America's Birth Certificate: The Declaration of Independence with Dr. Richard Bell

America's Birth Certificate: The Declaration of Independence with Dr. Richard Bell


No events are scheduled at this time. Want to be notified when it’s back? Click the blue button to the right and we’ll notify you.

Can't make this time? A video recording will be sent to all participants after the seminar.

It's the document we all know—but the history that maybe we don't. Discover the fascinating origins, misunderstood purpose, and extraordinary global legacy of the Declaration of Independence in the company of an expert historian.

The Declaration of Independence is a peculiar thing. It’s a literary masterpiece that was written jointly by a committee of fifty people. It’s short and punchy—just 1310 words long—but still somehow daunting and difficult to get to grips with (there’s a reason most of us have never read it in full and can only quote the first third of its second sentence).

And what is it exactly? Is it a birth certificate announcing happy news, or a petition for divorce full of grievance and score-settling, or something else? Is it aimed at the American people, or King George, or someone else? Was it the first-ever declaration of independence, or a cheap imitation of a genre already well established? What did people at the time make of it? What did it change? Why does it matter?

John Dr. Richard Bell as he answers these questions and more. For instance, he’ll set this uniquely American civic text in a global perspective. Did you know that when it was first published on July 5, 1776 (yes, you read that right), the Declaration of Independence was printed by an immigrant Irishman on Dutch paper that had been brought over from England? Did you know that the Declaration caused barely a ripple when it arrived in London, but that in the days and months that followed it became an example and inspiration to revolutionaries across the continent, the ocean, and the globe? Did you know that more than 100 other declarations of independence have been issued in other parts of the world since 1776? It’s all true and taken together these truths (self-evident or otherwise) offer a stark reminder that our American Revolution—a modest change in political sovereignty in a few out-of-the-way agricultural colonies on the western rim of the Atlantic Ocean—occupies pride of place in the larger history of global decolonization and post-colonialism.

Dr. Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. He holds a PhD from Harvard University and has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the Andrew Carnegie Fellowship and the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar Award. Professor Bell is author of the new book "Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home," which was shortlisted for the George Washington Prize and the Harriet Tubman Prize.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

Based on 13 reviews
100%
(13)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
N
N. (New York, US)
The power of words.

Prof. Bell offers such an interesting way to think about history.

V
V. (San Diego, US)
Even more brilliant than usual

Dr. Bell is always an amazing presenter but with this seminar he outdid himself. Not only is there so much more to the history of the Declaration of Independence and the context in which it was created than I knew, but Dr. Bell presents this material in a scintillating lecture that was brilliantly organized and delivered. As usual, the slides were excellent too.

S
Sandra S -- Boston (Saugus, US)
Enlightening Discussion about the Development of the Declaration of Independence

Wow, a really excellent behind-the-parchment look at how our important document was authored, edited, promulgated (and modeled by other countries and groups in the future). I learned so much and further appreciate the work of the founding fathers. Amazing story about a critical part of USA history. Will stimulate more exploration of the topic in the future. Liked the insertion of other key resources. Love the teaching style of Dr Bell. I will re-watch to ensure that I got all the important information in my notes for future reflection.

R
Ralph Kissick (Washington, US)
Excellent Course

This was the best Zoom course we've taken: well organized, well presented with excellent graphics and thoughtful insights. We very much enjoyed the course.

V
Vivienne (San Diego, US)
Fascinating, so much I didn't know....

Like many Americans, I had at best a vague high school-ish understanding of the Declaration of Independence. Not anymore! Dr. Bell's lecture was so fascinating, bringing to life the not only the creation of the Declaration, but what its various goals were, and the impact it had globally. A really stimulating seminar.

Customer Reviews

Based on 13 reviews
100%
(13)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
N
N. (New York, US)
The power of words.

Prof. Bell offers such an interesting way to think about history.

V
V. (San Diego, US)
Even more brilliant than usual

Dr. Bell is always an amazing presenter but with this seminar he outdid himself. Not only is there so much more to the history of the Declaration of Independence and the context in which it was created than I knew, but Dr. Bell presents this material in a scintillating lecture that was brilliantly organized and delivered. As usual, the slides were excellent too.

S
Sandra S -- Boston (Saugus, US)
Enlightening Discussion about the Development of the Declaration of Independence

Wow, a really excellent behind-the-parchment look at how our important document was authored, edited, promulgated (and modeled by other countries and groups in the future). I learned so much and further appreciate the work of the founding fathers. Amazing story about a critical part of USA history. Will stimulate more exploration of the topic in the future. Liked the insertion of other key resources. Love the teaching style of Dr Bell. I will re-watch to ensure that I got all the important information in my notes for future reflection.

R
Ralph Kissick (Washington, US)
Excellent Course

This was the best Zoom course we've taken: well organized, well presented with excellent graphics and thoughtful insights. We very much enjoyed the course.

V
Vivienne (San Diego, US)
Fascinating, so much I didn't know....

Like many Americans, I had at best a vague high school-ish understanding of the Declaration of Independence. Not anymore! Dr. Bell's lecture was so fascinating, bringing to life the not only the creation of the Declaration, but what its various goals were, and the impact it had globally. A really stimulating seminar.