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Past events and conferences 2016

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.

Kate Bornstein in Conversation

When Tuesday 9 February, 18.30
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant

American author, playwright, activist and performing artist Kate Bornstein is an unique and revolutionary voice in the ever-growing discussions around trans visibility, LGBTQ rights, non-binary identities and 'gender outlaws'. In this live conversation, with journalist and transgender campaigner Paris Lees, Bornstein talked about her life, work and personal brand of politics.

In association with Gay's the Word, Queen Hearted and Amy Lamé

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone

When Friday 4 March, 18.30
Where British Library Conference Centre

What does it mean to be lonely? How do we live, if we’re not intimately engaged with another human being? How do we connect with other people? Does technology draw us closer together or trap us behind screens?

When Olivia Laing, 2014 Eccles British Writer in Residence, moved to New York City in her mid-thirties, she found herself inhabiting loneliness on a daily basis. Increasingly fascinated by this most shameful of experiences, she began to explore the lonely city by way of art. Moving fluidly between works and lives – from Edward Hopper's Nighthawks to Andy Warhol's Time Capsules, from Henry Darger's hoarding to the depredations of the AIDS crisis – Laing conducts an electric, dazzling investigation into what it means to be alone.

Laing read from and discussed her major new book, The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone with author Ali Smith. Ali Smith's latest novel is the Orange Prize-winning How to be both (Hamish Hamilton, 2014). Her latest collection of short stories is Public Library (Hamish Hamilton, 2015).

Olivia Laing is an acclaimed writer and critic and the former deputy literary editor of the Observer. She's the author of To the River, shortlisted for the 2011 Onddatje Prize and the Dolman Travel Book Award, and The Trip to Echo Spring, shortlisted for the 2013 Costa Biography Award and the Gordon Burn Prize. She used her residency at the British Library in 2014 to research The Lonely City.

The talk was followed by a drinks reception and book signing.

Alexander Butterfield: The Last of the President's Men

When Thursday 10 March, 18.30
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant

An evening promising a first-hand account of the Watergate scandal that brought down President Richard Nixon

Last year's Eccles Centre sell out event with Alexander Butterfield, former Deputy Assistant to the President, was wonderfully informative and entertaining. Since that visit journalist Bob Woodward's book The Last of the President’s Men, detailing Butterfield's role in the Watergate scandal has been published, reaching the New York Times bestseller list immediately on publication. Alexander Butterfield, who oversaw the installation of the now infamous White House taping system, was with us again, speaking this time about the creation of the book, how he and Woodward came together, how the storyline developed, the surprises in the book, and the post publication interest shown in his papers by the FBI and others. Butterfield's memories link his audience directly to Richard Nixon and his White House team, and he will again be in conversation with Nixon biographer Professor Iwan Morgan, Commonwealth Fund Professor of American History, University College London.

Presented in collaboration with University College London Institute of the Americas.

American Studies at A-Level: Masterclass Day

When Friday 11 March, 10.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

Study American topics hands-on with experts, at the forefront of their fields from the Universities of Sussex and London.

This study day was designed for teachers and year 12 students of History and English Literature who want to know more about American topics. All our speakers discussed relevant parts of the curriculum for both History and English across a number of exam boards. We delivered talks and host Q & A sessions on key A-level American subjects, supplying essential information, important cultural and historical context, and cutting-edge research.

Each talk directly addressed the needs of each discipline; our interdisciplinary approach also allowed students to join the dots and see American literature, culture and history as interdependent. Plus, students joined in a debate on America’s place in the world today through the eyes of one of its most outspoken public figures.

Organised by Dr Doug Haynes, Sussex Centre for American Studies (University of Sussex) in collaboration with Dr Cara Rodway and Prof Phil Davies, Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library. With support from UCL History.

Henry James and Poetry: Conversations and Readings

When Thursday 14 April, 18.30
Where British Library Terrace Restaurant

Though we have no poetry composed by Henry James himself, the novelist referred to himself as a poet, and he knew poets well — Longfellow, James Russell Lowell, Tennyson, Browning and Rupert Brooke among them. In this evening of conversations and readings, Professor Philip Horne drew on James’s letters and non-fiction to offer a picture of the writer’s relations to poetry and poets. Following this, poets Mark Ford and Peter Robinson talked about James’s significance for modern and contemporary poetry, reading from work by T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, W. H. Auden, Delmore Schwarz, Stevie Smith, Weldon Kees, Donald Justice, Geoffrey Hill, Debora Greger, and William Logan — all bearing significant traces of the Master’s voice.

