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Cover of The Public Value of the Humanities edited by Jonathan Bate
April 2011

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The Public Value of the Humanities

Edited by: 
Jonathan Bate

Recession is a time for asking fundamental questions about value. At a time when governments are being forced to make swingeing savings in public expenditure, why should they continue to invest public money funding research into ancient Greek tragedy, literary value, philosophical conundrums or the aesthetics of design? Does such research deliver "value for money" and "public benefit?" Such questions have become especially pertinent in the UK in recent years, in the context of the drive by government to instrumentalize research across the disciplines and the prominence of discussions about "economic impact" and "knowledge transfer."

In this book a group of distinguished humanities researchers, all working in Britain, but publishing research of international importance, reflect on the public value of their discipline, using particular research projects as case studies. Their essays are passionate, sometimes polemical, often witty and consistently thought provoking, covering a range of humanities disciplines from theology to architecture and from media studies to anthropology.


Sir Jonathan Bate is a Foundation Professor of environmental humanities with a joint appointment in the Department of English and the Global Futures Laboratory, School of Sustainability.

Praise for this book

“This book provides a top-notch tutorial on the current states of humanities research ... These short essays approach the core question of value from the different vantage points expected of the different disciplines or disciplinary amalgams. Some start from the polarities of intrinsic and instrumental, others with a more practical social or "'lessons learned' approach. Virtually no one seriously takes on the case for economic value, and only a few look at the question from the perspective of employability: What do trained humanists actually do in life, and how does that add value?”

The Times Higher Education (U.K.)