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Forthcoming events and conferences

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.


Magna Carta's American Adventure

When Monday 1 June 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

Magna Carta came to America with the first charters, which guaranteed colonists the "privileges, franchises, and immunities" of English law. In the years leading up to the Revolution, Americans drew upon Magna Carta in framing their arguments against British policies. Ideas drawn from English constitutionalism, including Magna Carta, helped Americans shape their state constitutions and the Federal Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights. The story of American constitutionalism is one of both tradition and innovation.

In the 2015 Robert H Smith Lecture in American Democracy, Professor A E Dick Howard explores how Magna Carta has left an indelible mark on American constitutionalism. At the core of this legacy is the idea of the rule of law. Another principle, influenced by Coke's reading of Magna Carta, is constitutional supremacy—the idea of a superstatute superior to ordinary laws. Magna Carta's assurance of proceedings according to the "law of the land" is the direct ancestor of American ideas of due process of law. And, just as Magna Carta proved adaptable to the crises of later times, so has American constitutionalism proved to be organic and evolving.

A E Dick Howard is the White Burkett Miller Professor of Law and Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, he was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black. His writings include The Road from Runnymede: Magna Carta and Constitutionalism in America. He has consulted extensively with constitution-makers in other countries, especially in post-communist Central and Eastern Europe. Recently the University of Virginia conferred on him its Thomas Jefferson Award -- the highest honour the University accords a member of its faculty.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.

Presented in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House and the US Embassy London.


Conference: Firearms and Freedom: The Relevance of the Second Amendment in the Twenty-First Century

When Thursday 11 June 2015, 9.30-17.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price Registration £20 including lunch coffee and tea. Discount available for schools. Book here

A one day conference that explores one of the most controversial aspects of contemporary American life.

Keynote Speakers:

  • Professor Joyce Malcolm, Patrick Henry Professor of Constitutional Law & the Second Amendment at George Mason University
  • Professor Saul Cornell, Paul & Diane Guenther Chair in American History at Forham University
  • plus nine other academics from the USA and the UK

Lunch, tea and coffee is included in the registration price.

For: academics, university students, A and AS-level students, teachers, and others with an interest in the topic.

For more details contact Kevin Yuill (kevin.yuill@sunderland.ac.uk) or Joe Street (joe.street@nothumbria.ac.uk).

Organised in collaboration with the United States Embassy, London, the University of Northumbria and the University of Sunderland Faculty of Education and Society Research Beacon.


Crossroads of Curiosity: The British Library meets Burning Man

When Saturday 20 June 2015, 19:00-late
Where British Library Conference Centre & Piazza
Price Unveiling: £14 / £13 / £12; Talk and unveiling: £20 / £18 / £17; Booking will open via the BL Box Office shortly

On the summer solstice, we celebrate the unveiling of a major installation at the British Library, Crossroads of Curiosity, originally exhibited at the Burning Man Festival 2014. The evening starts with talks from speakers including the creator of the installation, David Normal, and Larry Harvey, founder of Burning Man. The installation unveiling at dusk is accompanied by a series of outdoor performances and displays from artists, musicians, comedians and digital researchers.

The event is supported by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, Friends of the British Library, Black Rock Arts Foundation and other private donations.


The Power of Iconic Documents

When Monday 29 June 2015, 18:30-20:30
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £15 / £12 / £10 Book via the BL Box Office

Once written down, some texts take on a power that makes them touchstones of human wisdom; inspiring movements, brave individuals and even whole nations. At this exceptional event hear Geoffrey Robertson on Magna Carta, Jill Lepore on the US Bill of Rights and Michael Ignatieff on The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This will be followed by a discussion chaired by Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities, UEA and Eccles British Library Writer in Residence for 2015.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.


Independence Day

When Saturday 4 July 2015, 10:00-14:00
Where British Library Piazza
Price Free

Calling all US expats and lovers of Americana. Get your tickets for the exhibition (ticket charges apply) and pay your respects to the Declaration of Independence while enjoying a morning of razzmatazz, live music, food and fun around the building.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.


Bryan Stevenson: Just Mercy

When Tueday 14 July 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10 / £8 / £7 Book via the BL Box Office

Bryan Stevenson was a young Alabama lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need; the poor, the wrongly condemned and the mentally disabled, trapped in the farthest reaches of the criminal justice system. He has gone on to be one of the most celebrated and influential crusaders for justice alive today.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.


Jesse Jackson in Conversation

When Friday 21 August 2015, 18:30-20:00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £20 / £16 / £14 Booking will open via the BL Box Office shortly

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is one of America’s foremost civil rights, religious and political figures. Over the past forty years, he has played a pivotal role in virtually every movement for empowerment, peace, civil rights, gender equality, and economic and social justice. At this special event he talks about the present state of equalities and rights in the US and beyond.

This event is part of the events programme for the Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy exhibition.


Henry James and Memory Conference

When Thursday 14 - Saturday 16 April, 2016
Where British Library Conference Centre

Call for Papers

Plenary Speakers:
Sarah Churchwell, Professor of American Literature and Public Understanding of the Humanities, University of East Anglia
Richard Holmes, OBE, FRSL, FBA, biographer

2016 marks the centenary of the death of Henry James (15 April 1843-28 February 1916), and will be a year in which James’s heritage will be celebrated, and will come under scrutiny, in a variety of settings and in different modes. This first conference of the centenary year will take place in London, James’s adopted home and the location of much of his fiction, and will be hosted by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library, one of the world’s greatest libraries. Taking advantage of another centenary, it will give special attention to James’s richly complex relation to Shakespeare, as well as to other writers, especially poets. In addition to academic papers, it will also involve readings by creative writers - in poetry and prose - of works inspired by James and his example.

The conference, which will start with a public event on Thursday evening 14 April and continue until Saturday afternoon 16 April 2016, invites proposals for individual papers (twenty minutes) and three-paper panels under the general rubric of ‘Henry James and Memory.’ 

James was himself much given to the act of remembrance, whether reminiscing in his biographical and autobiographical writings, or echoing the words and works of other writers and artists in his fiction. Likewise, James has had a vivid afterlife in various literary and artistic forms up to the present day. ‘Henry James and Memory’ encourages submissions that address either of these angles.

Possible topics and themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Jamesian allusions to, echoes of and other treatments of Shakespeare (the fourth centenary of whose death is also being commemorated extensively at the British Library in 2016) and other English, American, and European writers
  • commemorations of James
  • James’s autobiographical and biographical writings
  • representations of the processes of memory and imagination in James’s fiction and non-fiction
  • ‘the visitable past’: memory, commemoration, reminiscence in James’s fiction and non-fiction
  • adaptations of James for stage, film, radio, and television
  • fiction based on James’s life, or rewriting James’s own fiction
  • Jamesian influences in later writing (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama)
  • James’s legacies to criticism and theory

The academic organisers are Philip Horne (University College London), Gert Buelens (Ghent University) and Oliver Herford (University of Birmingham).

Please submit one-page proposals by e-mail to JamesAndMemory@gmail.com to reach us by 30 June 2015. Presenters will be notified by 15 August.


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