Global History Seminar Series 2014

HammondThe Global History Seminar Series took place at the University of Notre Dame London Global Gateway throughout February, March, and April 2014.

The University of Notre Dame and the Institute of Historical Research, in collaboration with the University of Oxford Centre for Global History, sponsor the series, which happens every spring semester. It brings together experts in world history to discuss and debate cultural, religious, political, and social issues. For Notre Dame, Felipe Fernández-Armesto (William P. Reynolds Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, and Professor of Global History, London Global Gateway), organizes the event, with co-conveners who are among leading historians at the great Central London colleges of the University of London (King’s, UCL, LSE, SOAS, Birkbeck, and Queen Mary).

Beginning the 2014 series was Norman Hammond (Universities of Boston and Cambridge) who is a prominent figure of Maya archaeology, author, and archaeology correspondent for The Times. In his talk The Ancient Maya Civilization and the World, Hammond traced the history and discovery of the Mayan civilization through manuscripts, paintings, and photographs, and explained the ascent of the Maya in the nineteenth century to the “Premier League” of ancient civilizations in popular interest and esteem.

SingaravelouIn the following session, Thomas Tweed, Professor of American Studies at University of Notre Dame, discussed the history and theory of religion around the world in Toward a Global History of Religion, arguing that the abundance of evidence for the Mesolithic period made that era a suitable starting-place. The following week, Jon Coleman, Professor of History at University of Notre Dame, explored society and nature in Humans and Other Animals, sharing fascinating evidence about the interdependence of humans and domesticates in the crossing and colonization of the North American West.

In March Tim Blanning (University of Cambridge) and Pierre Singaravélou (L’Université Paris-Sorbonne) took the floor. In a highly entertaining and interactive seminar, Blanning explained musicians’ rise to political influence and cultural authority, from Mozart to Queen and Beethoven to Oasis in The Triumph of Music in the Modern World. He argued that romanticism was decisive: privileging an art that was emotional rather than referential. Singaravélou’s talk Laboratory of Globalization? focused on empires, globalization, war and legal theory in Tianjin in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the division of the city among foreign powers had an unprecedented impact.

The penultimate seminar was a debate entitled he Scientific Revolution in honor of Patrick O’Brien. Professor O’Brien (LSE and St Antony’s College, Oxford) founded the Global History Seminar when he was Director of the I.H.R. The panelists – Professor Richard Drayton, Professor Rob Iliffe, Professor Alan Powers and Dr Andrew Wear – and the audience examined the honorand’s celebrated and controversial paper in last year’s Journal of Global History. O’Brien rehabilitated the concept of a Scientific Revolution as a decisive episode in the shift in the balance of power, wealth, and potential in Eurasia, and dated the beginning of that shift to about 1500.

Grey & Cohn-SherbokFinally, The Palestine Question in Global Context saw Professors Mary Grey and Dan Cohn-Sherbok arguing candidly but courteously over the causes, outcomes and prospects of the Palestinian question with the famous Muslim intellectual, Professor Ziauddin Sardar, and Palestinian journalist Lana Asfour. The discussion ended the Global History Seminar Series on a high, with heated and animated dialogues, which continued beyond the seminar room.

Regarding the series, Felipe Fernández-Armesto said, “The seminar is unique: uniquely informal, uniquely ambitious, uniquely convivial, uniquely entertaining. We look at the whole world at once. We don’t have papers or lectures, but invite cutting-edge scholars to ruminate aloud about their current and prospective work. Instead of routine Q&A sessions, we try to have real conversations, without a chairman or moderator, and we allow plenty of time for discussion.”

Contact: Emily Grassby, Communications and Planning Specialist for London Global Gateway,
Images ©University of Notre Dame London Global Gateway

Notre Dame’s VP and Chief Investment Officer gives Seventh Annual Alumni-Student London Lecture

Scott-MalpassScott Malpass, Vice President and Chief Investment Officer for the University of Notre Dame, presented the seventh annual Notre Dame Alumni-Student London Lecture at the London Global Gateway on April 3, 2014. The events was cosponsored by Notre Dame International and the Notre Dame Club of United Kingdom – London to bring together Notre Dame students, alumni, and leaders in academia and business from around the world.

In his talk entitled The Notre Dame Endowment – The Challenges of Being a Global Investor in an Uncertain World, Malpass discussed his interest in the importance of endowments to universities, as well as Notre Dame’s endowment mission and the important activities and initiatives it supports. He also examined the changing economy over the past few decades and its impact on endowment returns, stating that currently it is “the most challenging time for investors in history so far”.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session in which Malpass was asked about partnerships and future investment opportunities, the process of investing and allocation, and investment rules for Catholic institutions.

Bob Conway, a Trustee at Notre Dame, and Conrad Engelhardt, lecture coordinator for the alumni club, attended the lecture along with other members of the alumni club and Notre Dame students. Engelhardt commented, “it was insightful to see how an institution like Notre Dame balances the responsibilities of being a Catholic University and a globally significant investor through its endowment to deliver consistent investment returns. It was amazing to see how Scott and his team have been so successful for 25 years.”

