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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

World History Programs

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

Reza Aslan on an American Martyr in Iran: The Howard Baskerville Story

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

In-Person and Online Program: Join award-winning historian and bestselling author Reza Aslan as he highlights the complex and historic ties between America and Iran and the potential of a single individual to change the course of history. Aslan traces the epic journey of Howard Baskerville, a young Christian missionary, from South Dakota to Persia (modern-day Iran) to preach the gospel in the 20th century. 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.

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

Saturday, October 22, 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.

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

The Great Fire of 1666: Restoration London’s Fall and Rise

Thursday, November 3, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

The Great Fire destroyed all of mercantile and much of residential London in just four days. Historian Robert Bucholz looks at how London came back stronger thanks to the vision proposed by Robert Hooke, Sir Christopher Wren, and other city designers.

Lecture/Seminar

The Long Road to German Unification

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

The narrative of how a loose confederation of more than 1000 German states evolved into a powerful nation is a tale of intrigue, wars, class struggles, and economic turbulence. Historian Ralph Nurnberger provides an overview of the events and the fascinating figures that helped unite Germany in 1871 and propel it into a position of power within Central Europe.

Lecture/Seminar

Searching for the Known and Unknown Poland: A Virtual Journey

Thursday, November 10, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

For more than 1,000 years, Poland has stood at the center of central Europe and its historical, cultural, political, and intellectual currents. In an exploration of how Poland evolved and survived throughout its long, rich history, author and tour guide Christopher Skutela, leads a journey to find Poland’s architectural, artistic, and historical treasures within its main cities as well as those found in lesser-known cities and towns.

Lecture/Seminar

Ashoka and the Maurya Empire

Monday, November 14, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

In 250 B.C. the Maurya Empire was the wealthiest and largest in the world, extending across Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and most of the Indian subcontinent. It reached its apogee under the rule of Ashoka, a notable emperor. Independent scholar Colleen Taylor Sen traces the rise of the Maurya Empire from its roots in the Indus Valley; considers Ashoka’s role in ancient Indian political and religious history; and examines what the legacy of this empire means for the region today.

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

The Renaissance Artist at Work

Friday, November 18, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Day-to-day artistic workshop practices are often a neglected aspect of Renaissance studies. Art historian Elaine Ruffolo sheds a fascinating light on the subject as she explores how painters learned their craft, the organization of their workshops, the guilds they belonged to, their relationships with customers and patrons, and where and how their work was displayed. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Lecture/Seminar

Lost Civilizations: Nubia

Tuesday, November 22, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

Nubia, the often-overlooked southern neighbor of Egypt, has been home to groups of vibrant and adaptive peoples for millennia. Sarah M. Schellinger of Ohio State University explores the Nubians’ religious, social, economic, and cultural histories through their archaeological and textual remains, reminding us that they were a rich and dynamic civilization in their own right.

Lecture/Seminar

Lost Civilizations: The Maya

Tuesday, November 29, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

Megan E. O’Neil, assistant professor of art history and museum curator at Emory University, delves into ancient Maya art and architecture, primarily from the Late Classic period (600–900). She also explores how people from the 16th century to the present have perceived, portrayed, and exploited Maya art and culture.

Lecture/Seminar

The Many Lives of Joan of Arc

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

Why does the story of Joan of Arc’s short life continue to live on in our history? Kevin J. Harty, medievalist and popular-culture scholar, examines the many facets and complexities of her life and legend in a fascinating program highlighted by examples of works of art, music, literature, advertisements, and film and television inspired by the Maid of Orléans.

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.

Lecture/Seminar

The Jacobites’ Legacy: From Bonnie Prince Charlie to Outlander

Monday, December 5, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET

Historian Jennifer Paxton examines how a dispute between rival branches of the English royal dynasty dominated English and European politics for nearly a century and has inspired popular culture on both sides of the Atlantic, from the novels of Sir Walter Scott in the 19th century to the current Outlander novels and television series.