Mark Ford has published three collections of poetry and three volumes of critical essays, the most recent of which won the Pegasus Award. Other books include a biography of Raymond Roussel and a translation of his Nouvelles Impressions d’Afrique. He is a Professor of English at University College London.

Philip Horne is the author of Henry James and Revision and editor of Henry James: A Life in Letters. Professor of English at University College London, and for many years a regular film reviewer, he has been president of the Henry James Society and is a general editor for the Cambridge Edition of his works.

Peter Robinson has published aphorisms, short stories, prose poems, memoirs and literary criticism, and has been awarded the Cheltenham Prize, the John Florio Prize, and two Poetry Book Society Recommendations for his poetry and translations. He is Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Reading.

Henry James, Coleridge and The Coxon Fund

When Friday 15 April, 18.30-20.30
Where British Library Conference Centre

Richard Holmes explored Henry James’s subtle transformation of the “anomalous, tremendously suggestive” figure of the poet Coleridge in his famous 1894 story The Coxon Fund. James’s Notebooks give the novelist’s initial reactions to the Victorian biography of Coleridge, by Dykes Campbell, which inspired the story. Holmes reflected on these, and the effect James’s story had on Holmes’s own two volume prize-winning 1998 biography of Coleridge (which quotes James at length in the Preface), and raised the general question of the relationship between biographical and fictional narrative.

Richard Holmes’s other books include Shelley: The Pursuit (1975), Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer (1985), and The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science (2009), which won the Royal Society Prize for Science Books (UK), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Non-Fiction (USA). His most recent group biography is Falling Upwards: How We Took to the Air which was one of Time magazine’s Top Ten Non Fiction titles for 2013. Holmes is a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge, and writes regularly for the New York Review of Books and Nature.

The talk was be followed by a wine reception.

Henry James: Shakespeare and Horror

When Saturday 16 April, 14.00-17.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

An afternoon of presentations by leading scholars reflecting on different aspects of Henry James and memory.

13.30-15.00 Professor Sarah Churchwell on ‘Mastering The Turn of the Screw’

15.30-17.00 Professor Adrian Poole on 'The Romance of Certain Old Texts: James and Shakespeare.'

Sarah Churchwell on ‘Mastering The Turn of the Screw

Professor Sarah Churchwell discussed the complexities of reading one of Henry James’ most famous and enigmatic stories, and in particular the centrality of unreliable memory to the story.

Sarah Churchwell is Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities and Professorial Fellow in American Literature at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby, and The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe, and her literary journalism has appeared in the Guardian, New Statesman, TLS, New York Times Book Review, and the Spectator, among others. She comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for UK television and radio, has judged many literary prizes, including the Bailey’s (Orange) Prize for Fiction and the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction. She was the recipient of the Eccles British Library Writer in Residence award for 2015, during which time she undertook research on Henry James and the composition of ‘The Turn of the Screw’.

Adrian Poole on 'The Romance of Certain Old Texts: James and Shakespeare'

‘But who shall count the sources at which an intense young fancy … capriciously, absurdly drinks?’ asks Henry James. Shakespeare was one such source for him. Adrian Poole discussed an early tale, ‘The Romance of Certain Old Clothes’, in which two sisters bear the capriciously inappropriate names of young Shakespearean heroines. Biographical critics have seen in their rivalry a reflection of the author’s relations with his brother William. Poole will focus instead on the clothes and the fears and desires to which they give rise. The sisters’ antagonism provides the model for a debate that runs through James’s thinking about property, legacy and memory: on the one hand the dream of total control, on the other of wholesale dispersal.

If the violence with which this early tale ends is unusual for James, the threat of it is never absent, and this is a key to the way Shakespeare works in his imagination, that he is often associated with injury, especially in Othello and Hamlet. Poole will discuss some of the ways these two plays infiltrate James’s writing, at various levels of audibility. He asks why James admired two Shakespearean performers above all: Fanny Kemble and Tommaso Salvini. Finally Poole compared the legacies that Shakespeare and James himself appeared to leave, on the latter’s death, and the tercentenary of the former’s, in 1916.

Adrian Poole has written extensively on Henry James, and on Shakespeare. He is one of the General Editors of the Complete Fiction of Henry James (Cambridge University Press). He is a Professor of English and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Henry James and Memory Conference

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

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

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 took place in London, James’s adopted home and the location of much of his fiction, and was 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 gave 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 started with a public event on Thursday evening 14 April and continued until Saturday afternoon 16 April 2016.

