Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

World History Programs

Lecture/Seminar

African-Jewish Cooking: A Cultural Crossroads with Culinary Historian Michael W. Twitty

Friday, August 12, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

In-Person and Online Program: Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty is fascinated by the marriage of two of the most distinctive culinary cultures in the world today: the foods and traditions of the African Atlantic and the global Jewish diaspora. Join the James Beard Award–winning author as he explores the crossroads of these cuisines, as well as issues of memory and identity that grow from them.

Lecture/Seminar

French Fairytales

Monday, August 15, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Once upon a time, fairy tales were not the short, simple children’s stories we all know. Instead, they often carried subtle messages or warnings, or ridiculed powerful figures. These subversive stories were created in 17th-century Paris literary salons, safe forums for aristocrats—mostly women—to gather and share often coded tales. Folklorists Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman explore these mostly forgotten tales and their deeper meanings.

Lecture/Seminar

Breakout! Allied Operations After D-Day

Wednesday, August 17, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

The June 6, 1944, landings in occupied France by British, Canadian, and American soldiers constituted only the first phase of Operation Overlord. The early successes were followed by weeks of Allied frustration and horrific casualties in the face of German forces. Kevin Weddle, a professor of military theory and strategy, examines why the story of the ultimate Allied breakout is one of innovation, imagination, determined leadership, and German mistakes—and was as important and instrumental in the final Allied victory over Nazi Germany as any other D-Day battle.

Lecture/Seminar

The Age of Confucius

Monday, August 22, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Historian Justin M. Jacobs analyzes the exciting intellectual ferment of the age of Confucius and the thinkers who followed in his footsteps during the Warring States era: Mozi, Mencius, Zhuangzi, Xunzi, and Han Feizi. The lively exchange of ideas among these philosophers helped define Chinese civilization itself and set the stage for the next two thousand years of dynasties and empires.

Lecture/Seminar

Art + History: Evening Encores

Tuesday, August 30, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

If you’ve not experienced Paul Glenshaw’s dynamic series Art + History, in which he examines great works of art in their historical context, now’s your chance. In this summer series, he reprises six of his earlier daytime sessions in livestreamed evening programs. In this session, Glenshaw discusses Gassed by John Singer Sargent. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Brunelleschi and Ghiberti: The Rivalry that Ignited the Renaissance

Wednesday, August 31, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

The 1401 competition between master artists Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi for the commission to create a set of bronze doors for the Florence Baptistry is generally considered the event that fueled the Renaissance. Rocky Ruggiero, a specialist in the Italian Renaissance, explores the creative duel that led to competitions among great artists becoming one of the central leitmotifs of the period. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

The Medici Villas: Tuscan Inspiration

Friday, September 2, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Used variously for pleasure and sports, scholarly pursuits, commercial enterprise, botanical experimentation, and amorous liaisons, the villas of the Medici family both expressed and influenced contemporary ideas on politics, philosophy, art, and design. Art historian Elaine Ruffolo explores several of the Medici’s public interests and private passions—and the architects they employed to create the luxurious backdrops for them. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Course

Art and Kingship in Southeast Asia

Tuesday, September 6, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Art historian Robert DeCaroli examines the cultural and artistic traditions of ancient Southeast Asia from the earliest archaeological evidence to the onset of colonialism, with a particular focus on the royal arts of the great civilizations that arose within the borders of modern Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Burma (Myanmar), Vietnam, Laos, and Malaysia. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Spice 101: Cumin

Wednesday, September 7, 2022 - 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Take a gastronomical journey to explore one of the world's most widely used and oldest spices, cumin. Christine Rai discusses its origins and history, flavor profile and composition, and presence in global cuisines, and offers tips for using this internationally beloved spice in your own kitchen.

Lecture/Seminar

Nikola Tesla: An Inventor Re-invents Military Technology

Friday, September 9, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In the 21st century, the life and accomplishments of inventor, engineer, and futurist Nikola Tesla have risen from almost total obscurity to topics of fresh interest. Author Marc J. Seifer, one of the world’s leading Tesla experts, surveys his most significant discoveries that continue to influence today's military technology and diplomatic strategies.

