of London. He has written extensively on ninetieth and early twentieth-century Russian history, and recently published the book The Europeans: Three Lives and the Making of a Cosmopolitan Culture (2019). In the book, “… a reminder of the unifying force of European civilisation…” he traces the origin of a European identity, expressed and experienced through the arts.

Joost de Vries (1983) is the deputy editor-in-chief of De Groene Amsterdammer, for which he wrote about art and literature before becoming deputy editor-in-chief. He is the author of both essays and novels. His novel The Republic (2013) was awarded the Gouden Boekenuil and was translated into almost a dozen languages.

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Orlando FigesProfessor of history 
Joost de VriesModerator
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