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Events and conferences 2012

The Eccles Centre for American Studies regularly organises and supports conferences, seminars, lectures and other events on North American and transatlantic themes, often in partnership with other institutions and organisations. Below here is a list of recent events.


On the Road: Jack Kerouac's manuscript scroll

When   Until Thursday 27 December 2012
Where   Folio Society Gallery, British Library

On the Road is one of the defining books of the Beat Generation. Written over a period of three weeks in April 1951 in manic bursts of what Allen Ginsberg referred to as ‘spontaneous bop prosody’, Jack Kerouac typed the manuscript on rolls of tracing paper, which he taped together into a long scroll to avoid replacing paper at the end of the page and interrupting his creative flow.

The 120-foot-long scroll was in London for the first time. It was displayed in a specially-constructed case, alongside sound and printed materials from the Library’s collection.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies


Understanding U.S. Politics 2012
Two One-Day Conferences for 6th Form Students

When   Monday 26 November 2012 & Tuesday 27 November 2012  10.30 to 15.30
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

The conference programme was the same on each day. Speakers were two former US Congressmen, the Honourable Steven T Kuykendall (Republican - California) and the Honourable David Minge (Democrat - Minnesota), and Professor Philip John Davies, Dr Ross English (Sussex University), Professor Robert McKeever (London Metropolitan University), Professor Iwan Morgan (Institute of the Americas, University College London) and Dr Andrew Moran (London Metropolitan University).

Conference Programme

These conferences take place with the generous support of the US Embassy London and the British Association for American Studies


French Canada and the American Civil War

When   Wednesday 24 October 2012  18.30 - 20.30
Where   Bronte Room, Conference Centre, British Library

The lecture focussed on the Civil War’s effect on French Canada and on the French-speaking communities of the American Northeast and examined how the conflict was perceived in French Canada, its impact on Québec’s political and economic destiny, and the factors that motivated several thousand French Canadians to serve in the Union forces.

D.C. Bélanger is Assistant Professor of Canadian history at the University of Ottawa and co-founder of Mens, Quebec’s journal of intellectual and cultural history.

Hosted by the Quebec Government Office, in collaboration with the Eccles Centre for american studies


Discovering the 'Other America': How I Learned American History

When   Monday 22 October 2012  18.45 - 20.00
Where   Bronte Room, Conference Centre, British Library

Feminist historian and Eccles Centre British Library Writer in Residence Sheila Rowbotham described the cultural and political influences which led to her interest in the 'other America' of labour and women's history.


US Presidential Election Debate

When   Friday 19 October 2012  18.30 - 20.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

The debate featured representatives of Republicans Abroad and Democrats Abroad and was moderated by Sir Robert Worcester, Founder of MORI (Market and Opinion Research International).

This event was co-sponsored by the Benjamin Franklin House and the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


Global Cities, Globalisation & the Transatlantic World

When   Friday 19 October 2012  10.00 - 16.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

A symposium for international students examining the transatlantic "special" relationship between the US and the UK in the context of global change and globalisation.

This event was co-sponsored by CAPA International Education and the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


America, Hitler and the UN

When  Monday 15 October 2012  18.45 - 20.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

Dr Dan Plesch discussed his controversial book, America, Hitler and the UN.


1951: The Great Year of My Enlightenment

When  Friday 12 October 2012   18.30 - 20.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

By the early summer of 1951, Jack Kerouac had finally completed a first draft of On the Road. Using pioneering archive research, Beat scholar Howard Cunnell, editor of On the Road: The Original Scroll, explored what happened during the rest of what Kerouac would later call 'the great year of my enlightenment.'


US Elections Unspun: The Truth Behind the Headlines

When   Thursday 11 October 2012  18.30 - 20.00
Where   Terrace Restaurant, Main Library Building

As Americans prepare to head to the polls, award-winning documentary filmmaker, and one of the leading lights of US broadcast journalism, Michael Kirk shared insights gleaned while crafting his intricate portraits of both nominees exclusively for PBS's landmark television series, FRONTLINE. Michael Kirk presented video excerpts from his programme 'The Choice 2012', and was joined in discussion by Professor Robert McKeever ( Dean of Law, Government & International Relations, London Metropolitan Unviersity) and Alex Spillius (Washington correspondent for The Daily Telegraph).

This event was sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies in co-operation with PBS America.


