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Thomas Jefferson Foundation Lecture: The Man of Twists and Turns: Personality, Portrait & Power in the Re-Shaping of Empire (David Hancock)

Thomas Jefferson Foundation Lecture: The Man of Twists and Turns: Personality, Portrait & Power in the Re-Shaping of Empire (David Hancock)

The Man of Twists and Turns: Personality, Portrait & Power in the Re-Shaping of Empire     
The 2nd Earl of Shelburne was one of the most influential prime ministers of the eighteenth-century who crafted the terms of the peace that ended Britain’s War for America in 1782 and 1783.  He was a wealthy aristocrat who possessed large estates in Ireland, England, and America.  He was an army officer who served with distinction in Europe during the Seven Years War; he was a politician who dominated the political scene from the 1760s through the 1790s.  He was a formidable intellectual figure who undertook to make the Anglo-Atlantic community a model for world improvement.  Yet contemporaries and historians alike have despised him.  Why?
In this lecture, we will reconstruct Shelburne’s complex reputation, juxtaposing the fairly homogenous treatment by subsequent historians, politicians, political scientists, and psychologists with the more complicated assessment of contemporary politicians, savants, and artists.  We will interrogate these and complementary sources to determine how Shelburne could be so crafty or duplicitous and yet so naïve and ineffectual.  Was his life and mind simply a “quest for power” that was destined to fail, or was it something more – with deep roots in cosmopolitan irenicism?


David Hancock
Professor of History at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Director of Michigan’s Atlantic Studies Initiative. He serves on the Board of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and its journal The William & Mary Quarterly. He teaches and researches in Business History, Atlantic History, Imperial British History and Early American History. A specialist on the long eighteenth century, he is the author of Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735-1785 (Cambridge University Press, 1995), a study of how and why London entrepreneurs integrated the First British Empire, and more recently Oceans of Wine: Madeira and the Emergence of American Trade and Taste (Yale University Press, 2009), an analysis of the emergence and self-organization of the Atlantic economy between 1640 and 1815 as viewed through the lens of Madeira wine production, distribution and consumption. He is completing a biography of the cosmopolitan 2nd Earl of Shelburne and is researching the economics of salvage as well as of the “disappearance” of markets.  Professor Hancock received his A.B. degree in History and Music from the College of William and Mary, an A.M. degree in Musicology from Yale University in 1983, and Ph.D. and A.M. degrees in History from Harvard University in 1990. He has also taught history at Harvard University (1990-1997) and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris (2003). Most recently, he was the R. Stanton Avery Distinguished Fellow at The Huntington Library, in San Marino, California during 2012-2013, as well as the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship (2016). 

A reception will follow the lecture.


Wednesday, April 5, 2017
4:00pm - 6:30pm
Auditorium of Harrison/Small
Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library

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Event Organizer

Debra Guy