Monday 1st March 2021


5.00pm – 6.30pm GMT

In this talk, Richard Ovenden describes the deliberate destruction of knowledge held in libraries and archives from ancient Alexandria to contemporary Sarajevo, from smashed Assyrian tablets in Iraq to the destroyed immigration documents of the United Kingdom’s Windrush generation. He examines both the motivations for these acts—political, religious, and cultural—and the broader themes that shape this history. He also looks at attempts to prevent and mitigate attacks on knowledge, exploring the efforts of librarians and archivists to preserve information, often risking their own lives in the process.

Richard’s talk will be followed by a live Q&A on Zoom.

Richard Ovenden has been Bodley’s Librarian (the senior Executive position of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford) since 2014. Prior to that he held positions at Durham University Library, the House of Lords Library, the National Library of Scotland, and the University of Edinburgh. He moved to the Bodleian in 2003 as Keeper of Special Collections, becoming Deputy Librarian in 2011. He was educated at the University of Durham and University College London, and holds a Professorial Fellowship at Balliol College, Oxford. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Arts, and a Member of the American Philosophical Society. He was awarded the OBE in The Queen’s Birthday Honours 2019. Richard serves as Treasurer of the Consortium of European Research Libraries, as President of the Digital Preservation Coalition, and as a member of the Board of the Council on Library and Information Resources (in Washington DC). He has written extensively on the history of the book, on the history of photography, and on current concerns in the library, archive and information worlds.

Previous Books:

  • Burning the Books, A History of the Deliberate Destruction of Knowledge (2020)
  • John Thomson (1837-1921): Photographer (1997)
  • A Radical’s Books (with Michael Hunter, Giles Mandelbrote, and Nigel Smith) (1999)

Tickets £5

This is an online event. Ticket holders will be emailed links to access Richard’s talk on YouTube and the live Q&A on Zoom straight afterwards. The talk, pre-recorded to ensure quality, will premier on YouTube at 5pm but will be available to watch for those with the link afterwards.