Rethinking the Vietnam War

When   Monday 8 October 2012  18.45 - 20.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

Drawing on his recent book, Rethinking the Vietnam War, Professor John Dumbrell, Durham University, considered a series of contested interpretations of this war, including the role of the antiwar movement, turning points in the history of the war, debates over military strategy, and the effect of the war on subsequent international history. He also considered the potency of various myths and stereotypical images of the war, offering a 21st century perspective on a uniquely divisive 20th century American war.


Black Beats: Amiri Baraka in Conversation

When   Sunday 7 October 2012  14.30 – 16.30
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

Before the Beats there was Jazz poetry. The world-renowned poet Amiri Baraka, a leading figure of the evolution of the spoken word genre, who has influenced politics, artistic practice and cultural change on an international scale, offered readings and performance from the rich collection of his work.

Presented in association with renaissance one and the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library


Summer Scholars 2012
A Historian Turned Detective

When   Friday 28 September 2012  12.30 - 14.00
Where   Foyle Suite, British Library

Sheila Rowbotham is one of the British Library Eccles Centre Writers in Residence, and author of Women, Resistance and Revolution and Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love among others. She described her current research, following the trail of a group of late 19th-century rebels from Bristol across the Atlantic.


Benjamin Franklin House Annual Symposium
Andrea Wulf on Chasing Venus: the Race to Measure the Heavens

When   Monday 24 September 2012  18.30 - 20.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

Award-winning author Andrea Wulf on the extraordinary story, told in her book Chasing Venus: the Race to Measure the Heavens, of the first global scientific collaboration set amid warring armies, hurricanes, scientific endeavour, and personal tragedy.

This event was co-sponsored by the Benjamin Franklin House and the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


Summer Scholars 2012
US Elections: One Month To Go - a look at US public opinion before the American presidential and congressional elections

When   Monday 24 September 2012  12.30 - 14.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

Bruce Stokes, Pew Research

Bruce Stokes, director of Global Economic Attitudes, at the Pew Research Center, one of the premier nonpartisan American polling and research organizations based in Washington, discussed the latest U.S. public opinion survey results.

Obama vs Romney: It's the Economy Stupid Presentation by Bruce Stokes, 24 September 2012

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


Summer Scholars 2012
Elizabeth Hay, author of Late Nights on Air

When   Wednesday 12 September 2012  12.30 - 14.00
Where   Foyle Suite

Elizabeth Hay is a Canadian author who was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2007 for Late Nights on Air. She talked about her new book, Alone in the Classroom.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


The Lessons of Leveson

When   Monday 10 September 2012  18.30 - 20.00
Where  Conference Centre, British Library

Lord David Puttnam considered the future of media regulation in the internet age. He addressed some of the issues which have emerged from the Leveson inquiry and considered what lessons can be learned from challenges which have arisen in the United States and elsewhere.

This event was co-sponsored by the Fulbright Commission and the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


The Meanings of Music in Brazilian Culture

When   Friday 7 September 2012  12.30 - 14.30
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

In celebration of Brazil World Music Day and Brazilian Independence Day, the British Library held a public lecture on the meanings of music in Brazilian culture given by David H. Treece, Camoens Professor of Portuguese, King’s College London.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies


Tigers in Red Weather

When   Monday 3 September 2012  18.45 - 20.00
Where   Conference Centre, British Library

The epitome of East Coast glamour, Tiger House is where the beautiful and the damned have always come to play in summer. Scene of martinis and moonlit conspiracies, the house is newly inherited by the sleek, beguiling Nick. The Second World War is just ending, Nick's cousin Helena has left her in search of married bliss in Hollywood, and Nick's husband is coming home. Everything is about to change. Picador's most hotly-anticipated novel of 2012, Tigers in Red Weather is a simmering story of passion, betrayal and secret violence beneath a polished and fragile facade. Author Liza Klaussmann was interviewed by the British Library Eccles Centre Writer in Residence, Naomi Wood.


