PPE Centenary Lecture Series

The Department of Economics is delighted to be hosting this lecture series, delivered by Mathias Thoenig, Centenary Visiting Professor in PPE:


Why and when do political disputes escalate into armed conflicts? How can development policies break the vicious cycle of violence and poverty? Who are the refugees who flee wars and persecution? Will climate change exacerbate geopolitical tensions and inter-ethnic grievances?


This series of five lectures provides an overview of the recent academic literature on the causes and consequences of conflicts. We review the facts, present the empirical tests of the main theories and discuss the policies aimed at pacifying current conflicts and preventing future wars. Our methodological approach relies on the quantitative toolkit of economists and political scientists; in particular, we will make an intense use of simple methods in applied econometrics (ordinary least squares, instrumental variables) and game-theory. The lectures are aimed at advanced undergraduate students and doctoral students interested in political economy and political sciences.  

A series of five lectures during Hilary Term and Trinity Term

Recording of the PPE Centenary lecture 2023

'The Power of Narratives in Nation Building'

Date: Tuesday 24th January 2023

Location: Gulbenkian Lecture Theatre, St Cross Building




Historians and social scientists have long emphasized how the narratives of past wars can reactivate wounds or, conversely, heal minds and foster reconciliation. They consider that the framing of memories and the selective recall of facts about the causes of conflicts, the deployment of violence, and the resolution of disputes can profoundly influence beliefs and representations. These narratives can take many different forms, from founding myths to divisive expressions of hatred. In the context of nation‐building, one of the frequently observed narratives concerns the existence, real or imagined, of a common enemy.

But what is the real impact of these historical narratives? Do they change opinions and behaviors in a causal and meaningful way? Or are they rather ex‐post rationalizations and window‐dressing explanations of economic and political processes that involve deeper stakes and vested interests?

This lecture sheds light on these questions using quantitative empirical methods. Specifically, we investigate how the spread of the Lost Cause narrative  a revisionist and racist retelling of the history of the American Civil War (1861‐1865)  shifted opinions and behaviors toward reunifying the country and racially discriminating African Americans. Our findings suggest that reconciliation was promoted by replacing the North/South cleavage with a Black/White cleavage.



About the speaker



About the Visiting Professorship