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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 Pianist Who Transformed the Cold War

When Friday 25 November, 19.00-20.30
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price £8/£6/£5 Book via British Library box office

Nigel Cliff tells the remarkable story of an iconic Cold War moment and its aftermath

In 1958, a 23-year-old Texan pianist named Van Cliburn arrived in Moscow to try his luck in the first International Tchaikovsky Competition. With Cold War tensions soaring and a Soviet pianist already selected as the intended winner, few thought an American stood an outside chance. Yet the moment the tall, boyish Texan began playing, the Soviets fell in love with his personality and his grandly romantic way with their beloved music. Amid political machinations that reached all the way to newly installed premier Nikita Khrushchev, Cliburn stormed his way to an upset victory.

The result astonished the world and launched a career that catapulted Cliburn to rock-star celebrity in both the United States and the Soviet Union. A political naïf who strove and often struggled to live up to his unsought role as a musical ambassador, Cliburn continued to play a role in pivotal Cold War events right up to the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1987.

Launching his new book Moscow Nights: The Van Cliburn Story—How One Man and His Piano Transformed the Cold War, Nigel Cliff pieces together politics, personality and pianism.

US Politics Today: Election Year 2016

When Monday 28 & Tuesday 29 November, 10.00-15.30
Where The British Library Conference Centre
Price £12 Refer to instructions below for reservation

'US Politics Today' is the Eccles Centre's popular annual one-day conference for A-Level students. A chance to hear former US Congressmen talk about their experiences of working in Congress, and reflect on the election year. This year, we are pleased to be joined by the honorable Martin Frost (D-TX) and the honorable Phil Gingrey (R- GA).

The day will also include talks by academics on US foreign policy, the Supreme Court in an election year, the 21st Century presidency, and an opportunity for students to ask their own questions of the Congressmen.

For information on how to reserve places for students and teachers, please see the Sixth Form Conference page.

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.

The Canadian Arctic in Print

When Monday 12 December, 18.00
Where UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN
Price Free but registration is required Please also note access restrictions as detailed on UCL website.

Searching for Arctic trade routes, the Northwest Passage and other supposed routes like it, has captured the imagination of Scottish, English and other European sailors since at least the sixteenth century. Explorers such as Sir Martin Frobisher, Sir John Ross, Sir James Clark Ross and Dr. John Rae have scouted routes, conducted experiments and encountered diverse peoples on their journeys. In turn their work has had a profound impact on the Arctic and shaped the world around us. The history of this exploration is recorded in striking manuscripts, maps, printed books and photographs that are held in collections across the United Kingdom and Lines in the Ice: Exploring the Roof of the World is an account of this history of exploration as told through these works. This talk, then, is both an Arctic history and a story of travelling through the writing of others, beautifully illustrated by those who travelled to and lived in the Arctic.

Philip Hatfield gained his PhD in Cultural Geography at Royal Holloway College, University of London. From 2011 to 2015 he was the curator for the Canadian, Caribbean and US Collections at the British Library, where he is now Lead Curator for Digital Mapping. Outside the BL, he is an Associate Fellow at the UCL Institute of the Americas and an Honorary Research Fellow at Royal Holloway College as well as being a member of the British Council for Canadian Studies. He curated the 2014 exhibition, Lines in the Ice: Seeking the Northwest Passage and has a long-standing research interest in Canadian visual history.

This event has been organised with UCL Institute of the Americas.

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