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

Dying for Shakespeare

When Monday 9 May, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

The 2016 Sulgrave Manor Watson Chair lecture told 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

Populism and the Presidency

Journalist Martin Dickson examined 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 examined 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

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 talked about how the historical censorship of Dreiser’s novels affects contemporary readers. Focusing on the critical editions of Sister Carrie and The Titan, he examined 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).

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

The 2016 Robert H Smith lecture examined 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 argued, 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”.

In collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House.

Sacred Spaces Sanctuary featuring The Dream Warriors

When Tuesday 31 May, 17.00-18.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

Members of the Dream Warriors Native American Artists’ collective performed for the first time in London. Poet Tanaya Winder performed from her debut collection of poems 'Words Like Love'. Tanaya took us on a journey through the joys, laments and the highs and lows of love. Frank Waln and The Sampson Brothers performed alongside Tanaya Winder. Sacred Spaces, Sanctuary featured a short crowd sourced film created for the collaborative project.

The Sacred Spaces, Sanctuary collaboration is a multi-arts research & development project funded primarily by Arts Council England that explores the cultural, artistic and human connection with Sacred Land, nature, green and blue spaces and the environment. As part of this project, local artists working in ceramics, theatre, costume, digital art and coding are currently using these mediums to explore the concept of Sacred Spaces with groups from in and around Liverpool. The work produced will be combined into a specially commissioned piece involving the Dream Warriors quartet, who will be sharing Contemporary Native American Culture and artistic practices with UK artists and audiences in a series of workshops leading up to the event.

Books Talk Back with Alison MacLeod

When Friday 3 June, 18.30-20.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

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 received feedback from both. Guest Author Alison MacLeod, shared insight and ideas for short-story writers and the audience were 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.

All the World's A Stage: Shakespeare in Europe and the Americas

When Friday 10 June, 10.30-17.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

This study day brought together leading specialists to explore Shakespeare’s global cultural presence from Europe to the Americas via the Indian Ocean

No writer's work has been translated, performed and transformed by as many cultures across the world as Shakespeare's. Themes include Shakespeare's source material, postcolonial adaptations, performance on stage and film and the cultural politics of European Shakespeare.

The programme for the day can be found here

The study day was followed by a wine reception.

In partnership with the AHRC Translating Cultures Theme, the Polish Cultural Institute and the Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library.

The Folio Academy Sessions

When Saturday 18 - Sunday 19 June
Where British Library Conference Centre

For the third year running, the Folio Prize Foundation and the British Library hosted some of the world’s finest writers and their guests

At a weekend devoted to the art of storytelling, over eight sessions each programmed by a different member of the Folio Prize Academy, the weekend explored how stories have the power to transform us: how they can impact individuals and effect social change.

Utopia: The Impossible Dream

When Saturday 18 June, 13.45- 15.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

Paul Mason, Richard Francis, Nikita Lalwani and Rupert Thomson

Taking their cue from the Library’s Visions of Utopia display, our panel explored the narrative power of the Utopian ideal, and whether it can act as an effective agent – in writing, philosophy and art – for social change. Paul Mason, the award-wining journalist and, most recently, author of PostCapitalism, was joined by novelist, historian and utopia-expert Richard Francis, and by two acclaimed writers whose work has offered up both utopian and dystopian perspectives on our world: novelist and Liberty trustee Nikita Lalwani, and novelist and memoirist Rupert Thomson.

Not Even Past: Historical Narratives

When Saturday 18 June, 15.30-16.45
Where British Library Conference Centre

Tracy Chevalier, Jane Harris and Tom Holland

‘The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.’ William Faulkner understood why so many of the stories we tell are rooted in history. Whether creating fiction or interpreting fact, is 'writing history' more about defining where we came from or understanding who we are now? Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl With a Pearl Earring, and Jane Harris, author of The Observations, are both acclaimed, best-selling writers of historical fiction. Tom Holland is an award-winning historian of works including Rubicon and, most recently, Dynasty. Together they investigated the challenges and rewards of looking forwards by looking back.

A Place Called Home

When Sunday 19 June, 13.30-14.45
Where British Library Conference Centre

Caryl Phillips, Penelope Lively, Glyn Maxwell and Maya Jaggi

Robert Frost wrote that ‘home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in’. What constitutes ‘home’ - who decides what it is, how we create it, who is welcome - has long been a source of fascination for writers and artists; but now, as our world shrinks and people move around it more freely and often less willingly, it has also become an urgent political matter. The multi-award-winning novelist and playwright, Caryl Phillips, was joined by three others who share his interest: Booker Prize-winner, Penelope Lively; poet, playwright and librettist, Glyn Maxwell; and writer and cultural critic Maya Jaggi.

