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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.


Dying for Shakespeare

When Monday 9 May, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £8 / £6 / £5 Book via the BL Box Office

The 2016 Sulgrave Manor Watson Chair lecture tells the tale of an 1849 performance of Macbeth in New York that provoked a full-blown riot.

As the army opened fire on thousands of demonstrators, as many as thirty people were killed. Behind this unlikely tragedy lay a comically bitter feud between England’s leading actor William Charles Macready and America’s first stage star Edwin Forrest. At the time, Britain still dominated American theatres, and the clashing thespians came to embody two sides in a fierce cultural war between nativists and Anglophiles over America’s very identity. With Bardolatry at its all-time zenith, that struggle revolved around the question of which nation 'owned' Shakespeare. Nigel Cliff, author of The Shakespeare Riots a finalist for the US National Award for Arts Writing and a Washington Post book of the year, takes us back to a time when theatres were raucous public spaces and Shakespeare, as popular in frontier saloons as aristocratic salons, played a leading role in forging a 'brave new world'.

Nigel Cliff is a historian, biographer, and critic who began his career as a theatre and film critic for The Times. He wrote The Last Crusade: The Epic Voyages of Vasco da Gama, which was a New York Times Notable Book and was shortlisted for the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize and has translated and edited Marco Polo’s Travels for Penguin Classics. He has written widely for publications including The Economist and The New York Times and has lectured at Oxford University and the Ransom Centre, University of Texas at Austin.

Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library in collaboration with Sulgrave Manor


The 2016 Douglas W. Bryant Lecture

When Monday 16 May, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price Free entry Book via the BL Box Office

Populism and the Presidency

Journalist Martin Dickson examines the 2016 US Presidential campaign. It is shaping up to be one of the most unusual in recent history. Candidates from the fringes of the Republican and Democratic parties, back by grass-roots supporters, have been mounting strong challenges to politicians favoured by party establishments. The trend is especially marked among Republicans, who are at war with themselves. He examines the political, social and economic causes of the revolt, the policy implications for whoever gets to the White House, and whether there are lessons in America’s experience for the UK and continental Europe.

Martin Dickson has over 30 years’ experience of the media industry working in the UK, the US and elsewhere around the world as a reporter, commentator, editor and manager. He was formerly Deputy Editor (2005-12) and US Managing Editor (2012-14) of the Financial Times. He has been a close observer of US business and politics since the 1990s, when he spent five years heading the FT’s New York bureau during the George Bush Senior and Clinton presidencies. The winner of various awards for business journalism, he has been a member of the board of the British Library since April 2015.


Theodore Dreiser: from Transatlantic Censorship to Scholarly Editions

When Friday 20 May, 18.30-21.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £8 / £6 / £5 Book via the BL Box Office

The American novelist Theodore Dreiser fought many battles against censorship, winning some and losing others

After Harper & Bros. suddenly dropped The Titan, having already typeset and printed 10,000 copies. It was the British publisher John Lane who stepped in to bring out the book. Drawing on new research, Roark Mulligan traces why and how this happened, focusing especially on the influence of the American-born Emilie Grigsby, herself an author and a prominent London socialite friendly with King Edward VII, Rupert Brooke, and Henry James, whose early life is fictionalised in The Titan.

Jude Davies will talk about how the historical censorship of Dreiser’s novels affects contemporary readers. Focusing on the critical editions of Sister Carrie and The Titan, he will examine how successive editors have grappled with the questions of which text to use and how to present it to readers.

Jude Davies is Professor of American Literature and Culture, University of Winchester, and General Editor of the Theodore Dreiser Edition. Roark Mulligan is Professor of English, Christopher Newport University, and is volume editor of The Financier (University of Illinois Press, 2011) and The Titan (University of Winchester Press, 2016).

Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library in collaboration with Winchester University Press


The Intimate History of Democracy and Money

When Tuesday 24 May, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant
Price£8 / £6 / £5 Book via the BL Box Office

The 2016 Robert H Smith lecture examines the historical relationship between democracy and money in America

The American political system is awash with billions of dollars, a situation that may well compromise the country’s democratic aspirations. How did the US arrive at this point? Most commentary focuses on the Supreme Court’s recent (2010) Citizens’ United decision. Gary Gerstle argues, however, that the troubled relationship between money and democracy originated two hundred years earlier when America first became a mass democracy and invented political parties. Managing a large and rambunctious democracy turned out to be hugely expensive business; and with the Constitution making no provision for publicly funded elections, parties fashioned themselves into brilliant money-raising machines, becoming the largest and most powerful organizations in nineteenth-century America. Dependent for their continued success on large infusions of cash, they gave monied interests extraordinary opportunities to penetrate governing institutions. Popular movements sought repeatedly to contest the influence of private money, but few enjoyed more than temporary or partial success. The money necessary to sustain democracy in America was simply too great. In making his points, Gerstle sweeps across American history, discussing the intersection of elections and money from the age of Jackson to the age of Trump.

Gary Gerstle is the Paul Mellon Professor of American History and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College, University of Cambridge. He is the author of Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present (2015), described by the Financial Times as a “towering achievement”.

Sponsored by the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House.


Books Talk Back with Alison MacLeod

When Friday 3 June, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price Free Book via the BL Box Office

An informal, interactive literary event for aspiring authors

A panel of aspiring authors read an extract of their unpublished fiction to a published author and the audience, then receive feedback from both. Guest Author Alison MacLeod, shares insight and ideas for short-story writers and the audience are welcome to ask questions.

Books Talk Back is the initiative of Isabelle King. She wanted to create a platform for aspiring authors to share their work in a friendly, fun and supportive environment whilst gaining constructive feedback.


Ezra Furman: The Velvet Underground, Punk Pioneers

When Thursday 23 June, 19.30-21.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £12/£10/£8 Book via the BL Box Office

An intimate evening with genre-fluid American singer-songwriter Ezra Furman reflecting on the Velvet Underground’s influence on punk and their musical legacy.

In his words, Lou Reed was “radically ambiguous and radically free.” Ezra will be in conversation and performing covers of their hits.

Punk 1976-78 is part of Punk London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating 40 years of punk heritage and influence in London.


Hey! Ho! Let's Go!: The Day the Ramones Ignited Punk

When Monday 4 July, 18.30-22.15
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £15/£12/£ 10 Book via the BL Box Office

Join Ramones Manager Danny Fields looking at the moment the US collided with the UK and Punk was born

Forty years ago, on 4th July 1976, the Ramones played their debut UK concert at London’s Roundhouse, followed the next day by another at Dingwalls. The shows that long hot summer have achieved legendary status. For many – including members of the Pistols, the Stranglers, the Clash and the Damned watching on – the band’s thrilling, fast, rebellious, New York sound blew open the possibilities of music and gave sudden acceleration to the styles that would become Punk.

The Ramones manager on those nights was Danny Fields, a man with a pivotal role behind some of the great American music of the 20th century. He makes an exclusive appearance, in conversation with Barney Hoskyns, to tell the story of the moment the US collided with the UK, and is joined by other special guests who were there.

The event will also feature a book signing of My Ramones (published this summer by First Third Books), followed by a screening of Danny Says. This acclaimed documentary, directed by Brendan Toller, tells the story of Danny Fields remarkable musical and cultural journey since 1966 working for the Doors, Cream, Lou Reed, Nico, Judy Collins and managing ground-breaking artists like the Stooges, the MC5 and the Ramones. Danny Says is a story of marginal turning mainstream, avant garde turning prophetic, and looks to the next generation.

Punk 1976-78 is part of Punk London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating 40 years of punk heritage and influence in London


The Sex Pistols and America

When Tuesday 5 July, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Book via the BL Box Office

Hear the story of the Sex Pistols tour of America

The Sex Pistols notorious 1978 tour of the southern US was one of the more surreal moments in music history. Banned from the radio and venues at home, the rapidly disintegrating band played places like Memphis, Baton Rouge, San Antonio and Dallas, in a move calculated by manager Malcolm McLaren to generate maximum culture clash. Bob Gruen was one of the acclaimed photographers on the tour and he is joined by US music specialist Brian Ward.

Punk 1976-78 is part of Punk London, a year of events, gigs, films, talks and exhibits celebrating 40 years of punk heritage and influence in London


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