Dynamics of Civilisation

Visit our YouTube channel:

Impression of a jade seal designed by Professor Wang Mingming for CREDOC, containing the Chinese characters Xue (interpretation) and Wenming (civilisation).

Contact Us

Centre for Research into the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC)
104 Gordon House
29 Gordon Square
London WC1H 0PP
Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 5576



War in the Ancient World: The Economic Perspective


Date: 27-29 April 2016
Wednesday 27 April: Chandler G10
Thursday 28 April: Archaeology G6 Lecture Theatre
Friday 29 April: Gustav Tuck Lecture Theatre
Click here for further information

Enlightenment Views of Near Eastern Civilisations


Date: Friday 6 May 2016
Location: Common Ground Space, Wilkins Building, South Wing
Click here for further information

The Clash of Civilisations and Ignorance


Date: Friday 27 May 2016
Location: Cruciform B404 Lecture Theatre 2, followed by a wine reception in the Cruciform Seminar Room 1
Click here for further information

What is Latin about Latin America?                                                             Elite Culture, History, and the Making of a Continental Identity

A Public Symposium


Date: 21 May 2016
Location: Common Ground Space, Wilkins Building, South Wing
Click here for further information

Baltic-Nordic Regionalism


Date: 10 June 2016
Location: Common Ground Space, Wilkins Building, South Wing
Click here for further information

Civilisation in Time and Space


Date: 1 and 2 July 2016
Location: Common Ground Space, Wilkins Building, South Wing
Click here for further information

Food, Drink and Civilization: International Conference


Date: 21-22 September 2016
Location: TBA
Click here for further information


War in the Ancient World: Economics and Warfare 

CREDOC supported event to be held on 27-29 April 2016


Date: 27-29 April 2016

Location: University College London (Rooms TBD)

Organisers: Manuela Dal Borgo, Roel Konijnendijk, Chris Carey, Hans van Wees

The ancient world, from the Pillars of Herakles to the Near East, was fraught with conflict both civic and international. The wealth of empires and communities waxed and waned by the hand of war; it was through war that economic strategies came into their own, as communities learned to manage finances and allocate resources to increase their military effectiveness. 

This conference seeks to consolidate the growing research on the role of economics in the study of ancient warfare by looking at the impact of war on the ancient economy and the impact of economics on ancient war. It will offer a platform for the discussion of such themes as the increase of state control over money and resources, changes in supply and demand of military manpower, equipment, and raw materials, the effect of war on trade, and the relative economic efficiency of armies and of coalitions. The aim is to bring together the insights of two disparate fields - to study themes of economics and warfare across the ages and cultures of the ancient world, defining areas of continuity and change.

This is a conference for economic historians who recognise warfare as a test case and pool of evidence, and for military historians who are conscious of the importance of economic factors in shaping ancient realities of war.

This conference is made possible by the generous support of the UCL Departments of History and Greek & Latin; the AG Leventis Foundation; the Institute of Classical Studies; the Institute of Historical Research; the UCL Joint Faculty Institute of Graduate Studies (JFIGS); the UCL Centre for Research into the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC); and the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.

Enlightenment Views of Near Eastern Civilisations


Date: Friday 6 May 2016
Time: 10.30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Location: IAS Common Ground Space, Wilking Building, South Wing
Location on map: here

Could the acknowledged beauty of Koranic poetry serve as evidence of its divine origin? What is the relationship between ancient sources on Near Eastern civilisations and contemporary Muslims and Jews? How did the rise of the Islamic Caliphate influence the Roman and Byzantine empires? These were only some of the questions at the centre of eighteenth-century inquiries into the cultures of the Near East. They will be discussed at this interdisciplinary workshop, examining the selective yet diverse perspectives through which Enlightenment authors viewed the area and its inhabitants.

Jan Loop (University of Kent/Warburg)
Charlotte Roberts (UCL English)
Avi Lifschitz (UCL History)

Opening comments:
Maria Wyke (UCL Greek and Latin)
Mike Rowlands (UCL Anthropology)

The Clash of Civilisations and of Ignorance


Date and time: Friday 27 May 2016 from 6-8 p.m. 

Location: Cruciform B404 Lecture Theatre 2

followed by a drinks reception in the Cruciform Seminar Room 1 from 8-8.45 p.m.

This panel is an ambitious and timely attempt to reformulate a challenge to the popular thesis that we have entered an era of clashing civilisations, in which the globe’s primary source of conflict is between cultural and religious identities. The ‘Clash’ of our title refers to the thesis that was first formulated by Samuel Huntington some twenty years ago and has reemerged very recently as a favoured catchphrase of popular political debate. ‘Ignorance’ invokes Edward Said’s rejoinder that such a thesis is dangerously oblivious to different humanisms that have not been the exclusive property of Western liberalism. The renewed use of ‘the clash of civilisations’ is built upon a fantasy of return to nineteenth-century certainties about the value of Western universalism and to a belief in the civilising effects of a Western imperium. But, as our keynote speaker Pankaj Mishra will suggest, 'The thin sound of cracking is heard from many more parts of the world as exhausted authority surrenders to nihilism'.

