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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.


The Winchester: Legend of the West

When Thursday 29 September, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price£8/£6/£5 Book via British Library box office

BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan explores the history of, and family behind the Winchester Rifle

The Winchester Rifle, the iconic gun made in New Haven, Connecticut, and sold in its hundreds of thousands around the world, mirrors American expansion at a key period in the young country’s history. The lethal repeating rifle became the defining image of America’s frontier – and was known amongst Native Americans as “the spirit gun”. It represented both the pioneering vigour and the brutal force which conquered the West.

Laura Trevelyan is a BBC journalist and descendent of the Winchester family. She is the author of The Winchester: Legend of the West (I.B.Tauris, September 2016).


Rebel Crossings: Transatlantic Feminism, Free Love, and Radicalism

When Monday 3 October, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Book via British Library box office

The 2012 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence, Sheila Rowbotham, reveals the quest through archives, along cobbled streets and up into the Sierras, behind her latest book

Rebel Crossings: New Women, Free Lovers and Radicals in Britain and the United States, a group biography written by Sheila Rowbotham, transports readers into the late-nineteenth century, an era when liberalism, feminism, socialism, and anarchism intermingled with mysticism and alternative approaches to dress, health and sex.

She reveals how curiosity aroused by a book in the British Library during the 1970s led her to trace the interweaving lives of six iconoclastic women and men: Helena Born, Miriam Daniell and Gertrude Dix from Bristol, Robert Allan Nicol from Dunfermline, the Irish Mancunian, William Bailie from Belfast and Manchester and Helen Tufts from Boston.

This introduction to her new book is visually illustrated and followed by a drinks reception, informal discussion and book signing.

Sheila Rowbotham, who helped to start the women’s liberation movement in Britain, is known internationally as an historian of feminism and radical social movements. Her writing has been translated into many European languages and into Japanese, Arabic, Turkish, Farsi, Hebrew and Malayalam. Her biography of the gay socialist, Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love (Verso 2008) was shortlisted for the James Tait Black and winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Biography. She is an Honorary Fellow at Manchester University.

Behind the Headlines

When Wednesday 5 October, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price£10/£8/£ 7 Book via British Library box office

Ahead of the US presidential election we take a closer look at those in the running for the White House

As Americans prepare to head to the polls, award-winning documentary filmmaker, and one of the leading lights of US broadcast journalism, Michael Kirk shares insights gleaned while crafting his intricate portraits of the nominees exclusively for PBS's landmark television series, FRONTLINE.

Michael Kirk presents video excerpts from his programme The Choice 2016, and is joined in discussion by Dr Clodagh Harrington (De Montfort University & Chair, American Politics Group of the UK) and Griff Witte (London Bureau Chief, Washington Post).

Black Abolitionists in 19th Century Britain

When Thursday 6 October, 19.00 -20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Book via the British Library Box Office

An evening of performances, lectures and discussion celebrating Black History Month, hosted by the British Library Labs project and the Eccles Centre.

Hannah-Rose Murray from the University of Nottingham will present the research she is undertaking with the British Library, uncovering the hidden voices of black abolitionists from the 19th century in Britain using the Library’s digital archives. Her work includes insights into personalities who campaigned in Europe against slavery, such as the brilliant orator Frederick Douglass, the most photographed (non-royal) man of the 19th century, and Ellen and William Craft, who made a daring escape from slavery in disguise.
The evening will also host the London premiere performance by Joe Williams and Leah Francis of Heritage Corner Leeds, who will be bringing to life some of the black abolitionists including Ellen and William Craft, through speeches, movement and story-telling. The night will conclude with a question and answer discussion with the actors and researchers. 

Hannah-Rose Murray is a PhD researcher from the University of Nottingham, Eccles Centre Fellow and finalist in the annual British Library Labs competition for 2016. Her work focuses on the history of black abolitionists and their performances in Britain.

Joe Williams has an MA from Leeds University’s School of Performance and Cultural industries and is the founder of Heritage Corner, which focuses on African narratives in British history. Joe has written and performed works on leading abolitionists as well as on Victorian circus genius Pablo Fanque. Joe researched, wrote and starred, alongside opera tenor Ronald Samm, in an acclaimed tribute to gospel pioneer Thomas Rutling at the 2015 Harrogate International Festival in the Royal Hall.

Leah Francis is an actor and facilitator with experience in physical theatre, singing and movement. Playing many roles with the Chicken Shop Shakespeare Company, she is also the co-founder of two theatre collectives - Tribe Arts and Speak Woman Speak.

13 Presidents

When Monday 10 October, 18.30-20.00
Where Terrace Restaurant
Price£8/£6/£ 5 Book via British Library box office

Artist Marisa J Futernick and Radio 4’s Justin Webb discuss the role of personal narrative and place in the American Presidency

An evening talk to coincide with the publication of Futernick’s new book of short stories and photographs, 13 Presidents, which features each president from Herbert Hoover to George W Bush as a protagonist.

Webb is a presenter of Radio 4’s Today programme and the BBC's former North American correspondent. Futernick is a London-based American artist who recently drove across the US to visit all thirteen of the nation’s Presidential libraries as research for the book.

A screening of photographs from the publication will accompany the talk, which takes place just weeks before the US Presidential election.

A New History of Abolition

When Friday 14 October, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price£8/£6/£5 Book via British Library box office

Manisha Sinha discusses her new book ‘The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition’ at the British Library

The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition is a ‘movement history’ that expands the chronology of Anglo-American abolition and situates it transnationally. Sinha offers a wide-ranging reconsideration of abolition as a radical social movement. She challenges much of the received historical wisdom of abolitionists as bourgeois reformers burdened by racial paternalism and economic conservatism.

