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Cambridge: City of Scholars, City of Refuge (1933-1945)

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The British rescue of scholars and scientists from Fascist Europe in the 1930s and 1940s rightly belongs among the most inspiring chapters in modern academic history. In these years, the catastrophe of the mid-twentieth century crystallised a sense of international academic solidarity and rejuvenated an ideal of the university as a sanctuary for the free pursuit of learning. Thousands of scholars and their family members fled regimes bent on their murder and on the destruction of those ideals. In turn, these refugees went on to enrich British life and society in countless ways.

But much is lost in both the popular mythology of the period and in extant scholarship about it: for all who made it to safety, there were many more who did not, and the survival of thousands depended upon the tireless work of a small number of dedicated individuals. Largely ignored, too, are the ways the history of refugee scholarship is embedded in local communities and households, and how the nation-wide effort to rescue persecuted academics was largely conceived in and run from Cambridge.

This conference is the first attempt to begin to reconstruct the story of the way Cambridge—university, colleges, and town—became a sanctuary for persecuted academics from Fascist Europe in the years 1933-1945. Papers will range widely across the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, both focusing on well-known refugee academics and also drawing attention to the experience of those marginalised or neglected: students, women, and scholars who never found their way here professionally. We will also look at the individuals, institutions and households that enabled escape and rescue, as well as at the evacuation from Nazi Germany to Cambridge of material resources of scholarly value.

Confirmed speakers include: Nicolas Bell, Monica Bohm-Duchen, Amanda Hopkinson, William Horbury, Marion Kant, John Krebs, Mike Levy, Samuel Llano, Rosamond McKitterick, Katarina Mihaljević, Daniel Snowman, Annette Vogt and Stephen Wordsworth.

This talk is part of the CRASSH series.

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