Ezra Furman: The Velvet Underground, Punk Pioneers

When Thursday 23 June, 19.30-21.00
Where British Library Conference Centre

An intimate evening with genre-fluid, gender-queerAmerican 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

Ramones Manager Danny Fields looked 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 made an exclusive appearance, in conversation with Barney Hoskyns, to tell the story of the moment the US collided with the UK, and was 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

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 was joined by US music specialist Brian Ward.

Summer Scholars

When Mondays and Fridays from 4 July - 26 August, 12.30-14.00

The Eccles Centre sponsors numerous Visiting Fellowships and Postgraduate Research Awards each year. The Summer Scholars programme highlighted the work that they have done during their residency in the British Library, bringing the latest research related to the North Americas collections to a public audience.

MONDAY 4 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
Conjure Women and 'Coolie' Women
Gaiutra Bahadur, author of Coolie Woman, the Orwell Prize-shortlisted narrative history of indentured women, spoke about her strategies for overcoming elisions and biases in the archives that document the migration of bonded labourers from the Indian subcontinent to the West Indies.


MONDAY 11 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
Representation and Participation in Progressive Era World's Fairs
Emily Trafford explored the activities of Chinese and Chinese-American people at world’s fairs, examining the ways in which world’s fairs became key sites of battle over the representation of the Chinese in America.

“The Low Growl of the Lion:" Black Activists in Britain 1830-1895
Hannah-Rose Murray discussed the impact of Frederick Douglass and other black activists on British society and her creation of the world's first digitised map of their speaking locations in Britain.


FRIDAY 15 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
The Lies of Summer
Chris Birkett looks at the 1998 Lewinsky scandal that plunged America into cultural turmoil, and explored how the Home Run Race of the same year deployed baseball mythology to reaffirm beliefs in idealised American values of morality, masculinity and confession during a time of political and moral crisis.


MONDAY 25 JULY Conference Centre Chaucer Room
Cabin-Fever: deconstructing the log-cabin myth of Appalachia
Kevan Manwaring explored the iconic ‘log-cabin’, synonymous with the pioneering spirit of North America. Tracing influences back to Scots-Irish and Scandinavian settlers, this illustrated talk will show log-cabins in a new light.

MONDAY 1 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
The Poetics of Reticence: Emily Dickinson and Her Contemporaries
Eve Grubin discusses Emily Dickinson’s poems and their characteristic style against the backdrop of poetry written by other American women during Dickinson’s time.

The Modern Consuming Housewife
From feminine vice to essential feminine interest, Rachael Alexander explores changing attitudes to makeup and fashion as seen in, and encouraged by, the Ladies' Home Journal and Canadian Home Journal of the 1920s.


FRIDAY 5 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
America, Britain, and the 'Islamic Bomb'
Malcolm Craig explores the intersections between America, Britain, Pakistan's nuclear programme, and political Islam's rise in the 1970s. Was Pakistan building an 'Islamic bomb' or was it all just a media scare?


MONDAY 8 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
‘What Irish Boys Can Do’
Catherine Bateson analyses more than two-dozen American Civil War songs held in the British Library’s U.S. archives, and explores how ballads sung the story of Irish involvement in the conflict.

Dreaming of the Orient during the War on Germs
Bianca Scoti discusses oriental rugs in middle class homes and discourses on domestic hygiene in American magazines and periodicals at the turn of the twentieth century.


FRIDAY 12 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
Selling Black History: from Margins to Mainstream
James West examines the content of EBONY magazine as a case study into the production, dissemination and marketisation of popular black history during the second half of the twentieth century.

About Trauma - Constructing Medical Narratives of the Vietnam War
Nicole Cassie examines how medical Vietnam veterans have engaged with the evolving psychological and social understanding of post-war trauma. It also explores why they often identify as 'resilient' as opposed to 'traumatised,' despite having experienced some of the worst of the war.


FRIDAY 19 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
How to Blow Up an Oil Rig...
Harry Whitehead’s third novel concerns the oil business. Big subject, overwhelming research. So when to go ‘shallow’, when ‘deep’? And just how do you blow…?

Reading Don DeLillo in the Archives
Rebecca Harding shares how the materials in the British Library’s collections have helped her to see beyond common critical frameworks in her research, a study of the role of the body in the fiction of Don DeLillo.


MONDAY 22 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
'Put all to fire and sword'
Nicola Martin compares and contrasts the experiences and encounters of various groups of ‘others’, and considers pacification in the eighteenth-century British Empire from Culloden to Quebec.

Britain and the Anglo-American War of 1812
The 1812 Anglo-American War may be the most overlooked conflict in British history. Peter O’Connor explores the domestic impact of the war with a particular focus on the response of radical democrats within Britain who had held up the USA as a model political system since the Revolution.


