IHS Discussion Colloquia

IHS Discussion Colloquia are designed for graduate students and faculty members seeking in-depth discussions about specialized topics in the classical liberal tradition. Our Discussion Colloquia utilize a roundtable discussion model and take place during a weekend with about 15 peers, a common set of readings, and an expert discussion leader. During the course of the program, participants will have the opportunity to discuss intensely interesting and challenging topics with their peers, network together, share their research, and hone their classical liberal scholarship with new ideas, perspectives, and tools.


These programs are free to attend and may take place either in-person or online. In the case of in-person discussions, IHS provides all materials, accommodations, and meals throughout the duration of the program, in addition to a generous travel stipend and $500 honorarium. Online programs also include generous honoraria and materials. See specific program websites for more information.

For more information, contact DiscussionColloquia@TheIHS.org. Participants can apply to any of the below programs.

Liberty and the Struggle for the Early Chinese State | March 19-21, 2021

Ancient China was one of the world’s great fonts of art, literature, economic productivity, and religion, but it was also a time and place marked by a tremendous outpouring of political thought. In this discussion, students will explore many complexities of early Chinese political philosophy through the long conflict between Legalism and Confucianism. Students will of course encounter Confucius and Legalist Han Fei Tzu, as well as a wide variety of other figures like Shang Yang, Mencius, and Xun Kuang. Modern writings include selections from philosopher Roderick Long’s Rituals of Freedom and historian Valerie Hansen’s The Open Empire. The discussion will be led by the Institute for Economic Affairs’ Stephen Davies. Learn More

Liberty and Civil Society | April 9-11, 2021

Throughout the history of Classical Liberalism, ideas about liberty have been bound up with understanding that most meaningful change—social, economic, political, and cultural—has been the result of civil society. In this colloquium, students will explore foundational texts on both liberty and civil society like Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, Ferguson’s Essay on the History of Civil Society, and Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Selections from modern scholars include Spencer MacCallum’s The Art of Community, Robert Putnam’s article “Bowling Alone,” and Peter Linebaugh’s The Incomplete, True, Authentic, and Wonderful History of May Day. The discussion will be led by Georgetown University’s John Hasnas. Learn More

We are no longer accepting applications for this event.
Please check back at a later date for Advanced Topics in Liberty events.

Foundations of Civil Society | April 23-24, 2021

This discussion colloquium explores the history and promise of civil society in the United States, with a focus on the role of philanthropy in civil society. Participants will be graduate students majoring in the humanities and social sciences. Classic works by Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville, as well as contemporary scholarship, will be studied. A distinguished scholar will lead the discussions. This program was conceptualized by Lenore Ealy of the Charles Koch Institute and Professor Daniel J. Smith of Middle Tennessee State University; it was developed in partnership with Professor Smith and MTSU’s Political Economy Research Institute. Learn More

We are no longer accepting applications for this event.
Please check back at a later date for Advanced Topics in Liberty events.

Origins of Capitalism | April 23-25, 2021

The history of capitalism is not only a vital component of the Classical Liberal tradition, but it is also at the bleeding edge of a variety of disciplines in academia today. Understanding capitalism’s beginning, its implications for society, and its development over time and space can not only help us understand why the world is the way it is today but it also enables Classical Liberals to offer both sharper defenses and critiques of capitalism the way it actually exists. During this colloquium, students will discuss important modern scholarship on the subject from Joel Mokyr’s The Enlightened Economy and Dierdre McCloskey’s Bourgeois Dignity to Joyce Appleby’s The Relentless Revolution and Douglas Allen’s The Institutional Revolution. Learn More

We are no longer accepting applications for this event.
Please check back at a later date for Advanced Topics in Liberty events.

World History of Liberalism

World history is necessarily interdisciplinary, drawing on insights from across the humanities; and liberalism has been integral—fundamental, even—to world history. Here we will shift endlessly across time and space, discovering kernels of liberalism everywhere from ancient China to the English Civil Wars, challenging ourselves to think much more richly, deeply, and widely about what exactly liberalism is, what is has been, where it’s gone, and where it’s heading.

Sessions will take place as close to the final Monday of each month as possible from 3:00pm-5:00pm (ET) unless otherwise noted or updated.

World History of Liberalism

Check out our new World History of Liberalism online series here.

Comparing Singularities: Social and Technological Disruptions

Throughout the course of the series, students will explore the concept and history of technological singularities and their impacts. Though ‘singularity’ means many things across many fields, in the history and development of technology, it tends to refer to points in time where technology develops so quickly and spontaneously that no one before or during the singularity can predict what effects that development will have on society. Learn more

Comparing SIngularities

2020 Retrospective

2020 has been quite the wild ride. Practically no one has escaped the year unchanged or untouched by recent events. To put it all in some context, attempt to make some sense of it, and in an effort to gather together liberal scholars working to move the future in better directions, the IHS is beginning its next online seminar series: a retrospective on the year 2020. Students will discuss important recent work by Classical Liberal scholars on topics from COVID to SCOTUS–because even 2020 should not be left behind without being understood.

These discussions will unfold in 75-90 minutes discussions the first Friday of each month, from 4:00-6:00pm EST, January through August. Learn more

What to Expect

discussion colloquia

Participants will receive readers roughly two months in advance of the conference and should come thoroughly prepared to discuss the material. Discussion will be Socratic—that is, question-driven—and will include a range of expertise levels. Discussion Colloquia do not include any lectures, workshops, or presentations. They depend entirely on the quality of discussion each member brings to the table and the questions offered by the discussion leader. A full Discussion Colloquium consists of six sessions of one and a half hours each, and participants are required to attend all sessions as well as all social events (including meals).

Additional Details

  • To be eligible for consideration, participants must either be full-time PhD students or faculty members at a degree-granting college or university.
  • IHS provides accepted participants with all meals and shared housing accommodations for the duration of the seminar, based on dual-occupancy with another participant of the same gender.
  • Accepted participants will be eligible for a travel stipend to cover airfare or ground transportation to and from the seminar.

IHS Discussion Colloquia provide unique opportunities for scholars to explore classical liberal ideas at an advanced level, inspiring and informing further research.

Most importantly, participants will have a chance to meet peers who share their passion for ideas.

If you are new to IHS and would like to take advantage of other IHS resources, you can learn about our scholarship and grant programs here.

For more information, contact DiscussionColloquia@TheIHS.org.