Lecture/Seminar

Medieval England's Art and Archaeology

Saturday, September 10, 2022 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

Historian Cheryl White examines four significant monuments of art and archaeology of medieval England—the Sutton Hoo ship burial, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Bayeux Tapestry, and Canterbury Cathedral—each of which points to a specific turning point in the historical narrative of the 7th through 14th centuries. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Exploring the American Revolution: Yorktown and the French Alliance

Tuesday, September 13, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

The climactic battle of the American Revolution, the siege of Yorktown, was a decisive win for George Washington’s Continental Army. Historian Richard Bell analyzes why it was also a triumph for the unlikely but essential wartime alliance forged between patriot revolutionaries and France’s king, Louis XVI.

Lecture/Seminar

Insurrection in a Bavarian Beer Hall: Hitler’s Failed Putsch and Its Consequences

Wednesday, September 14, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Munich was not Adolf Hitler’s hometown, but when he made it the headquarters of the Nazi party it became a critical steppingstone in his political rise. Historian Michael Brenner delves into what happened in that city during the ensuing years, why its transformation is crucial for understanding the Nazi era and the tragedy of the Holocaust, and how a failed coup known as the beer hall putsch turned into a successful grab for power many years later.

Lecture/Seminar

Regency London's "Ton": The Business of Pleasure

Monday, September 19, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

As fans of “Bridgerton” know, the “Ton” were the envied, trendsetting celebrities of the early 19th century. Historian Julie Taddeo looks beyond the glamour to examine the men and women who lived "in the fashionable mode" and for whom exacting rules circumscribed every area of social and personal conduct.

Lecture/Seminar

Building the Panama Canal: A Controversial Symbol of American Might

Tuesday, September 20, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Building the Panama Canal early in the 20th century was either a bold, decisive diplomatic stroke that claimed America’s rightful place on the world stage or a crude display of arrogance and corruption. Historian Ralph Nurnberger examines the sweep of the canal saga and addresses such problematic issues as why the U.S. claimed the right to build a canal in another country, and why Panama was chosen.

Lecture/Seminar

The Rosetta Stone, a Key to the Past

Wednesday, September 21, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Two hundred years ago, French historian and linguist Jean-Francois Champollion deciphered the hieroglyphics inscribed on a slab of black stone found in Egypt in 1799—finally cracking the code to the ancient Egyptians’ enigmatic writing system. Historian Gary Rendsburg unfolds the exciting story of one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time.

Lecture/Seminar

The Dome of the Rock

Thursday, September 22, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Dominating the skyline of Jerusalem for more than 1,300 years, the Dome of the Rock is both a sacred Islamic shrine and an iconic symbol of the Holy City. What messages did the artists who built it enshrine here, and what does this World Heritage Site have to say to us today? Barbara Boehm, curator emerita of the Met Cloisters explores this remarkable place, including its history, mosaics, and inscriptions, and its enduring meaning. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Margaret Beaufort and the Making of the Tudor Dynasty

Tuesday, September 27, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Margaret Beaufort cannily navigated the Wars of the Roses with a single goal in mind: assuring the royal future of her son Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII. Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger explores the rise of this matriarch within the fractious courts of the late 15th century and why she emerged as one of the most powerful women in England.

Lecture/Seminar

Art, Architecture, and Ambition in Aragonese Naples

Friday, September 30, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

The fall of Naples in 1442 not only brought Spanish rule, it transformed the city into a vital center of artistic production. Join Sophia D’Addio, a lecturer in art history at Columbia University, in an exploration of paintings, sculptures, medals, and architecture commissioned by the Aragonese rulers of Naples, most notably the commissions and collections of King Alfonso of Aragon. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Philosophy in the Middle Ages: A Harmony of Faith and Reason

Saturday, October 1, 2022 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

The medieval period in Western thought, once viewed disparagingly by scholars as the Dark Ages, has come to be recognized as a time of rich philosophic investigation and lively debate. Gregory T. Doolan, associate professor of philosophy at The Catholic University of America, explores the work of notable Christian, Muslim, and Jewish thinkers from the major periods of medieval philosophy.