No registration required. All welcome!

What is Latin about Latin America? Elite Culture, History, and the Making of a Continental Identity

A Public Symposium


Date: Saturday 21 May 2016

Location: IAS Common Ground Space, Wilking Building, South Wing

Why are the diverse modern nations created from the overthrow of Iberian rule in the Americas known as “Latin” America? Historians of Europe argue that the French coined the term to justify neo-imperialist interventions, most notably their notorious installation of a Habsburg Emperor, Maximilian, in Mexico during the 1860s. Historians of Latin America have countered that it was invented earlier by Spanish American intellectuals, as a rallying point for unity against the emerging threat of “Anglo-America”. Some postcolonial scholars have argued that it was deployed by ruling creoles specifically to marginalise other sectors of the population. There are also contemporary debates about whether Brazil is or is not part of Latin America. In all of this discussion, little attention has been paid to the multiple references to the European classical world that appear in the art, architecture, literature, history, politics and public spaces of the Iberian Americas. There is also a long history of scholarship by both indigenous and creole intellectuals situating the history of the region within a comparative framework based on the European classical civilisations. This symposium is an opportunity to explore the significance of European classical antiquity in the history and culture of the Americas, and to debate what it might mean for our understanding of the idea of civilization. There will be two parts to the afternoon. The first panel, The Invention of Latin America, will focus on ways the first modern Republics found non-colonial analogues and precedents in re-imaginings of European classical antiquity. The second, Latin America as magna patria, will explore the early twentieth-century emergence of a regional collective identity alongside the consolidation of national identities. For a list of speakers and full details of the programme, please see our website: https://latinlatinamerica.wordpress.com

To register for this free event, please visit: http://bit.ly/1T215zq

Should you have any questions, please contact the organisers: Rosa Andújar, (r.andujar@ucl.ac.uk), Andrew Laird (Andrew.Laird@warwick.ac.uk), and Nicola Miller (nicola.miller@ucl.ac.uk)

The organisers are grateful to the UCL Centre for Research on the Dynamics of Civilisation (CREDOC) and the UCL Institute for Advanced Studies for their generous support.

Baltic-Nordic Regionalism

CREDOC supported event to be held on 10 June 2016


On June 10, 2016, an international research seminar titled Baltic-Nordic Regionalism: A History of Regional Cooperation and Reconfiguration will take place at Institute of Advanced Studies, UCL.

During the 20th century, the regional concept of Norden – signifying the Scandinavian countries including Finland, but traditionally excluding the Baltic countries – acquired a meaning beyond the merely geographical, as a political and historical entity in and by itself. As such, it has also become to denote specific ways of organizing society and certain forms of lifestyle which have recently been appropriated by both Baltic and Nordic governments as a possible supranational brand for promoting a new Baltic-Nordic ‘regionness’ as well as emphasising global competitiveness of the Baltic Sea Region in view of growing geopolitical tensions and economic recession.

However, it is rarely self-evident what it means to be ‘Nordic’. The region’s borders to the Baltic or the Arctic have been fluid and remain under negotiation even today. Similarly, the identity discourse about ‘Nordicness’ is still characterised by uncertainty over whether Norden is as an open and – in this sense – civilizational idea, or a culturally and geographically limited one.

The aim of our network is to investigate previously understudied or ignored competing geographical and regional ideas, identities, and projects which have in various ways challenged or presented alternatives to the presently ‘natural’ Nordic identity. The seminar is meant to showcase research in progress and to facilitate further network-building around this and other related topics.

The presenters will include Dr Carl Marklund (Södertörn University) speaking on ‘The Baltic-Nordic Region as a Testing Ground for Competing Identities, Interests and Strategies’ and Dr Pärtel Piirimäe (University of Tartu) on changes in the meaning of ‘Baltic’ at the transformative moments in history. More specific case studies will be presented by Dr Marta Grzechnik (University of Gdańsk/University of Greifswald), who will comment on Poland’s complicated relationship with Baltic-Nordic regionalism in the 20th century, Dr Ainur Elmgren (University of Helsinki), looking into the rise and fall of the notion of ‘Baltoscandia’ in the 1930’s Finnish radical Tulenkantajat group, and Dr Kaarel Piirimäe (Estonian War Museum/University of Tartu) on regionalist ideas at the beginning of Estonian diplomacy in 1988-1991.

