The British government and European Parliament have now ratified the agreement that takes the United Kingdom out of the European Union. There are many details to be clarified during the 11-month ‘transition period’ that follows, but we want to reassure our friends, partners and potential students that we will do everything in our power to preserve the activities and values that have made the Warburg Institute an international beacon for interdisciplinary research and teaching.
The Warburg owes its academic mission to the movement of people, collections and ideas across national borders; and the Institute owes its very survival to the people and institutions in Britain who salvaged it from Nazi Germany. When Sir Ernst Gombrich retired in 1976 (having directed the Institute for more than 15 years and published the most popular book on art ever written), he gave a moving speech as ‘the last member of the academic staff of this refugee Institute who came over from Central Europe [before World War II]. I do not want the occasion to pass without expressing my sense of wonder and gratitude at the reception we were accorded. …The kindness and tolerance shown to us newcomers must never be forgotten. Nor can we forget the debt we owe to our contacts with the English tradition of learning and most of all with the English language.’
Here at the Warburg Institute we remember this history. We enjoy working in a library with so many books in so many languages and in a building where we are as likely to hear German, Italian or French being spoken as English. And we look forward to welcoming new students, researchers and partners from all over the world.
Professor Bill Sherman