Sinha will explore the impact of the Haitian Revolution, the European Revolutions of the 1830s and 1848, British Chartism, Irish Repeal, and the international peace movement on the politics and ideology of abolition. She’ll uncover the political significance of slave resistance in the growing radicalisation of the abolition movement that rejects conventional historical divisions between slave resistance and antislavery activism.

More broadly, this talk will interrogate how radical social movements like abolition provide political and ideological space for the disfranchised and become engines of political change.

Manisha Sinha is the Draper Chair in American History at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She was born in India and received her PhD from Columbia University where her dissertation was nominated for the Bancroft prize. She is the author of The Counterrevolution of Slavery: Politics and Ideology in Antebellum South Carolina which was named one of the ten best books on slavery in Politico, and The Slave's Cause: A History of Abolition which featured as the Editor’s Choice of the New York Times Book Review and named the book of the week by Times Higher Education in May.

Migrant Landscapes

When Tuesday 25 October, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price£8/£6/£5 Book via British Library box office

Explore the role of geography in the migration crises witnessed this year

So far in 2016, from the Mediterranean Sea to the deserts of the US–Mexico border, thousands of migrants and refugees have died while trying to reach their destinations. As never before, the natural barriers that lie between people fleeing poverty and violence, and their objectives, have become graveyards.

In this event, two specialists with experience of the US–Mexico deserts and the Mediterranean Sea respectively, discuss their work and the role of geography in the current migration crises.

Dr Robin Reineke is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, based in Tucson, Arizona. Colibrí is a non-profit organisation working to end migrant death and related suffering along the US–Mexico border through forensic science, advocacy, and research.

Patrick Kingsley is the Guardian’s inaugural migration correspondent. Throughout 2015 he travelled to seventeen countries along the Mediterranean migrant trails, meeting hundreds of refugees making epic odysseys across deserts, seas and mountains to reach Europe. Published earlier this year, his book The New Odyssey tells the stories of those he encountered.

The event will be chaired by William Atkins, 2016 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence, whose book about the world’s deserts is due to be published by Faber in 2018.

Democrats v Republicans: US Elections Debate

When Friday 28 October, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price£10/£8/£ 7 Book via British Library box office

We discuss how the US presidential race stands just days before the election result. This year’s election campaigns for the US Presidency and Congress have surprised all the experts.

Insurgent campaigns by Donald Trump on the Republican side and Bernie Sanders among the Democrats attracted unexpected support, and shifted the centre point of the ongoing political debate. For the first time in US history a major party chose a woman, Hillary Clinton, as its presidential nominee.

The Presidency, the US Senate and the US House are all being vigorously contested, and all results matter.

As these events approach their climax this debate, moderated by pioneering pollster and Founder of MORI (Market and Opinion Research International) Sir Robert Worcester, and featuring speakers from Republicans Overseas and Democrats Abroad will shed light on the situation just a few days before the US election.

This event is presented in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House.


Hollywood and the Great Depression

When Tuesday 15 November, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price£8/£6/£5 Book via British Library box office

Just how much did Hollywood change during the Great Depression?

Marking the launch of Iwan Morgan and Philip Davies (eds.) Hollywood and the Great Depression: American Film, Politics, and Society in the 1930s, we examine how Hollywood underwent greater change in the 1930s than in any other decade in its history.

An industry that was already grappling with the expense of new sound technology was faced with a financial crisis of unprecedented proportions as a result of the Great Depression. This event explains how the studio system adapted to the challenges of the early 1930s and explores how the movies it produced reflected the economic, political, and international issues of the Great Depression era.

Hollywood and the Great Depression: American Film, Politics, and Society in the 1930s is published by Edinburgh University Press, 2016.

30 Years of Bloomsbury Publishing

When Monday 21 November, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price£8/£6/£5 Book via British Library box office

Nigel Newton, an entrepreneur and publisher like Benjamin Franklin, looks back over the thrills and spills – the key moments in the story of the publishing house he started 30 years ago

Among Bloomsbury Publishing’s best-known authors are J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books, Khaled Hosseini with The Kite Runner and Michael Ondaatje with The English Patient.

Nigel was born and raised in San Francisco. He read English at Cambridge and after working at Macmillan Publishers, he joined Sidgwick & Jackson. He left Sidgwick in 1986 to start Bloomsbury.

Bloomsbury floated on The London Stock Exchange in 1994 and has grown organically through acquisitions and partnerships. Bloomsbury has 700 members of staff and publishes 2,500 books a year from its offices in the UK, US, India and Australia.

Nigel Newton serves as Chairman of the British Library Trust, President of Book Aid International, Chairman of the Charleston Trust, member of the Man Booker Prize Advisory Committee, Trustee of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, past Chair of World Book Day, past member of the Publishers Association Council and Member of the Advisory Committee of Cambridge University Library.

This event is presented in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House.

Mapping, Power Politics, and the Challenge of the Americas

When Thursday 8 December, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price £10/£8/£7 Book via British Library box office

This lecture develops themes advanced in Jeremy Black's book Maps and Politics.

An illustrated talk that reflects the relationships between mapping and power politics, and the extent to which the European 'discovery' of the Americas created issues for mapping. Issues that were exacerbated as the major powers came into conflict with a focus on North America.

Cartography emerges as a utilitarian tool but also as an expression of political drives at the international level, as well as a reflection of the strong public interest in the outside world.

Professor Jeremy Black is the holder of the Established Chair in History at the University of Exeter and is one of Britain’s most prolific and distinguished historians. Among his many publications are Visions of the World: A History of Maps, Maps and Politics, Maps and History, and Maps That Changed the World. He was awarded an MBE for services to stamp design.

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