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The Monadnock Summer Lyceum has a long history of supporting free speech and open debate. Its forerunner, the Peterborough Lyceum, was founded in 1828 by the Reverend Abiel Abbot. Despite his traditional Andover/Harvard education, Abiel Abbot refused to condemn unorthodox opinion and preached a message of tolerance. For this he was accused of heresy by Lyman Beecher and nine other New England clergy and stripped of his Coventry, CT ministry. When the Unitarians of Peterborough boldly called Abbot to lead the congregation in their newly built, Bullfinch-style church, Abiel quickly moved to found the Lyceum, a forum for diverse opinion, and, five years later, the first free public library in the English-speaking world.

Peterborough renewed its commitment to free speech in 1970, when a committee at the Unitarian Universalist Church resurrected the forum as the Monadnock Summer Lyceum, held in the same original historic structure.

The Monadnock Summer Lyceum is known as "a feast for the thoughtful" and features prominent speakers from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines who discuss topics of importance to our time.