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July 17, 2008

As a recently retired director of the Institute of Historical Research within the School of Advanced Study at the University of London, I read with dismay Edward Chaney's and Kevin Sharpe's responses (Letters, 10 July) to Katharine Ellis (Letters, 26 June), who cited the work of the various institutes within the school. Having been an insider for more than four years, I can sympathise with some of their comments, especially those about underfunding and thinking that is too narrow and too small. But as I look back on a career that is approaching retirement, I recognise that the Institute of Historical Research in particular, and the other School of Advanced Study institutes in general, have supplied a place of study and an intellectual resource that have helped me to accomplish what I have. The institutes are simply of fundamental importance to UK national life.

I feel so strongly about this that I have decided to make a financial contribution to support a project in the IHR every year for the rest of my life. There are many scholars worldwide who must have had similarly inspiring experiences so I appeal to all who value these institutes to contribute financially and intellectually to their futures. It is imagination, vision and support that are now needed. The potential of that area of Bloomsbury for the further enhancement of research and scholarship in the humanities makes it crucial that there is an effective positive response to Ellis's letter.

David Bates, Professor of medieval history, University of East Anglia.

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