Peter Frankopan: Opening Forum on European Culture

Forum on European Culture

Programme Editor
Yoeri Albrecht De Balie
Yoeri Albrecht
In his highly anticipated new book The Earth Transformed (2023) Peter Frankopan revolutionizes how environments have shaped the development – and demise – of civilizations over time. Our desire to centralize the agricultural surplus is at the root of the bureaucratic state; our growing demands for harvest have resulted in an increase in the shipment of enslaved people. Peter Frankopan, author of the international bestseller The Silk Roads (2015) will open the fourth edition of the Forum on European Culture.

This often-neglected climate-geopolitical relationship will also shape our shared future. During the opening night of the Forum, Frankopan will reflect on this year’s central theme, ‘A Culture for Democracy’. Europe faces a crossroads. Do we decide on a future defined by imperialism and destructive exploitation or a future defined by democracy and ecological restoration? 

Claudy Jongstra’s monumental artwork Guernica de la Ecología, with the exact same dimensions as Picasso’s famous war painting, will be the background and conversation piece of this opening programme. In her work, the internationally renowned artist and eco-activist uses natural materials such as wool as a warning against climate change and a plea for biodiversity.

The environment is the very stage on which our existence plays out, shaping everything we do, who we are, where and how we live … and if the theatre closes or collapses, that marks the end for us all.

Peter Frankopan, The Earth Transformed (2023)
About the speakers

Peter Frankopan is a professor of Global History at Oxford University and writer of the 2015 bestseller Silk Roads. He works on the history and politics of the Mediterranean, Russia, the Middle East, Persia/Iran, Central Asia, China and beyond. In his latest book, The Earth Transformed: An Untold History (2023), Peter looks at environmental history, at climate and the ways it has shaped the human and natural past.

Claudy Jongstra is known worldwide for her monumental artworks and architectural installations, whose organic surfaces and nuanced tones reflect her masterful innovations in the ancient technique of making wool felt. Jongstra’s oeuvre, often installed in large public spaces, is included in many international museums as well as private and corporate collections.

In 2001, Jongstra established her studio in the rural North of The Netherlands, where she began a sweeping ecological experiment in the local landscape. Maintaining a flock of rare, indigenous Drenthe Heath sheep (the oldest breed in Northern Europe) and cultivating a specialized dyers’ botanical collection garden, Jongstra creates a completely sustainable chain culminating in her artworks.

This programme is part of Forum on European Culture.


Peter FrankopanProfessor of Global History at Oxford University
Claudy JongstraArtist, eco-activist | Photo: Christian Jaeggi