Advocacy for the public value of the Humanities has a long history, even though the term ‘Humanities’ only recently became widely adopted in Britain. Articulating and defending the value of studying literature, history, music and the various other disciplines grouped, not always consistently, under that term becomes especially pressing when we see downward pressure on student numbers and/or government funding, as may (or may not) be the case in the wake of COVID-19.
This lecture will give a critical account of the principal arguments most often used to defend the value of the Humanities, as outlined in Professor Small's book, The Value of the Humanities (2013). It will also identify the forms of ‘defence’ most commonly relied upon, then set out to define their terrain more clearly and test each of them for plausibility. Professor Small will then attempt some more speculative thinking about where we may be heading now, what the problems are likely to be, and how we might best go about trying to ensure that the Humanities disciplines continue to flourish and to collaborate with other disciplines.