Tour

Monuments and Memory

Saturday, October 1, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

Join staff members of the new Capital Jewish Museum on a walking tour that explores the connection between Washington’s monuments and collective memory. Beginning at the museum, move through the heart of the historic downtown Jewish community to visit monuments and memorials connected to local and international Jewish history.

Lecture/Seminar

Russia: Revolution and Civil War

Wednesday, October 5, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Between 1917 and 1921 a devastating struggle took place in Russia following the collapse of the Tsarist empire. Author Antony Beevor brings the conflict to life through the eyes of firsthand accounts, vivid and powerful personal stories that offer an epic view of the events that reshaped Eastern Europe and set the stage for the rest of the 20th century.

Lecture/Seminar

The Judgement of Paris: The Origins of Impressionism

Friday, October 7, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Impressionism was born in the 1860s through a heated rivalry between painters Édouard Manet and Ernest Meissonier. The contest transcended artistic expression, encompassing competing viewpoints on the changes wrought by technology, politics, and personal freedom. Ross King, author of The Judgement of Paris, vividly explores the relationship between these artists as he evokes Parisian life during a decade of social and political ferment. (World Art History Certificate Program elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Art Crimes: Trailing Modern Treasure Hunters

Wednesday, October 12, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Join expert on art fraud and former FBI agent Robert K. Wittman on his journey around the world as the senior investigator and founder of the FBI National Art Crime Team. He recounts assignments worthy of a spy novel that nabbed the tomb robbers, thieves, looters, and criminals who are the financial engine of the multi-billion-dollar international industry in illicit artifacts.

Lecture/Seminar

Howard Baskerville: An American Martyr in Iran with Author Reza Aslan

Wednesday, October 12, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

In-Person and Online Program: In the early 20th century, Howard Baskerville, a young Christian missionary from South Dakota, traveled to Persia (modern-day Iran) to preach the gospel. But it would be political activism and not Christianity that would define his life and lead to his death as a martyr in a foreign land. Historian and author Reza Aslan highlights the complex and historic ties between America and Iran and the potential of a single individual to change the course of history.

Lecture/Seminar

World War II and the Rise of American Intelligence

Thursday, October 13, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

Author and long-time intelligence officer Nicholas Reynolds draws on his new book Need to Know to survey the full story of the birth of American intelligence in the 1940s, as well as the larger-than-life leaders and spies who would shape espionage during wartime and beyond.

Tour

Monuments and Memory

Friday, October 14, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

Join staff members of the new Capital Jewish Museum on a walking tour that explores the connection between Washington’s monuments and collective memory. Beginning at the museum, move through the heart of the historic downtown Jewish community to visit monuments and memorials connected to local and international Jewish history.

Lecture/Seminar

The History of France: Four More Turning Points

Saturday, October 15, 2022 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

France is the product of a centuries-long evolution during which a multitude of regional societies and cultures was welded together willingly—or more often forcibly—by a succession of monarchs, ministers, and commanders. Historian Alexander Mikaberidze examines four historical moments that marked crucial points in the emergence of France: the opening of Versailles; the invasion of Italy by King Charles VIII; the transformation of young humanist lawyer Jean Cauvin into John Calvin; and the world’s first conference to standardize measurements across the world.

Lecture/Seminar

The Life and Times of Norman Cousins: A Peacemaker in the Atomic Age

Monday, October 17, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Best remembered as the longtime editor of the influential weekly magazine Saturday Review, Norman Cousins was also engaged in secret missions behind the Iron Curtain to conduct high-stakes negotiations directly with the Soviet leadership during the decades after WWII. Historian Allen Pietrobon discusses his enormous impact on the course of American public debate, international humanitarianism, and Cold-War diplomacy.

Lecture/Seminar

Shakespeare and Company: The Bookshop That Shaped the Lost Generation

Tuesday, October 18, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

In 1919, an American woman named Sylvia Beach opened Shakespeare and Company, an English-language bookshop and lending library on the Left Bank of Paris. In the decades that followed, it became the heart of a community of writers and artists now known as the Lost Generation. Joshua Kotin, an associate professor of English at Princeton University, draws on a treasury of Beach’s personal and business records to create a vivid portrait of a period and place that changed literary history.

