The Lee Seng Tee Distinguished Lecture Series

This lecture series was endowed by Dr Lee Seng Tee in 2005 on the occasion of the College’s 40th anniversary.

Neil MacGregor


2017: State, Faith, Violence: case studies in the coercion of belief

Neil MacGregor OM AO FSA, Inaugural Artistic Director of the Humboldt Forum, Berlin, and formerly Director of the British Museum, will give the tenth lecture in the series on 11 May at 6pm in  the Lee Hall. All are welcome to this free lecture, but booking is recommended - please book online at: (Poster)

The 2017 Lee Lecture explores themes which Neil MacGregor hopes to address in a forthcoming BBC Radio 4 series on Faith and Society, scheduled for this autumn, which will accompany an exhibition at the British Museum and tells the story of humankind’s search for meaning, and the role and expression of belief in the lives of communities around the world, over the last 40,000 years.

The lecture will focus on two objects in the collection of the British Museum, made three years apart:  a crudely painted wooden public notice of 1682, written in Japanese, offering rewards to anybody denouncing Christians; and an engraving of 1685 by the Parisian artist Sébastien Leclerc, showing the destruction of the Huguenot church at Charenton near Paris.  

Both objects relate directly to government edicts of the 1680s. In both France and Japan a centralising government was brutally attempting to eradicate a religious practice deemed alien to long-established national traditions.  MacGregor will attempt to compare the two, to consider the resonance today in each country of those seventeenth-century decisions, and to venture some comments on current situations which may have points in common. 

Previous Lectures