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On 17 March, her Excellency, Sylvie Bermann, came to Cardiff University and very kindly gave a lecture to over 100 staff and students on freedom of expressions in the public space. It was a compelling paper and question and answer session as the Ambassador broached the constitutional and cultural differences between France and Great Britain, above all those centred on the principle of laicite and the lack of an equivalent principle in public life in the UK. This included the linguistic and cultural challenges of translating this term into English. This was also the occasion for all present to reflect on the recent attacks in France, above all their significance for democratic nations and the importance of defending the right to freedom of expression. Questions from the floor addressed issues, such as religious expression and the classroom in the French Republican model, French relations with China, social media (its uses and abuses) and the role of women in society and gender equality. Her Excellency was a most engaging speaker, able and willing to engage in full discussion on polemical issues of our day and contemporary Franco-British relations.

Professor Claire Gorrara, co-series editor of French and Francophone Studies