LECTURES | An Intellectual Feast

Posted on Thu., Sept. 20, 2012 by Matt Stevens

An audience of 300 attended the conference "Civil War Lives" in October 2011. Here, historian James M. McPherson took the podium in Friends' Hall.

Check out what’s coming up in the way of conferences and lectures this fall at The Huntington. Many visitors might not know about the array of offerings, but every year, as the academic year gets under way, The Huntington bustles with an array of rich intellectual events that are free and open to the public.

Last week’s lecture by David D. Hall of Harvard Divinity School, about witch hunting in New England, drew a full house. Tonight, Sir David Cannadine, history professor at Princeton University, talks about “Andrew W. Mellon: The Life of Business and the Business of Life.” Cannadine is the author of Mellon: An American Life (2006). In 2009–10, Cannadine shared the Fletcher Jones Foundation Distinguished Fellowship at the Huntington with his wife, Linda Colley, also a historian at Princeton. She will deliver a paper at The Huntington tomorrow, when the research division begins its conference season with “The American War: Britain’s American Revolution.” Read more about her here in an archived blog post.

The lecture program is anchored by a number of endowed series, each of which focuses on a theme. Tonight’s talk is the annual Paul G. Haaga Jr. Lecture on American Entrepreneurship. Inaugurated in 2009, it is the newest endowed lecture series.

Curious about what the British thought about the American Revolution? Wonder what of Shakespeare Nelson Mandela read while he was in prison? Want to know about Isaac Newton’s private life? Come out to The Huntington. Most lectures are free; conferences have a modest fee and require registration (researchconference@huntington.org or 626-405-3432). Here is a listing for the next few months; take a look at the Research section of our website for information on lectures and conferences planned for 2013. All events take place in Friends’ Hall, unless otherwise indicated.

Paul G. Haaga Jr. Lecture on American Entrepreneurship
Andrew W. Mellon: The Life of Business and the Business of Life

Sept. 20 (Thursday), 7:30 p.m.
Andrew W. Mellon belonged to a remarkable generation of American businessmen that included John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and Henry Huntington. Sir David Cannadine, history professor at Princeton University, will describe Mellon’s remarkable and varied career as a banker, industrialist, Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, art collector, and founder of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


The American War: Britain’s American Revolution
Sept. 21–22 (Saturday–Sunday), 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
International scholars will consider the revolutionary events of 1763–83 from the perspective of Britain and its other colonies, focusing on the many ways the “American War” reshaped society, politics, and culture at home and abroad.

The Robert C. Ritchie Distinguished Fellow’s Lecture in Early American History
The Slave War of 1812

Oct. 3 (Wednesday), 7:30 p.m.
During the War of 1812, more than 3,000 slaves escaped from Virginia and Maryland by stealing boats to reach British warships in Chesapeake Bay, where they were taken on board and employed. Alan Taylor, professor of history at the University of California, Davis, will discuss how their help proved essential to the British coastal raids, particularly the capture of Washington, D.C.

Lecture Series on East Asian Gardens, Arts, and Culture
Chinese Paintings from Japanese Collections
Oct. 30 (Tuesday), 7:30 p.m.
Stephen Little, curator of Chinese and Korean Art at LACMA, will survey the history of collecting Chinese paintings in Japan and the consequent impact on the development of traditional Japanese painting.

Systems of Life: Politics, Economies, and the Biological Sciences, 1750–1850
Nov. 9–10 (Friday–Saturday), 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
This conference will explore the intellectual history of the late 18th and early 19th centuries through the lens of conceptual innovation in the fields of politics, economics, and biology. It will focus in particular on the significance of the concept of “the system”—as well as its counterpart in the form of the nonsystematic—in the context of a diverse range of topics that include philosophy, political economy, colonialism, slavery, poetry, and the aesthetics of science.

In Conversation: Lesley Vance and Ricky Swallow with Christopher Bedford
Nov. 11 (Sunday) 2–4 p.m.
Christopher Bedford, co-curator of the exhibition “Lesley Vance & Ricky Swallow” and incoming director of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University in Boston, will lead a conversation with the artists inside the gallery, exploring issues of inspiration, display, and relevance. Free with reservations. Call 626-405-3428. Huntington Art Gallery.

An Isherwood Conversation
Nov. 20 (Tuesday), 7:30 p.m.
Join artist Don Bachardy and literary scholar Katherine Bucknell for conversation about the Anglo-American author Christopher Isherwood, best known for his Berlin Stories, on which the musical and film Cabaret are based. Isherwood’s papers are housed at The Huntington. Bachardy, a noted portraitist, was Isherwood’s life partner, and Bucknell is the editor of the author’s diaries. The event coincides with the publication of the third volume in the critically acclaimed series of diary editions, Liberation. A book signing will follow the program.

The Martin Ridge Lecture on Literature
The Signatures of the Robben Island Shakespeare
Nov. 26 (Monday), 7:30 p.m.
David Schalkwyk, director of research at the Folger Shakespeare Library, talks about the copy of The Complete Works of Shakespeare that circulated among 34 political prisoners (including Nelson Mandela) on Robben Island, the notorious apartheid prison. Each man signed his name next to his favorite passage.

Lecture Series on East Asian Gardens, Arts, and Culture
Of Travels, Fruits and Gardens:Jesuits and the European Knowledge of Chinese Plants and Gardens
Nov. 27 (Tuesday) 7:30 p.m.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Jesuit missionaries in China established a fruitful interaction between East and West, sending reports home to Europe that were of great cultural and scientific interest. Bianca Maria Rinaldi, assistant professor of landscape architecture at the University of Camerino, Italy, will discuss the role Jesuits played in disseminating information about Chinese horticulture and garden design.

The Homer D. Crotty Lecture on the History of European Civilization
Religious Nonconformity and the Quality of Mercy: The Merchant of Venice in English Reformation Context
Dec. 5 (Wednesday), 7:30 p.m.
Ethan Shagan, professor of history at University of California, Berkeley, explores the bitter Elizabethan debate over whether the penalties of the law ought to be mitigated for conscientious religious dissenters, suggesting that The Merchant of Venice can usefully be read as an intervention in that debate.

The Republic of Letters in North America, 1500–1800
Dec. 7–8 (Friday–Saturday), 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m.
The “Republic of Letters” commonly refers to early modern Europe’s international world of learning. Leading experts in early American history will explore the distinctive role the New World played in shaping the scholarly community’s ideas about peoples, politics, and nature.

Bern Dibner Lecture on the History of Science and Technology
Sex, Religion, and the Private Life of Isaac Newton
Dec. 10 (Monday), 7:30 p.m.
The recent publication of large numbers of religious notes and tracts by Isaac Newton has for the first time opened a window into the unknown world of his private life as a college professor. Rob Iliffe, professor of intellectual history and history of science at University of Sussex and the Eleanor Searle Visiting Professor in the History of Science at Caltech and The Huntington, examines the background to Newton’s extensive writings on what sorts of bodily practices were allowable (and what were not) in an intimate and largely celibate society of Christian men. This event takes place in the Ahmanson Classroom of the Botanical Center.

Audio recordings of many lectures and conferences are posted to The Huntington's iTunes U site so be sure to check out our selection of archived programs.

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers magazine.