Lecture/Seminar

An American Ambassador in Prewar Japan: The Countdown to Pearl Harbor

Monday, December 5, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET

As America’s ambassador to Japan in the decade that led up to WWII, Joseph C. Grew’s prescient warnings to American leaders about the risks of Japan’s raging nationalism and ambitious militarism were often disregarded in Washington. Author Steve Kemper examines Grew’s tenure in Japan, offering a backstage glimpse at these explosive years from vantage points including the Imperial Palace, the Japanese cabinet, and Grew’s own perspective from the American embassy in Tokyo.

Lecture/Seminar

Lost Civilizations: Egypt

Tuesday, December 6, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

From Roman villas to Hollywood films, ancient Egypt has been a source of fascination and inspiration in many other cultures. Christina Riggs, professor of the history of visual culture at Durham University, examines its history, art, and religion to illuminate why ancient Egypt has been so influential throughout the centuries—revealing how the past has always been used to serve contemporary purposes.

Course

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Wednesday, December 7, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

The 1,121 UNESCO World Heritage sites throughout the world provide fascinating glimpses into the evolution of complex civilizations, empires, and religions. In a lavishly illustrated series, historian Justin M. Jacobs offers an in-depth overview of the Great Wall of China.

Lecture/Seminar

The Escape Artist: A Warning from Auschwitz

Thursday, December 8, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET

In April 1944, Rudolf Vrba became the first Jew to break out of Auschwitz, driven to reveal the truth of the death camp to the world and to warn the last Jews of Europe what fate awaited them. Though too few—including world leaders—heeded his warning, Vrba helped save 200,000 Jewish lives. Author Jonathan Freedland recounts the extraordinary story of a man he feels deserves to take his place as one of a handful of individuals whose experiences define our understanding of the Holocaust.

Lecture/Seminar

Rediscovering Botticelli’s Lost Drawings—and the Renaissance

Thursday, December 8, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

The 19th-century rediscovery of Sandro Botticelli’s drawings illustrating The Divine Comedy reminded the art world of how the artist’s work embodies the spirit of the Renaissance. Joseph Luzzi of Bard College explains how and why Botticelli’s creations from the beauty of Primavera and the Birth of Venus to the drama of Dante’s Purgatorio—still move us today.

Lecture/Seminar

The Rothschilds: From Frankfurt’s Judengasse to Bankers to the World

Thursday, December 8, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

They spent centuries confined to the Judengasse ghetto in Frankfurt, earning a living peddling goods. But the Rothschild family moved past antisemitism, emerging as one of the world's wealthiest and most influential banking dynasties. Historian Ralph Nurnberger recounts their rags-to-riches story.

Lecture/Seminar

Lost Civilizations: The Incas

Tuesday, December 13, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

The Inca were the last major civilization of the Andes, the descendant of a human presence in the region dating back millennia. Kevin Lane, archaeologist and senior researcher at CONICET Universidad de Buenos Aires, analyzes the Inca rise to power, highlighting the social, economic, cultural, dynastic, and military reasons behind the emergence of their imperial hegemony throughout western South America.

Course

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Wednesday, December 14, 2022 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. ET

The 1,121 UNESCO World Heritage sites throughout the world provide fascinating glimpses into the evolution of complex civilizations, empires, and religions. In a lavishly illustrated series, historian Justin M. Jacobs offers an in-depth overview of the Sacred Buddhist Landscape of Bagan.

Lecture/Seminar

Spices 101: Cinnamon

Thursday, December 15, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET

The spice we love in apple pie, tagines, and churros has been treasured across cultures since ancient times, and used for culinary, medicinal, and spiritual purposes—even including ancient Egyptian embalming methods. Christine Rai explores cinnamon’s fascinating origins, history, and variety, and shares tips on using the spice in your own kitchen.

Lecture/Seminar

How Weather Has Shaped Human History

Thursday, December 15, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. ET

Dramatic weather might seem to be a new phenomenon, but weather and climate change have been shaping human history for thousands of years. Historian Caroline Winterer examines a series of weather-driven turning points that were strong enough to force migration, end wars, and create famines—and how the aftermath of past climate change might affect our future.