George Washington, a Letter, and a Runaway Slave

On August 26, 1852, Charles Sumner (1811–1874), the junior Senator from Massachusetts, took the floor of the United States Senate to deliver a major speech against slavery. For three hours, Sumner blasted slavery as a barbaric custom that was an affront to the law of God, the foundational principles of … Continue reading

The Auction Catalogs of Martin Folkes

During my time at The Huntington as a short-term fellow, I was researching and writing a biography of Martin Folkes (1690–1754). A protégé of Sir Isaac Newton’s, Folkes was an English antiquary, mathematician, numismatist (coin expert), and astronomer whose unique distinction was his simultaneous presidency of both the Royal Society … Continue reading

Ancestor in a Japanese Guest Book

When Akira Chiba, the consul general of Japan in Los Angeles, came to visit The Huntington, he had an opportunity to look at one of the Library’s recent acquisitions—a guest book that contains the signature of one of his illustrious forebears. Chiba’s great-grandfather was the esteemed physician and bacteriologist Shibasaburo … Continue reading

British Theater Censorship in the Georgian Era

I am convening a conference at The Huntington titled “The Censorship of British Theatre, 1737–1843,” which will take place on Jan. 12 and 13 in The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall. Leading experts on 18th- and 19th-century theater will explore the implications of statutory theater censorship as Britain grappled with issues of … Continue reading

Globalizing the Protestant Reformations

The origins of the Protestant Reformations are often traced to the German friar Martin Luther (1483–1546), who on Oct. 31, 1517, posted a document with 95 theses against the indulgence trade—in which donors paid the Catholic Church to remit punishment for sins. These theses began to outline Luther’s disputes with … Continue reading

Celebrating Milton’s “Paradise Lost”

The Ridge Lecture in Literature, which I’ll deliver at The Huntington’s Rothenberg Hall on November 1, 2017, is an opportunity to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the first publication of John Milton’s Paradise Lost in 1667. It also gives me the opportunity to assess the daring originality of the greatest … Continue reading