PPE Centenary Lecture (Tuesday - Week 2, HT23)

mathias thoenig

The Department of Economics is delighted to share the inaugural PPE Centenary Lecture. The lecture will be delivered by our first ever Centenary Visiting Professor in PPE, Mathias Thoenig, and will be followed by a drinks reception for in-person attendees. This event will be chaired by The Right Honourable Baroness Valerie Amos CH PC, Master of University College.

Please reserve in-person & online tickets on Eventbrite: PPE CENTENARY LECTURE: The Power of Narratives in Nation Building Tickets, Tue 24 Jan 2023 at 18:30 | Eventbrite

About the Centenary PPE Lecture:

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 Mathias Thoenig:

Mathias Thoenig is a Professor of Economics at the University of Lausanne, and the Centenary Visiting Professor of PPE at the Department of Economics, University of Oxford, in association with University College and Queen’s College, Oxford. This visiting professorship marks the 100th anniversary of the creation of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) degree at Oxford University.

His research interests include development, international trade and political economy of conflicts and migration. He has published and forthcoming papers in several international journals, including, among others: American Economic Review, Econometrica, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies, Harvard Business Review, Journal of European Economic Association. He has been awarded an ERC Starting Grant in 2013 for his work on the role of distrust and grievances in ethnic conflicts.