Armada Portrait Campaign

A fundraising campaign has been launched to purchase one of the famous “Armada Portraits” of Elizabeth I of England. The painting was originally owned by Sir Francis Drake and is now being sold by his descendants.


This painting presents Elizabeth I as victor over the Spanish Armada of 1588, one of the major naval campaigns during the European Wars of Religion.  The composition provides a powerful image of early modern feminine authority and assertive sovereignty.  The painting raises interesting questions regarding gender, religious politics, and warfare in early modern Europe.

“It is the painting that represents everything about the Elizabethan age, including Shakespeare, the moment when England began to rule the waves, and Elizabeth’s reign,” according to Christine Riding of Royal Museums Greenwich. Riding stresses that “It indicates a gear shift in the national identity, the idea of the plucky English, punching above their weight, of the mythology of Gloriana, and the idea of the queen as a strong and just woman.” Riding’s comments appear in an article in the New York Times (see link below).

The Royal Museum Greenwich now hopes to acquire the painting. The New York Times reports that “The Art Fund has pledged £1 million, and Royal Museum Greenwich said it would use its entire annual acquisition budget of £400,000 toward the purchase.”

The New York Times reports on the fundraising campaign.

Northern Illinois University students who have taken my course on European Wars of Religion, 1520s-1660s will recognize this painting.

Posted in Art History, Atlantic World, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, Empires and Imperialism, European History, European Wars of Religion, Gender and Warfare, History of Violence, Museums and Historical Memory, Reformation History, Religious Violence, Renaissance Art and History, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society, Warfare in the Early Modern World, Women and Gender History | Leave a comment

Ken Burns Defends the Humanities

Historical filmmaker Ken Burns delivered the Jefferson Lecture at the National Endowment for the Humanities on 9 May 2016.

Inside Higher Ed reports that “Ken Burns, the documentary maker who brought the Civil War, the histories of baseball and jazz, and the biographies of the Roosevelts to film, had a chance Monday night to honor the National Endowment for the Humanities, which supported much of his work. He praised the NEH for both its grants and its standards, and thanked the endowment for naming him to deliver this year’s Jefferson Lecture, the nation’s highest annual honor in the humanities.”


“Burns used the lecture to defend the humanities from its many attackers, to describe how those who work on issues of race (as he has done in many projects) face particular criticism and to champion the art of the narrative as a tool to advance history and promote a common understanding of society,” according to Inside Higher Ed.

Ken Burns is probably best known for his highly successful documentary film, The Civil War. Burns has gone on to make numerous documentaries on aspects of American history, music, sports, and culture.


In his lecture, Burns stresses that “in a larger sense, the humanities help us all understand almost everything better — and they liberate us from the myopia our media culture and politics impose upon us. Unlike our current culture wars, which have manufactured a false dialectic just to accentuate otherness, the humanities stand in complicated contrast, permitting a nuanced and sophisticated view of our history, as well as our present moment, replacing misplaced fear with admirable tolerance, providing important perspective and exalting in our often contradictory and confounding manifestations.”

“The humanities help make us smarter,” Burns argues. “From them, we can appreciate the complexities and undertow of our history, politics and culture. They suggest that knowledge and experience matter, that there are no easy solutions, that nothing is just black and white”

Inside Higher Ed reports on Ken Burns’s lecture. The prepared text of Burns’s Jefferson Lecture is available at the NEH website.

Posted in Cultural History, Digital Humanities, Historical Film, History in the Media, Humanities Education, Museums and Historical Memory, The Past Alive: Teaching History, War and Society, War in Film, War, Culture, and Society | Leave a comment

President Obama to Visit Hiroshima

The Washington Post reports that President Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan. This would be a historic visit, since Obama would be the first United States President to visit Hiroshima during his administration.

“President Obama will make a historic trip this month to Hiroshima, Japan, becoming first sitting U.S. president to visit the site of the world’s first atomic bombing,” according to the Washington Post, “The White House formally announced the visit Tuesday after weeks of speculation that Obama would stop in the city after attending the Group of 7 economic summit in Ise-Shima from May 25-27. The president is expected to deliver a speech on non-proliferation of nuclear weapons.”


