John Adams' Diary: An American En Route to Paris with David Hosking

John Adams' Diary: An American En Route to Paris with David Hosking


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Before there were zoom rooms, conducting business with persons on the other side of the globe was certainly a headache. This interactive seminar will explore John Adam’s unexpected detour through Spain made during his voyage to Paris in the winter of 1779-80. 

During the Revolutionary War, the future president undertook a journey to Paris on behalf of the American Congress in order to negotiate with the French. An unexpected incident caused Adams and his traveling party to come ashore at Ferrol in northwestern Spain. From there, Adams decided to continue his journey overland, undertaking the perilous trip through northern Spain and France. He was traveling with his son, John Quincy Adams and the pair kept detailed diaries of the journey.

This conversation, drawing particularly on the diaries of the two Adams traveling together, is a glimpse of travel in Early Modern Europe in the days before motor transport – as well as an unusual portrait of northern Spain in the late 18th century. Adams and company struggle with the cold Spanish winter and meet a curious variety of locals and fellow travelers. Following the difficult journey with all its many lows and unexpected highs, we will hear Adams’ opinions on what he sees, as well as find out some of his thoughts on the war and the diplomatic effort he is involved in.

Led by an expert on Spanish history, David Hosking, this Conversation will describe this unexpected detour in the life of John Adams. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of 18th-century travel methods, as well as a deeper understanding of John Adams and his diplomatic mission.

David, originally from Scotland, has been living and guiding in Bilbao and northern Spain for many years. David is a published art historian, professional art educator and translator (he translated into English one of the standard guides to the architecture of Bilbao). He has a particular interest in the way the architecture of a city can tell its story, and has a passion for this endlessly curious part of the world.

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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