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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

World History Programs

Masters and Masterpieces of the 18th and 19th Centuries

Against a backdrop of a rapidly changing world, the 18th and 19th centuries brought forth a profusion of styles in art and architecture in Europe and America. Art historian Karin Alexis offers a cultural context for its creators as she traces the path from Rococo exuberance to a bold new realism. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)

Date of event
Tuesday, April 7 to May 5, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. (no class April 14)

Jewish Music: Many Languages, One Heart

What is Jewish music? In this 3-part series, the answers will surprise you as cantor and choral director Ramón Tasat leads discussions about this intriguing history, which segue into live performances. This program focuses on the Jewish choral heritage in England.

Date of event
Sunday, April 26, 2020 - 4:00 p.m.

Ancient Sparta: A Template for Modern Dictatorships

Among the ancient city-states, Sparta was the most feared, for good reason. Historian John Prevas provides an analysis of ancient Sparta’s approach to governing, drawing parallels to the modern dictatorships that echo it.  

Date of event
Monday, April 27, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Islamic Art and Architecture: Empires, Spirituality, and Luxury Trade

Art historian Lawrence Butler highlights examples of historic Islamic art and architecture from the 7th century through the early-modern period that embody its defining spirituality, luxury, and princely themes. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)

Date of event
Friday, May 1, 2020 – 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Saturday, May 2, 2020 – 9:30 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.

The Rise and Fall of the Berlin Wall

The Berlin Wall, erected in 1961, divided a people and marked the tense epicenter of the Cold War. It came down in 1989, but the scars it has left have not fully gone away. Hope M. Harrison, associate professor of history and international affairs at George Washington University, examines these issues.

Date of event
Monday, May 4, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Art of India: From the Indus Valley to Independence

From its origins in the ancient civilization to the present, the complex culture of South Asia has given rise to some of the world’s most remarkable art. Art historian Robert DeCaroli highlights the artistic traditions and historical changes within the Indian subcontinent from the earliest archaeological evidence to the onset of colonialism. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)

Date of event
Tuesday, May 12 to June 2, 2020 - 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m.

Why Brexit?

As she traces Brexit’s complicated past, present, and future, historian Jennifer Paxton examines issues that reveal the tensions at the heart of a nation that may reshape the United Kingdom more profoundly than any political event in the past 300 years.

Date of event
Wednesday, May 20, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

France During World War II: Occupation and Resistance

The world was stunned when, in the spring of 1940, Germany invaded and quickly defeated France. Ronald C. Rosbottom, a scholar of French and European history, examines why knowing more about the impact of both occupation and resistance during WWII helps us understand aspects of France’s present political and diplomatic environment.

Date of event
Saturday, May 30, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.

The Maya: Ancient Splendors, Modern Legacies

The famous breaking of the Mayan code in the late 20th century revolutionized the study of these peoples and of ancient America. In a day-long program, humanities scholar George Scheper examines how interdisciplinary study of the Maya extends beyond the traditional archaeological focus to comprise political and social history, art, comparative religion, and ecology.

Date of event
Saturday, May 30, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.

Exploring World Heritage Sites in Asia

In this 4-session course, come on a virtual tour of four of the most intriguing UNESCO World Heritage sites in Asia, including both well-known and lesser-known sites with Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University. This session focuses on the Taj Mahal.

Date of event
Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Tehran Children: Rediscovering Iran’s Role in a Holocaust Rescue

While many Iranians know that their country sheltered Polish refugees during World War II, fewer are aware that many of these refugees were Jewish. Author Mikhal Dekel, whose father and aunt were among the nearly 1,000 Jewish children in the rescue mission, joins journalist Arash Azizi to explore why some aspects of this wartime history might be obscured.

Date of event
Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

The Arts and World War I

The awesome power of war to unleash death and destruction has often ironically led to remarkable creative breakthroughs from artists, poets, and composers. David Gariff, a senior lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, explores the responses of artists and writers to the trauma of the Great War, which transcended national boundaries.

Date of event
Monday, June 8, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Exploring World Heritage Sites in Asia

In this 4-session course, come on a virtual tour of four of the most intriguing UNESCO World Heritage sites in Asia, including both well-known and lesser-known sites with Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University. This session focuses on Samarkand.

Date of event
Friday, June 12, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The History of Ireland: Four Turning Points

Historian Jennifer Paxton explores the complex history of Ireland’s interactions with the outside world that led to the transformation of the island over a thousand years from a relatively isolated island to a colony of its far more powerful neighbor, England.

Date of event
Saturday, June 13, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.

Jewish Music: Many Languages, One Heart

What is Jewish music? In this 3-part series, the answers will surprise you as cantor and choral director Ramón Tasat leads discussions about this intriguing history, which segue into live performances. This program focuses on the history of Jewish music in Italy.

Date of event
Sunday, June 14, 2020 - 4:00 p.m.

Exploring World Heritage Sites in Asia

In this 4-session course, come on a virtual tour of four of the most intriguing UNESCO World Heritage sites in Asia, including both well-known and lesser-known sites with Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University. This session focuses on the Mogao Grottos.

Date of event
Thursday, June 25, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Treasures of Ancient Egypt at VMFA

More than 1200 years ago, two ancient Egyptian cities at the mouth of the Nile were lost to natural disasters and the rising tides of the Mediterranean Sea. The stunning exhibition Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts offers a rare glimpse of what remains of these mighty centers of trade, where Egyptian and Greek cultures merged in art, worship, and everyday life. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)

Date of event
Friday, June 26, 2020 - 8:30 a.m.