Everyone interested is welcome to attend the seminar for free by registering at Eventbrite. We also have space in the schedule for a few more interested scholars from UCL (including PhD students) with similar research interests. They are hereby invited to propose their own 20-minute papers at the email address below by 20 May, 2016.

The venue of the seminar is in the Common Ground of the Institute of Advanced Studies in the South Wing (on the south side of UCL’s main quad). The seminar is organised by the departments of Scandinavian Studies and European and Social Studies at UCL. It is supported by grants from Institute of Advanced Studies (http://www.ucl.ac.uk/institute-of-advanced-studies), and CREDOC – Centre for Research into Dynamics of Civilization (www.ucl.ac.uk/research_frontiers/civilisation), UCL.

For more information, please contact Dr Mart Kuldkepp.

Friday, 10 June 2016 from 09:30 to 17:00 (BST) - Add to Calendar
University College London - Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT - View Map

Civilisation in Time & Space


Date: 1 and 2 July 2016

Location: IAS Common Ground Space, University College London

Organisers: Tim Williams

A workshop exploring the development of the city in the early Islamic world and the extent to which it was shaped by the development of Islamic society will be held at UCL on 1 & 2 July.

Using the perspective of the longue durée, the workshop will explore the impact of religious and secular administration, and cultural traditions, on urban planning. Themes will focus on concepts of urban space, of how people sought to control, shape, share and use space, as arenas of distinct and overlapping experiences.

This debate is framed over the latter half of the first millennium and early second millennium CE: a period that encompasses Late Antiquity, the rapidly expanding Islamic world, and its subsequent fractious division into multiple polities, all set within the context of interactions with empire systems beyond its boundaries. In doing so, the workshop seeks to re-establish a civilisational scale for the analysis of Islamic urbanism.

Register here.

View the call for papers here.

Food, Drink and Civilization

International Conference to be held at UCL on 21-22 September 2016


We are pleased to invite proposals for papers at an international and cross-disciplinary conference on food and drink to be held on 21-22 September 2016.

Eating and drinking are frequently described as 'habits' or forms of etiquette indicating a sense of what it means to be civilised or uncivilised. The preparation and serving of food and drink figure prominently in Norbert Elias's understanding of civilisation as a process. Archaeologists have focused on the origins of food production and domestication. Anthropologists since Frazer's Golden Bough have focused on cooking, cuisine, feasting and sacrifice as a key to cultural comparison. Scholars in different disciplines have explored notions of commensality, position, inclusion and exclusion as markers of status and individual and collective (self-)identity. The conference will adopt a cross-cultural, inclusive and multi-disciplinary perspective, drawing in scholars from sociology, anthropology, history, theatre, philosophy, literature and art, in order to enhance our understanding of the ways in which human engagement with food and drink, in terms of production and consumption, use and abuse, aesthetics and ethics, rhetoric and politics, shape their sense of self and other, and order and define their world. In exploring points of convergence and divergence across different times and cultures it will raise questions about what we mean by civilisation and whether there can ever be a single core model. Themes for papers which we envisage are:

Food and religion: divine and human food; diets; taboos and abstentions; purity and impurity; feasts (human, divine and shared) and feast days.

Food and drink in social contexts: commensality; friendship and bonding; models of sharing; organisation of space; public and private; segregation. 

The politics of food and drink: patronage; control, reward and dependency; hierarchies; canvassing; civic duty and largesse; foodstuffs, colonisation and conquest.

The economics of food: food and trade; concepts of display; luxury; delicacies; costs and value.

The pragmatics and technology of food and drink: preparation; training; expertise; standing and reward.

The erotics/aesthetics of food and drink; food/drink as aphrodisiac; as art, visual and culinary.

The ethics of food: food and drink as markers of value(s), individual or collective; cultural difference; excess and moderation; order and control; social change; disorder, decline and fragmentation.

Law, crime and abuse: legal and other restrictions, cannibalism, poison.

Food and drink in/as myth: as charter, as warning, as symbol.

Confirmed speakers

Dr Andrew Dalby, historian and Trustee of the Oxford Food Symposium

Dr Paul Buell, Adjunct Professor, Center for Eastasian Studies, Western Washington University; Research Scholar, Horst-Görz-Institut, Charité Berlin

Dr Esther Eidinow, University of Nottingham

Prof Marylin Nicoud, Université d'Avignon et des Pays de Vaucluse

Prof Francoise Sabban, Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, Paris

Professor Roel Sterckx, University of Cambridge

Christopher Tuplin, University of Liverpool

Dr Susan Weingarten, Visiting Scholar, Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies

Professor Sami Zubaida, University of London Birkbeck

Abstracts of no more than 200 words should be sent to d.alabaster@ucl.ac.uk no later than 31 March 2016.


Kaori O’Connor

Chris Carey

Image: From the tomb of Nebamun, courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum.

Page last modified on 29 apr 16 10:35