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Reception to celebrate the life of Peter Forsskal

The Swedish and Finnish Embassies in London are jointly hosting a symposium and reception, on Thursday 7th April 2011 to celebrate the life of Peter Forsskal (1732 -1763).

He is the author of Thoughts on Civil Liberty (1759), which has recently been translated for the first-time ever into English (working from the uncensored manuscript). Forsskal advocated access to information and freedom of expression, writing

it must be possible for society’s state of affairs to become known to everyone, and it must be possible for everyone to speak his mind freely about it… Matters of war and some foreign negotiations need to be concealed for some time and not become known by many, but not account of proper citizens however, but because of the enemies

His words were an intellectual catalyst for the Swedish Freedom of the Printing Press Act 1766, the world’s first freedom-of-information law.

As well as being a social philosopher, Forsskal was a botanist and zoologist – a ‘disciple’ of Carl Linnaeus. He travelled to Egypt and (modern-day) Yemen 250 years ago as a member of an expedition organised by the King of Denmark. He died in Yemen in 1763, possibly from malaria.

Thoughts on Civil Liberty is available at http://www.peterforsskal.com (also in French, Spanish and Russian; the German version is from the censored manuscript. An Arabic translation is being launched on June 14th).

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