Summer Scholars 2012
Mrs Hemingway

When   Wednesday 22 August 2012  12.30 - 14.00
Where   Foyle Suite, British Library

Naomi Wood's appointment as British Library Eccles Centre Writer in Residence 2012 is to support work on her next book, Mrs Hemingway, an historical novel exploring the lives of Ernest Hemingway's four wives. Naomi read excerpts from this work-in-progress and discussed how the BL's collections are helping to shape her novel.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


Summer Scholars 2012
Joanna Kavenna, author of Inglorious and The Birth of Love

When  Wednesday 18 July 2012  12.30 - 14.00
Where  Conference Centre Bronte Room

Joanna Kavenna is an Orange Prize winning author (Inglorious, 2008) and one of the Telegraph's '20 Writers Under 40' (2010). She talked about her new book, Come to the Edge.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


The Dear Little Mother, Queen of Our Heart

When  Mon 16 July 2012, 18.45 - 20.15
Where  Conference Centre, British Library

Inspired by the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, this talk by Professor Cecilia Morgan (University of Toronto) author of ’A Happy Holiday’: English-Canadians and Transatlantic Tourism, 1870-1930, looked at Canada’s relationship with Britain and the Royal Family.

With the support of the Canadian High Commission


Summer Scholars 2012
Susannah Clapp and Becky Munford discussed aspects of the life and work of Angela Carter

When  Wednesday 4 July 12.30 - 14.00
Where  Business and IP Centre

2012 marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Angela Carter, one of the greatest British fiction writers of the 20th-century. Two of Carter's foremost biographers and scholars discussed various aspects of her life and work; Susannah Clapp (The Observer) is the author of A card from Angela Carter and Becky Munford's (Cardiff University) forthcoming book is Decadent daughters and monstrous mothers: Angela Carter and the European gothic.

Supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


American Presidential Elections: Model of Democracy or Flawed System?

When Monday 11 June 2012, 09.30 - 17.00
Where Conference Centre, British Library

This day-long event brought together top-flight political consultants, scholars and others who follow American presidential elections to discuss the dynamics and eccentricities of the current presidential elections, and the impact of US electoral politics and campaigning styles around the world. On the agenda: SuperPACs and their role; are the national political parties becoming obsolete; is the campaign cycle too long; should the US electoral system be reformed; what lessons should other countries take from US election campaigns; has the media revolution made campaigns borderless?. Speakers included leading US consultants Celinda Lake, Ed Goeas and Tom Edmonds.

The keynote address was given by the Rt. Hon. Professor Shirley Williams. Podcast.

Programme (PDF format) 64KB
Leaflet (PDF format) 2758KB

This meeting was hosted by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, in co-operation with the International Association of Political Consultants and the Institute for the Study of the Americas at the University of London. The support of the US Embassy in London is gratefully acknowledged.


Conference: The World of Jorge Amado

When Friday 8 June 2012, 09.30 - 17.00
Where Conference Centre, British Library

A day of literary and cultural reflections marked the 100th Anniversary of Jorge Amado's birth. The conference was one of many events being held across the globe in honour of Jorge Amado.

An international group of scholars, writers and artists explored the inter-relationship among race, national identity and literature in Brazil as a way of marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Brazilian writer Jorge Amado. Speakers included: Roberto DaMatta (author of Carnivals, Rogues and Heroes: An Interpretation of the Brazilian Dilemma), Kenneth Maxwell (author of Naked Tropics: essays on empire and other rogues), Ana Maria Machado (President of the Brazilian Academy of Letters), and Joao Ubaldo Ribeiro.

Full programme

This event was supported by the Brazilian Academy of Letters, the Embassy of Brazil, the Institute for the Study of the Americas, and Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.


Coming to Quebec: 350 Years of British Travel and Travellers

When Tuesday 22 May 2012, 18.30 - 19.45
Where Conference Centre, British Library

Quebec has welcomed British travellers for more than 350 years. They have toured cities and villages, explored the hinterland, fished its lakes and navigated the waterways that crisscross this province that is seven times the size of the UK. When they returned to Britain, successive generations of travellers published accounts that were important to the promotion and development of Quebec. Others chronicled their visits in engravings that contributed to the iconography of this vast territory that to some was a bucolic paradise of field and stream and to others a remote land of snow and ice. In a whirlwind presentation of compelling images, historian Alexander Reford presented the story of the discovery of Quebec and ended his tour with his own efforts to entice British travellers to his gardens and garden festival in Metis.

Alexander Reford is the director of Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens and the founder of the International Garden Festival. Educated at Oxford University, he is the author of several books on gardens and the history of Quebec.