Contact: Emily Grassby, Communications and Planning Specialist for London Global Gateway,
Image ©University of Notre Dame London Global Gateway

Literature and Science in the Play and Poetry of Giordano Bruno

DSC_0605 copyOn April 2, 2014, Alan Powers (author of The Worlds of Giordano Bruno) spoke at the University of Notre Dame London Global Gateway.  The event was organized and hosted by Felipe Fernández-Armesto.

In his lecture, entitled Literature and Science in the Play and Poetry of Giordano Bruno, Powers focused on his translation of Bruno’s play Candelaio.  He discussed themes of science, magic, humor, adultery, satire, and parody in the play, as well as representations of the characters, and the three plots in the story.  He also talked about different interpretations of Candelaio on stage, including the “doomed” version in 1980s London.

In addition, Powers gave accounts of Bruno’s life, studies, and travels around Europe, his relationship and conflicts with philosophers and, in particular, his debt to Ficino (whom his Oxford University debating-adversary, Dr Underhill, accused Bruno of plagiarizing, and whom, Powers argued, Bruno paraphrased in an ironic passage of Candelaio on platonic love).  Some of Powers’ slides illustrated approaches to Bruno in Italy, from the misrepresentation of him in statues, to the sometimes-oblique strategies of Brunotisti, leaders in the Republic of Italy who were scholars of Bruno.  Powers drew attention to what he claimed were the Neapolitan roots of the humor in Candelaio, and Bruno’s audacity in literature and science (where he advocated Copernicanism and re-imagined the cosmos).

The talk was followed by a Q&A session, in which comparisons were made between the works of Bruno and Shakespeare, and Powers considered the influence of Bruno on later authors such as Milton and Coleridge.

Guests included staff, faculty, and students from the London Undergraduate Program, experts on Bruno, and friends and family of the speaker.  About the lecture, student Brian Stahl said, “I was unfamiliar with Bruno, and so I couldn’t contribute to the discussion… but I really enjoyed Alan Powers.  Before the talk, Professor Fernandez-Armesto told me that he was “completely eccentric, but brilliant” and I wasn’t disappointed in that regard.”  Felipe Fernández-Armesto added, “It’s a treat to find a scholar like Alan Powers, who can match Bruno’s range of sympathies, defiance of convention, inventiveness, and unpredictability.”

Contact: Emily Grassby, Communications and Planning Specialist, London Global Gateway

Image ©University of Notre Dame London Global Gateway

Casta Paintings: Embodying Race by Rebecca Earle

DSC_0589 copyThe Sabine McCormack Lectures honor the memory of one of Notre Dame’s most famous and unusual scholars.  Sabine combined unsurpassed knowledge of late antique and early modern history, focussing on Rome and the Andes, and using her exceptional gifts as a humanistic prober of texts and a sensitive wielder of documentary and material evidence to enrich and enliven our understanding of both topics with daring comparisons and startling insights.  It’s a hard act to follow, but Rebecca Earle, in her contribution to the series, on “Casta Paintings: Embodying Race”, showed that she evinces many of the same qualities and belongs in the same tradition.  

Professor Earle delivered the lecture on March 24, 2014, in Fischer Hall at the Notre Dame London Global Gateway, next door to the National Gallery, while an appreciative audience at the university’s home campus was able to enjoy the event by simulcast and take part in the discussion.  Professor Ted Beatty of the History Department introduced the lecture to an audience drawn from Notre Dame and various British universities and research institutes.  The lecturer paid tribute to the honorand’s memory, before turning to her intriguing theme.  

DSC_0593 copyShowing many images of Spanish American families of mixed ethnicities, Rebecca offered an entirely fresh perspective on the hundreds of puzzling paintings from colonial New Spain and Peru that display the diversity of colonial society.  Because no sources tell us whom or what the paintings were for, or anything significant about the processes of commissioning or executing them, scholars’ judgement alone can locate them in contexts that make sense.  Usually, experts either indict the paintings as representative of the pedantic racism of colonial elites, or extol them as celebrations of colonials’ pride in the pluralism of their worlds.  Professor Earle, however, argued that it may be misleading to see them as attempts to represent any version of reality.  They unfold, she suggested, conscious fictions and inventive, romantic stories about ideal ethnic types that rarely existed outside the painters’ and patrons’ imaginations: colonial society not as it was, but as it ought to have been, according to Enlightenment science, in which every pregnancy had a predictable outcome.   

– Felipe Fernandez-Armesto (William P. Reynolds Chair for Mission in Arts and Letters, Fellow, Nanovic Institute for European Studies, and Professor of History)

Contact: Emily Grassby, Communications and Planning Specialist for London Global Gateway,

Images ©University of Notre Dame London Global Gateway