African Art Through the Centuries

From the vibrant paintings found in Stone Age caves to works of contemporary creators, the arts of Africa have been shaped by unique creative insight as well as by specific political, social, religious, and economic forces. Art historian Kevin Tervala explores these vibrant artistic expressions through an examination of the continent’s historical trajectory. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)

Date of event
Friday, June 26, 2020 - 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 27, 2020 - 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Exploring World Heritage Sites in Asia

In this 4-session course, come on a virtual tour of four of the most intriguing UNESCO World Heritage sites in Asia, including both well-known and lesser-known sites with Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University. This session focuses on the Potala Palace.

Date of event
Monday, June 29, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Saturday, July 11, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Saturday, August 1, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Michelangelo, Pope Julius, and the Sistine Chapel

When Michelangelo signed the contract with Pope Julius II in 1508 to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, little did he know the turmoil that awaited him. Rocky Ruggiero, a specialist in the Early Renaissance, examines the artistic importance of the ceiling and the human drama behind its creation, as well as the chapel’s history and its exquisite art produced before Michelangelo. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1 credit)

Date of event
Saturday, August 8, 2020 - 10:00 a.m.

Smithsonian Sleepover at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Family Program: (Ages 8 to 14) Go on an interactive exploration of the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. Then roll out your sleeping bag and dream away in the halls of one of the world’s most famous museums!

Date of event
Saturday, August 22, 2020 - 7:00 p.m.

Charlemagne, Father of Europe

The greatest of the barbarian rulers who rose to power after the fall of the Roman Empire was both a warrior king marked by a lust for territory and plunder and a great patron of the arts, learning, and religion. Historian Richard Abels explores the defining facets of the man and the myth behind the so-called Father of Europe.

Date of event
Monday, September 14, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Author Erik Larson on Churchill's Darkest Year

Drawing on his new book The Splendid and the Vile, Erik Larson offers a vivid portrait of London and Winston Churchill during the Blitz, detailing how the prime minister taught the British people “the art of being fearless.” Ticket includes a copy of The Splendid and the Vile.

Date of event
Wednesday, September 16, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Decoding the Royal Wardrobe: From the Tudors to Today

There's more to the gowns, crowns, uniforms, and regalia of British royalty than meets the eye. Join Tudor scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger for a glimpse into the palace closet that reveals how monarchs used their wardrobes to project power, influence, politics, and personality.

Date of event
Thursday, September 17, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Women Who Ruled the East End: Remarkable Tales of Wartime London

Women in aprons and button-up boots were the beating heart of the tenement neighborhoods that serve as the backdrop for the PBS series “Call the Midwife.” These no-nonsense matriarchs who ruled London’s sooty cobblestone streets responded with astonishing ingenuity, resilience, and strength as they faced the horrors of WWII just beyond their own front doors. Join author Kate Thompson and historian Alan Capps as they delve deep into the social history of some truly remarkable women.

Date of event
Monday, September 21, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Panama Canal: A Complicated Backstory

Building the Panama Canal 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, with elements that include intrigue in the halls of Congress, a revolution, and Teddy Roosevelt’s vision of American global power.

Date of event
Wednesday, September 30, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

An Expert's Hunt for History

Nathan Raab, the preeminent American dealer in rare documents, tells the fascinating story of how he learned to tell the difference between real and forged artifacts, and of many amazing finds that were nearly lost to the ages.

Date of event
Thursday, October 8, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

How Advanced Technology Reveals Hidden Histories

Mummy masks, maps, bibles, manuscripts, journals, and even old walls can have important undiscovered stories to tell. Michael B. Toth discusses how his pioneering work in imaging technology has brought once-lost corners of history to light.

Date of event
Monday, October 19, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Tracing Jewish History: From Yemen to Yorkshire

Biblical scholar and historian Gary Rendsburg leads a virtual tour across 2,000 years of known Jewish history to explore fascinating stories of less-known Jewish communities.

Date of event
Saturday, October 24, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.

European Microstates: Survival of the Smallest

In an age of nation-states, Europe contains the world’s largest collection of a dozen countries that are literally too small to appear on most maps of the continent. Historian Charles Ingrao delves into the remarkable resilience of these microstates by examining the historical forces that shaped them.

Date of event
Monday, October 26, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

Democracy Today: A Promise in Peril

Historian Charles Ingrao compares democracy with competing forms of government, examines the attributes of healthy democracies, and considers how to strengthen modern democratic institutions in danger of retreat.

Date of event
Wednesday, October 28, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Art of India: From the Indus Valley to Independence

From its origins in the ancient civilization to the present, the complex culture of South Asia has given rise to some of the world’s most remarkable art. Art historian Robert DeCaroli highlights the artistic traditions and historical changes within the Indian subcontinent from the earliest archaeological evidence to the onset of colonialism. (World Art History Certificate core course, 1 credit)

Date of event
Monday, November 16 to December 7, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Inside the Cuban Missile Crisis

Naval historian David Rosenberg and three retired U.S. Navy officers examine the tensions and strategies that grew out of the face-off between America and the Soviet Union over Russia’s decision to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. They reveal how the USS Sam Houston, a Polaris submarine deployed in the Mediterranean, played a significant but little-known role in assuring European security against potential Soviet aggression.

Date of event
Tuesday, November 17, 2020 - 6:45 p.m.

The Napoleonic Wars: A Global Conflict

Austerlitz, Borodino, and Waterloo are among the places most closely associated with the era of the Napoleonic Wars. But this period of nearly continuous Franco-British conflict affected nations far beyond Europe. Historian Alexander Mikaberidze analyzes the immediate and extended consequences of the political tremors that spread as far as the Americas, Africa, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as well as across the Atlantic and the Indian oceans.

Date of event
Saturday, November 21, 2020 - 9:30 a.m.