This event was supported by the Quebec Government Office and the Eccles Centre for American Studies


Some Thoughts on the Diplomacy of a Great Democracy by an Outside Observer

When Monday 21 May 2012, 18.30 - 20.00
Where Conference Centre, British Library

Distinguished diplomat Lord Hannay of Chiswick, former Minister at the British Embassy in Washington and former British Ambassador to the United Nations, delivered the Second Annual Benjamin Franklin House Robert H Smith Lecture in American Democracy. The lecture series honours American business leader and philanthropist Robert H Smith, a key supporter of Benjamin Franklin House, who was passionate about the roots and reach of American democracy.

This lecture was co-sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies


The Civil War of 1812: Citizens and Subjects

When: Friday 11 May 2012
Where: Conference Centre, British Library

Distinguished historian Professor Alan S Taylor delivered the 2012 Sulgrave Manor Watson Chair Lecture. Situated near Banbury, Oxfordshire, Sulgrave Manor is the home of George Washington’s ancestors. The Library is pleased to host the Watson Chair Lecture for the first time in its ninety year history.

Professor Taylor’s recent book, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels & Indian Allies has been described by reviewers as ‘the riveting story of a war that redefined North America’ and ‘an assiduously researched, brilliantly composed explication of the war's true nature.’

In his lecture, Professor Taylor considered how and why Britons and Americans renewed their struggle over the legacy of the American Revolution. In this second confrontation, soldiers, immigrants, settlers and Indians fought to determine the fate of a continent. Would revolutionary republicanism sweep the British from Canada? Or would the British contain, divide, and ruin the shaky republic? Moving beyond national histories to examine the lives of common men and women, The Civil War of 1812 reveals an often brutal (sometimes comic) war and illuminates the tangled origins of the United States and Canada.

Professor Taylor is the author of six American history books, and has won the Pulitzer, Beveridge, and Bancroft prizes for his scholarly writing. He is currently serving as a visiting professor, holding the prestigious Douglas Southall Freeman Chair in History at the University of Richmond, Virginia; he has been a professor of American History at University of California at Davis since 1994.

Supported by the American Embassy and the Eccles Centre for American Studies.


Roundtable: The Obama Administration's Approach to New Media

Friday 4 May 2012
British Library Conference Centre

A discussion with Macon Phillips, White House Director of Digital Strategy.


Seminar: The Presidential Difference: White House Leadership in the Civil War Era from James Polk to Abraham Lincoln

Thursday 22 March 2012
The Chancellor's Hall (Senate House, First Floor)

Speaker: Fred I. Greenstein, Professor of Politics Emeritus at Princeton University. His books include Children and Politics (1965), Personality and Politics (1969), The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader (1982), How Presidents Test Reality (1989, with John P. Burke), The Presidential Difference: Leadership Style from FDR to Barack Obama (2009), and Inventing the Job of President: Leadership Style from George Washington to Andrew Jackson (2009). He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and past president of the International Society for Political Psychology.

Co-sponsored with the the Institute for the Study of the Americas, School of Advanced Study, University of London.


Lecture: Liberties and Empires: Writing Constitutions in the Atlantic World, 1776-1848

Wednesday 21 March 2012
Institute of Education

The degree to which the explosion of new constitutions after 1776 was a trans-national and a trans-continental phenomenon can easily be obscured by exceptionalist and purely national historical narratives. In this lecture, Professor Linda Colley (Shelby M.C. Davis 1958 Professor of History, Princeton University) considered the evidence for a more complex and multi-lateral history of constitutions in the Atlantic World between 1776 and 1848, and discusses their profound connections with empire as well as nationalism.

Co-sponsored with the the Institute for the Study of the Americas, School of Advanced Study, University of London, and funded by the John Coffin Memorial Fund


Tracking the 2012 Elections: A half-day conference hosted at the US Embassy, London

Friday 10 February 2012
US Embassy, London

Contributions by Dr Dean McSweeney (University of the West of England); Thomas E. Mann, the W. Averell Harriman Chair and senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution; former US Congressmen Rick Boucher (D-Virginia) and Mike Oxley (R-Ohio), and former Times columnist Dr Tim Hames.

This conference was part of the Spring 2012 Congress to Campus UK programme, organised and sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, and the US Association of Former Members of Congress. Generous support came also from the American Politics Group of the UK and the hosts, the US Embassy in London.


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