Lecture/Seminar

The Spanish Civil War: A Rehearsal for WWII

Wednesday, October 19, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Between July 1936 and April 1939, Spain suffered a bloody civil war as a coalition of Nationalists under Generalissimo Francisco Franco staged an insurrection against the Second Spanish Republic. But the Spanish Civil War had a significance far beyond the Iberian peninsula: It revealed antecedents of the massive global conflict to come. Christopher Hamner, a professor of history at George Mason University, explores the war and its impact on the world.

Lecture/Seminar

The Stories Behind English Spelling: An Awesome Mess

Thursday, October 20, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

What’s behind the spelling of colonel? Or knight? Why is it four but also forty? Linguist Anne Curzan discusses why an examination of the ever-evolving language whose spelling has been described as “an awesome mess” reveals a treasure trove of wild and wonderful stories about its history and the people who have spoken it (and grappled with its quirks) across the centuries.

Lecture/Seminar

Cultural Heritage Sites of China

Saturday, October 22, 2022 - 9:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. ET

From the grand splendor of the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace to the serene beauty of the gardens of Suzhou and the grand tombs of Ming and Qing dynasty rulers, spend a day with art historian Robert DeCaroli as he introduces spectacular places in China that are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Tour

Monuments and Memory

Sunday, October 23, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET

Join staff members of the new Capital Jewish Museum on a walking tour that explores the connection between Washington’s monuments and collective memory. Beginning at the museum, move through the heart of the historic downtown Jewish community to visit monuments and memorials connected to local and international Jewish history.

Course

Medieval History Through Artists’ Eyes

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Dazzling early Christian mosaics, sumptuous Carolingian illuminated manuscripts, sculpted Romanesque church facades, and soaring Gothic cathedrals give artistic expression to an astonishing variety of beliefs and practices linked by a vision of leading the human spirit toward eternal life. Art historian Judy Scott Feldman examines the art of the thousand-year period between classical antiquity and the Renaissance and its relationship to a diverse society infused with faith and spirituality. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

500 Years of Anne Boleyn: The Woman Who Changed England’s History

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Ever since her life and death in the 16th century, historians and cultural representations have portrayed Anne Boleyn as a devout religious reformer, a blindly ambitious social climber, a heartless homewrecker, and everything in between. In a year that marks the 500th anniversary of Anne’s debut in the court of Henry VIII, Tudor scholar and historian Carol Ann Lloyd-Stanger explores the story of the real woman, which is often lost.

Lecture/Seminar

Confucianism and Daoism

Tuesday, October 25, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Confucianism and Daoism (Taoism), the two major indigenous religions of China, present worldviews that contrast not only with Western thought, but with each other. Charles Jones, a professor of religion and culture at Catholic University of America, explores the basic teachings of the two traditions and their strategies for coexistence throughout Chinese history.

Lecture/Seminar

The Acadian Diaspora

Thursday, October 27, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Late in 1755, an army of British regulars and Massachusetts volunteers launched one of the most ambitious and cruel military campaigns in North American history: the capture and exile of Nova Scotia’s French-speaking Catholic settlers known as Acadians. Historian Christopher Hodson of Brigham Young University explores the Acadian diaspora, interweaving the dramatic stories of its perpetrators and survivors with the wider history of 18th-century imperial conflict. 

Lecture/Seminar

Gloriana: Elizabeth I and the Art of Queenship

Thursday, November 17, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

Art and fashion were strategic propaganda devices that reinforced the magnificence—and power—of Elizabeth I as a virgin goddess. Lecturer Siobhan Clarke surveys the cult of Gloriana and the glittering jewels, opulent gowns, and royal portraits that shaped the image of England’s queen in her own time and throughout history. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Europe 1900: The Golden Ages of Vienna, Paris, London

Saturday, December 3, 2022 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. ET

The year 1900 found three of Europe’s greatest cities entering defining eras in their historical and cultural development. In a richly illustrated seminar, lecturer George Scheper explores how the alignment of creative forces shaped three highly distinctive urban milieus—each nourished by the energy and excitement of new ideas and each witnessing the birth of modernism in the coming century.