Former Prime Minister Sir John Major is to deliver the inaugural Sir Martin Gilbert Memorial Lecture at Highgate Synagogue next Tuesday, in a launch event attended by the late historian’s friends and family.
Major’s seven turbulent years in Number 10 Downing Street included Britain’s participation in the Gulf War, the negotiation of the Maastricht Treaty and the country’s exit from the Exchange Rate Mechanism on Black Wednesday.
He will be speaking at the launch event of the Sir Martin Gilbert Learning Centre, which aims to preserve the legacy of Gilbert through the study of history and the lessons it teaches us for today.
Gilbert was perhaps best-known for being Sir Winston Churchill’s biographer, and the great war leader’s great granddaughter will be in the audience on 14 November, as will students from local schools.
“Sir Martin taught us how necessary it is that we learn from events of the past so that we do not make the same mistakes in the future,” said Sir Harry Solomon, chair of Trustees.
“How relevant this is in today’s volatile and dangerous world. That is why I believe Sir Martin’s legacy and the work of the Centre will be so valuable. We are all really honoured that Sir John Major, whom Martin so admired and respected, will be giving the first Lecture.”
Sir Martin’s widow, Lady Esther, said the Centre would be dedicated to her husband’s “work and approach to true history, so important in these times of fake news and echo chambers”.
She added: “We want to make history accessible and important to students of all ages. We’re now looking forward to planning and implementing a programme of activities for the Centre that will reach people of all ages, engaging them through the study of history with some of the issues that confront the world today.”
Sir Martin was an advisor to John Major when he was Prime Minister, and other prominent individuals such as Prince Charles when he addressed the Board of Deputies on its 250thanniversary on 2010, helping to provide background on the history of the Jewish community for his speech at the Guildhall.
The other trustees are Sir Victor Blank, James Libson, Prof Shirli Gilbert, Ruth Green and Jon Benjamin.