Photo: Getty


The historical memory of the first atomic bombing at Hiroshima continues to provoke powerful emotions and intense political reactions. Hiroshima has deep significance for Japanese survivors and families of victims, anti-imperial activists, and nationalist politicians. Anti-nuclear activists and anti-war protesters worldwide have long focused on the symbolism of Hiroshima. U.S. veterans of the Second World War have often celebrated the bombing of Hiroshima as necessary and justified.


The World War II generation is fast disappearing and has less political influence now, so perhaps President Obama’s visit will be less controversial. Nonetheless, this visit brings to mind the political controversy surrounding the National Air and Space Museum’s Enola Gay exhibit and the 50th Anniversary of end of World War II in the 1990s.

The New York Times points out that “The visit, hotly debated in the White House for months as the president planned his coming trip to Vietnam and Japan, carries weighty symbolism for Mr. Obama, who is loath to be seen as apologizing for that chapter in American history.”

The Washington Post and the New York Times report on President Obama’s visit.

On the Enola Gay exhibit controversy and related issues, see:Edward T. Linethal and Tom Engelhardt, eds., History Wars: The Enola Gay and Other Battles for the American Past (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1996).

Posted in Empires and Imperialism, History in the Media, Museums and Historical Memory, Strategy and International Politics, War and Society, War, Culture, and Society | Leave a comment

Dissertation Seminar in History at the Newberry Library

Dissertation Seminar in History at the Newberry Library

Center for the Study of Religious Violence

The Center for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library will be hosting a dissertation seminar in History in Fall 2016.

Ph.D. candidates in Renaissance, Reformation, Early Modern European, Atlantic World History, and Early Modern World History at Northern Illinois University and other Newberry consortium institutions may take this seminar for credit in their home programs.

Here is the Newberry Library’s announcement:


Fall 2016 Dissertation Seminar for Historians

Led by Craig Koslofsky and Robert Morrissey, both of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Submission Deadline: May 1
The seminar will meet from 2 to 5 pm on four Fridays: September 16, October 21, November 18, and December 9.

Apply online here:

This seminar will create a broad-based community of graduate students who are at the beginning stages of working on their dissertations in the history of Europe or the Atlantic World, c. 1400-c. 1750. The goal is to provide…

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Cervantes and Shakespeare Symposium

The Newberry Library is hosting a symposium on “Cervantes and Shakespeare: A Transnational Conversation” on Thursday, April 14Friday, April 15, 2016.

The Newberry Library announcement reads:

A Joint Cervantes/Early Modern Studies Symposium

“Cervantes and Shakespeare: A Transnational Conversation”

Featured speakers: William Egginton and James Shapiro

For full details and to register to attend, see:

This program is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration in advance is required.

Downloadable PDF flyer:

Faculty and graduate students at member institutions of the Center for Renaissance Studies consortium may be eligible to apply for travel funding to attend this program.

Posted in Conferences, Cultural History, Early Modern Europe, Early Modern World, European History, Graduate Work in History | Leave a comment

Art History Lectures at the Smart Museum

Art History Lectures at the Smart Museum

Center for the Study of Religious Violence

The Smart Museum at the University of Chicago is offering a series of lectures in art history in April and May 2016.

Northern Illinois graduate students are encouraged to attend lectures that relate to their historical studies.


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Graduate Seminar at the Newberry Library

Graduate Seminar at the Newberry Library

Center for the Study of Religious Violence

The Newberry Library is offering a graduate seminar on “Gender, Bodies, and the Body Politic in Medieval Europe” in Fall 2016.

Northern Illinois University is a consortium member of the Newberry Library. This status allows graduate students at Northern Illinois and other consortium universities to enroll in Newberry seminars for credit at their home institutions.

This seminar is a great opportunity for graduate students interested in religious history, gender history, and the history of political culture.

The Newberry Library’s announcement reads:

Fall 2016 Ten-Week Graduate Seminar

Early application deadline: May 1

Gender, Bodies, and the Body Politic in Medieval Europe
2-5 pm Thursdays, September 29 to December 8
Led by Tanya Stabler Miller, Loyola University Chicago

Details and online application:

This seminar will examine the relationship between gender, sex differences, and politics-defined broadly-in medieval Europe, exploring the ways in which systems of power mapped onto perceived sex differences…

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