FRIDAY 26 AUGUST The Centre for Conservation Foyle Room
The Great American Desert
Eccles Centre Writer in Residence William Atkins is working on a cultural history and travel book about the world’s deserts, with a particular focus on the US southwest. He discusses his use of the America’s collections in researching the evolution of the US’s perception of its desert regions, from John C. Frémont’s account of his exploration of the Great Basin in 1843, to the development of an American ‘desert aesthetic’ in the seminal writings of John C. Van Dyke, Mary Austin and Edward Abbey in the twentieth century.


Fulbright Lecture: Jaw Jaw is Better than War War

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

Sir Nigel Sheinwald was in conversation with Gabrielle Rifkind about whether an army of mediators would be better than an airforce of bombers.

In addition to serving as British Ambassador in Washington, Sir Nigel has been this country’s Ambassador to the European Union (2000-2003), and was Foreign Policy and Defence Adviser to the Prime Minister and Head of the Cabinet Office Overseas and Defence Secretariat (2003-7). Since leaving the Diplomatic Service in 2012 Nigel’s many activities include a Visiting Professorship in the War Studies Department. From September 2014 to June 2015 he served as the Prime Minister's Special Envoy for Intelligence and Law Enforcement Data Sharing.

Gabrielle Rifkind is the Director of the Middle East programme at Oxford Research Group (ORG). She is a group analyst and specialist in conflict resolution. Gabrielle combines in-depth political and psychological expertise with many years’ experience in promoting serious analysis and dialogue.  As a political entrepreneur she has created conflict resolution programmes on the Iranian nuclear programme , Palestine-Israel and a Syria track on the proxy regional war. She is the author, with Gianni Picco, of The Fog of Peace: how to prevent war  which is out in paperback in September.


The Winchester: Legend of the West

When Thursday 29 September, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre

BBC journalist Laura Trevelyan explored 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 was in conversation with BBC journalist Dominic Hughes.

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).

In a BBC career getting on for 25 years, Dominic has covered a wide variety of stories for radio, television and online in international and domestic settings.


Rebel Crossings: Transatlantic Feminism, Free Love, and Radicalism

When Monday 3 October, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre

The 2012 Eccles British Library Writer in Residence, Sheila Rowbotham, revealed 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 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 revealed 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 was 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

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

As Americans prepared 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 the nominees exclusively for PBS's landmark television series, FRONTLINE.

Michael Kirk presented 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

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 presented 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 also hosted the London premiere performance by Joe Williams and Leah Francis of Heritage Corner Leeds, who brought to life some of the black abolitionists including Ellen and William Craft, through speeches, movement and story-telling. The night concluded 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

Artist Marisa J Futernick and Radio 4’s Justin Webb discussed 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 accompanied the talk, which took 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

Manisha Sinha discussed her new book ‘The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition’ at the British Library, 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 explored 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 uncovered 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, discussed 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 was 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

We discussed 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 shed light on the situation just a few days before the US election.

This event was presented in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House.

Researching in the North American Collections at the British Library

When Friday 11 November, 11.30-15.30
Where The British Library at Boston Spa

For the first time the Eccles Centre's resource training session was delivered from the Boston Spa (West Yorkshire) reading rooms, which made it more accessible to researchers at a geographical remove from St Pancras.  Free coach pick up from York train station was included.

The British Library’s North American collections are the largest outside of the US, and hold huge research potential. For the same reasons, researchers new to the Library may find the experience daunting and not know how to best approach using the collections.  With such vast holdings, even more experienced users are liable to overlook key resources.

The Eccles Centre for American Studies at the British Library organise regular resource training sessions designed to inform researchers about what is available in the Library's North American collections, and how best to navigate the Library's catalogues and databases. 

This interdisciplinary day was designed for postgraduate students, and third year undergraduates working on a dissertation topic. 


Hollywood and the Great Depression

When Tuesday 15 November, 18.30-20.00
Where The British Library Conference Centre

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 examined 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 explored 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

Nigel Newton, an entrepreneur and publisher like Benjamin Franklin, looked 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 was presented in collaboration with Benjamin Franklin House.

The Pianist Who Transformed the Cold War

When Friday 25 November, 19.00-20.30
Where The British Library Conference Centre

Nigel Cliff told 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 pieced 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

'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 were pleased to be joined by the honorable Martin Frost (D-TX) and the honorable Phil Gingrey (R- GA).

The day also included 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 future confrences, 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

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

An illustrated talk that reflected 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

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, was 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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