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Queen's University

Seminar Series - 2014 Winter Schedule:

[Thursdays at 11:30am, Watson 517, unless otherwise specified]


January 23

Steven Bednarski, Department of History, University of Waterloo

Title: "Lessons from a "Poisoned Past: the Life and Times of Margarida de Portu, a Fourteenth-Century Accused Poisoner."

The tale of Margarida de Portu, a sixteenth-year old epileptic accused of murdering her husband through sorcery or poison, captivates and instructs.  It teaches lessons about the early history of disability, magic, superstition, sex, justice, and family solidarity.  But Margarida's tale is constructed, a narrative reassembled from medieval court records.  Her actual lived experiences remain lost to us.  Her case nevertheless provides an excellent opportunity to consider how historians "do" history, and to what ends. It offers the chance to think about the relationship between the historian-author and reader, about historical consciousness, and about pedagogy.  Through this story of murder and family feud, we assess deeper truths about the distant past and its modern utility.

February 13:

Rebecca Nedostup, Department of History, Brown University

Title: "Corpse Morality in China's Long War?"

As displaced communities began to reconstruct themselves at the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, the dead played important roles alongside the living. The need to not only account for their names and deeds, but to physically return them to a home place formed a critical moral narrative alongside that of mobilization for nation and revolution. When postwar quickly turned to civil war, bringing new displacements and an increasingly intense politicization of ordinary life, corpses continued to be made to speak for virtue, justice, and mutual obligation.

February 27:

Jordana Dym, Skidmore College

Title: "The Case of the Traveler's Map:  Unravelling the Mystery from Sketch to Publication in the John Murray Archive"

Custom-made maps found their way into most travel accounts published from the ages of sail and steam into the dawn of air travel, often based on and showing the author's route to and through a far-off land.  They were so important that even fictional accounts, like Gulliver's Travels, needed them.  But did travelers themselves create or contribute to presenting a journey in (geo)graphic form?  And what does Scotland Yard have to do with it?  This talk, drawing from my larger project, The World Displayed: The Cartography of Western Travel Writers, 1600-1930, offers some answers to the question of "How did maps get into books of travels?"  I take as a case study the travel accounts of explorers, scientists, diplomats and Grand Tourists who published with John Murray publishing house (London), the nineteenth century's leading publisher of travel accounts.  The firm published bestsellers from Charles Darwin and David Livingstone to Mariana Starke and Isabella Bird Bishop.  Its extensive correspondence and ledgers provide the evidence needed to solve the case of the traveler's map.

March 6:

Sven Beckert, Laird Bell Professor of History, Harvard University

Title: "Empire of Cotton: The global origins of modern capitalism"

The talk will explore the global history of cotton during the past three centuries to understand the advent of modern capitalism, and the great productivity increases and inequalities that it produced.

March 13:

Elizabeth F. Thompson, Department of History, University of Virginia

Title: "Gone With the Wind in Cairo: War Propaganda and Arab Spectatorship during World War II"

On a brilliant evening in May 1941, an audience dressed in gowns and tuxedos joined British, Free French, American, and Egyptian leaders to watch a premiere of Gone With the Wind at the Metro Cinema in Cairo. German troops had amassed across the border in Libya, and a pro-German coup had just shaken British control of Iraq. As Scarlett O'Hara struggled to defend her home front near Atlanta, Allied politicians and officers cemented their alliance with Egyptians against fascism. The Allies repeated the premiere months later in Beirut, after freeing it from Vichy France's rule. Amidst the reams of scholarship on Gone With the Wind, its reception outside of the United States has been strangely neglected. On the blockbuster's 75th anniversary, historian Elizabeth F. Thompson unravels the complex story of its use as war propaganda in the Middle East.

Elizabeth F. Thompson is associate professor of history at the University of Virginia and co-director of the National Endowment for Humanities Seminar on World War I in the Middle East.   Her first book, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon, won two national book prizes.  She recently published Justice Interrupted: The Struggle for Constitutional Government in the Middle East (Harvard, 2013).

March 27:

Reeju Ray, Department of History, Queen's University

Title: "Interrupted Sovereignties in Colonial Frontiers: The Khasi Jaintiah Hills, c. 1778-1874"

Erin Mandzak, Department of History, Queen's University

Title: "Transnational and Imperial Ties between Canada and the British West Indies, 1920-1960"

Brittney Bos, Department of History, Queen's University

Title: "The Hero and The Other: The Creation of an Imperial Commemorative Landscape in 19th Century Ontario"

Angela Duffett, Department of History, Queen's University

Title: "Unspeakably Colonial: Landscape and Identity in 19th C St. John's, Newfoundland."


April 3

David Armitage, Lloyd C. Blakfein Professor of History and Chair, Department of History, Harvard University

Title: "Horizons of History: Space, Time and the Future of the Past"

Big is back across a wide range of historical fields. Many historians are stretching space, to create international, transnational and global histories. Others are expanding time, to pursue Big History, Deep History and the history of the Anthropocene. What explains this broadening of horizons? And what does it mean for the future of history? This lecture will make a case for history as a discipline of social and political transformation amid crises of global governance, rising inequality and anthropogenic climate change

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