Merle Curti Lecture Series

Merle Curti

The annual Merle Curti Lectures commemorate our late colleague Merle Curti, a pioneer in the practice of American intellectual and cultural history, as well as a beloved member of our department for nearly half a century until his death in 1996. The Curti Lectures constitute the centerpiece of the department’s academic year. For almost thirty years, highly distinguished historians have presented new or ongoing research to large audiences, comprised of faculty, students, and members of the larger Madison community. The series takes the form of three public lectures, presented on consecutive days, under an overarching thematic rubric.

Upcoming Lecture Series

Forty-First Annual Merle Curti Lecture Series

“How Rules Succeed and Fail: An Intellectual History of the Particular”

Lorraine Daston
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science
Berlin/ University of Chicago

Post-Poned – Dates TBA
4:00-5:15 PM
Pyle Center

Reception: TBA – 5:50-7:00 PM, Pyle Center

  • “Miserable Failure: The War Against Fashion”
    4:00pm in the Pyle Center, Vandeberg Auditorium
  • “Eventual Success: Cleaning Up and Clearing Out the Enlightenment City”
    4:00pm in the Pyle Center, Vandeberg Auditorium
  • “Excessive Success: The Nations Learn to Spell”
    4:00pm in the Pyle Center, Vandeberg Auditorium

If laws represent the most dignified and elevated face of rules (as in the phrase “the rule of law”), then regulations are the micro-managers that get things done on the ground. Yet the teeming particulars of regulations create not only the fact of order but also the idea of order, and even the norm of order that underpin modern life. Three historical case studies investigate how regulations succeed and fail: medieval and early modern European sumptuary regulations (miserable rule failure); Enlightenment regulation of traffic and sanitation in big cities (eventual success); and spelling regulations in early modern and modern nation states (excessive success).

Lorraine Dalston
Lorraine Dalston

Previous Curti Lectures

  • 2018 – N.D.B. Connolly and Bethany Moreton – “Reimagining: Capital’s Worlds: From Colonialism to the Alt-Right”
  • 2017 – Frederick Cooper – “Empires and Citizenship”
  • 2016 – David W. Blight – “Writing the Life of Frederick Douglas: Why and Why Now?”
  • 2015 – Anthony T. Grafton – “Past Belief: Visions of Early Christianity in Early Modern Europe”
  • 2014 – Professor Michael Cook – “Religion, Politics, and Geopolitics in the Pre-Modern Middle East”
  • 2013 – Jacquelyn Dowd Hall – “Southern Women On The Left ”
  • 2010 – Barbara Weinstein – “The Color of Modernity: Racial and Regional Difference in Postcolonial Brazil”
  • 2009 – Carol Gluck – “Past Obsessions: World War Two in History and Memory
  • 2008 – Laura Engelstein – “Between Nationalism and Empire: Violence and the Jewish Question in World War I Russia”
  • 2006 – Thomas Holt – “‘Work, Culture, Liberty’: Contesting Jim Crow at the Turn of the 20th Century”
  • 2005 – Paul Boyer – “Apocalypse Then, Apocalypse Now: Bible-Prophecy Belief in American Religion, Politics, & Popular Culture”
  • 2004 – Richard White – “Misunderstanding, Lies, and Deception: An American History”
  • 2003 – Jonathan Spence – “Courting the End: One Man’s Vision of the Ming Dynasty’s Fall”
  • 2002 – Lynn Hunt – “The Eighteenth-Century Origins of Human Rights”
  • 2001 – Francis C. Oakley – “Natural Law, Law of Nature, Natural Rights: Continuity and Discontinuity in the History of Ideas”
  • 2000 – John Lukacs – “The Way We Live Now: The Profession of History”
  • 1999 – David A. Hollinger – “Cosmopolitanism and Solidarity”
  • 1998 – Friedrich Katz – “Nazis and Anti-Nazis in Mexico”
  • 1997 – Nell Irvin Painter – “Making Beauty”
  • 1996 – Linda K. Kerber – “The Obligations of Citizenship”
  • 1995 – Simon Schama – “Landscape and Memory”
  • 1994 – William Cronon – “Many Wests: The Search for a Common American Past”
  • 1993 – Bernard Lewis – “The Multiple Anniversaries of 1492”
  • 1992 – Elizabeth Eisenstein – “Divine Art/Infernal Machine: Western Views of Printing from Gutenberg to McLuhan”
  • 1991 – Lawrence Levine – “Patterns of American Culture during the Great Depression”
  • 1990 – Paul Conkin – “Cane Ridge: America’s Pentecost”
  • 1989 – Keith Thomas – “Distinguished Marks: Visibility and Social Difference in Early Modern England”
  • 1987 – Peter Brown – “Philosophers and Monks: A Late Antique Option”
  • 1986 – Lawrence Stone – “Broken Lives: Marital Separation and Divorce in England, 1660-1860”
  • 1986 – Michael Kammen – “The Spheres of Liberty: Changing Perceptions of Liberty in American Culture”
  • 1984 – Peter Gay – “Hidden Agendas: On Love and Sex in Three Nineteenth-Century Novels”
  • 1984 – Bernard Bailyn – “The People of British North America”
  • 1983 – Natalie Z. Davis – “The Gift in Sixteenth-Century France”
  • 1982 – Gordon A. Craig – “The End of Prussia”
  • 1981 – James Willard Hurst – “A Legal History of Interest Bargaining in the United States”
  • 1979 – Benjamin I. Schwartz – “Understanding Other Cultures: Perils and Pitfalls”
  • 1978 – Carlo M. Cipolla – “Plague, Society and Public Health in the Late Renaissance”
  • 1978 – John Higham – “Ethnicity in America: A Comparative Approach”
  • 1976 – Christopher Hill – “Intellectual Consequences of the English Revolution”
  • 1976 – Lawrence A. Cremin – “Traditions of American Education”