The oral performance of history has been common to many societies from Herodotus and the histories of Beowulf, to the griots of West Africa. The lecture in Western history emerged from these histories of orality, with its name showing the close connection in its origins to reading, and to the lecturer's expertise in that domain. From this starting point, lectures grew to be associated with frameworks of academic authority, as well as markers of community and shared academic, religious and civic identity. From the late eighteenth century onwards, the role of the historical lecture widened to involve public education, and was also later incorporated into political contestations by anticolonial orators such as Maya Angelou, Amílcar Cabral and Fidel Castro. In the twenty-first century, the rise of transnational technology has seen the increasing atomisation of the lecture into a space of performative and disembodied information. As technologies change, in the future the knowledge and thematic being explored in historical lectures may change. What is embraced may prove to be demonstration of mastery of the commercial technology involved in a lecture's delivery, as much as the exposition related to the lecture or reading from which knowledge and academic communities historically have built.