Boston

History Camp Boston 2020

History Camp Boston 2020 will be March 14 & 15 (Saturday & Sunday).

Registration will open in the fall. Sign up to be notified and to get updates as sessions and activities are added.

  • This is the first time any History Camp has spanned two days, and we added a second date because there has been so much interest. If you want more information about this change and the choice of dates for 2020, you’ll find answers below in the section Questions about the choice of dates and our decision to add a second day.
  • Want to present? Please sign up here.
  • Would your organization like to offer a special program or tour to people who are attending History Camp Boston? Please send us a description and we will add it below and include it in the session guide.

If you’ve never been to History Camp Boston . . .

If you have questions that aren’t answered below, please let us know.

We look forward to seeing you in Boston in March 2020.

Lee Wright  |  Founder  |  The History List  |  History Camp

Carrie Lund  |  Director  |  History Camp


What is History Camp?

History Camp brings together people from all walks of life who are passionate about history—and they come from throughout the Northeast and beyond. We’ve had people from Maryland, Texas, Michigan, Colorado, South Carolina, and elsewhere come to History Camp Boston.

Here’s what one participant said:

“I’ve been to dozens of official academic conferences with big names where all submissions are thoroughly vetted by panels of experts, and none of those conferences were as fun and informative as History Camp. It really was the best set of speakers I’ve seen at a conference: relaxed and informed and direct.”

Gary Gregory, Master Printer at Edes & Gill, presenting at History Camp Boston 2018

[ Gary Gregory, Master Printer and Founder of Edes & Gill, the print shop at Faneuil Hall, presenting at History Camp Boston 2018 ]


This is a good overview, and especially helpful if you are curious about what makes History Camp different than any other conference or gathering you’ve ever attended. And if you’re still wondering if you should attend, last year we published this list of reasons.

Questions about the choice of dates and our decision to add a second day

  • Why two days? History Camp Boston has grown in size to the point where, in order to stay at Suffolk Law School, we needed to figure out a way to accommodate more people and more sessions, which is why we’ve added a second date.
  • Will the sessions be the same both days? There may be some overlap, but if presenter interest is as strong as it has been, most of the sessions will be different between the two days.
  • But what about the special tours and other events on Sunday? We hope organizations throughout the area offer special programs, tours, and discounts to History Camp Boston attendees on both Saturday and Sunday.
  • And isn’t this St. Patrick’s Day weekend—again? Yes, and we’d hoped to avoid that conflict. As noted above, based on survey responses, changes to the availability of Suffolk, and news that there are major events planned for the 250th anniversary of the Boston Massacre the prior weekend, this weekend made the most sense. And as we said this year, we’ll try to avoid this conflict in the future.
  • What will the price be? Will there be a discount if you register for both days? We haven’t figured out the prices yet, but believe there will be a slight discount. Note that our cost to rent the fabulous Suffolk Law School facility is the same each day, and almost all of the other costs are the same each day.
  • If I can only come one day, how will I know which day to attend? A few weeks before History Camp we’ll divide up the list of sessions between Saturday and Sunday and publish that online. We’ll also publish a tentative schedule, with times, roughly a week before History Camp. So, if you want to pick only one day, I recommend waiting until the schedule by day is published. With the move to two days, we probably won’t sell out as quickly, though hope I’m wrong. If it looks like we might sell out before we publish which sessions are going to be on which days, we’ll let the folks on this list know in advance.
  • How are you going to divide the sessions? Our goal will be to make both days so good it will be nearly impossible to choose and you’ll decide to come both days. My belief, which I’ve mentioned to a few of you, is that our city and region, with our great history and historic sites and organizations, should have a multi-day event in the spring that draws people from all across the country. This is a step in that direction.
  • When will registration open? This fall, and we’ll e-mail the subscribers to the History Camp Boston annual event newsletter.

History Camp Boston 2020 sessions

Sessions are added to the bottom of this list as they are submitted. Subscribe for occasional updates. (Infrequent now; more frequent as we get closer to March 16.)

We had 65 sessions at History Camp 2019, and as a result, folks had seven sessions to choose from in nearly every time slot. (View the History Camp 2019 schedule and browse the list of sessions, with speakers and session descriptions, here.)

Want to present?  Great!  Two things to know up front: First, we will endeavor to record all sessions, including the slides shown, and to post them online. Sharing this information as broadly and openly as possible is one of the fundamental principles of History Camp. If you have things that you don’t want to appear online (on YouTube or elsewhere), don’t include them in your slides or consider a different presentation. Second, speakers will need to register, just like everyone else.

If History Camp still sounds like it’s for you, and we hope it does,  send us a session description (your information, session title and description) similar in style and content to what you see in the listings for prior History Camp Bostons. (We may edit what you send for clarity.)

Abraham Lincoln’s Struggle with Divine Providence

Mark Szymcik (mszymcik@qcc.mass.edu), currently teacher of philosophy and religion courses at Quinsiganond Community College and Becker College. Previously, history teacher of special needs high school students.

There is an anonymous saying “It is easy to see the hand of God in the world; the difficulty is to figure out which way His finger is pointing.” Lincoln rejected the hard shell Baptist religion of his parents, yet struggled with discerning God’s will throughout his life. His articulation of that struggle has led Spiritualists, Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, atheists and others to claim him as one of their own, while Jews refer to him as Rabbi Abraham.

What were the stages of Lincoln’s spiritual journey? How did his contemporaries view his religious beliefs? What was his religious stance at the end of his life? Why do so many denominations claim him as their own? How have biographers and others distorted his faith in Providence? This presentation provides the answers.

Abigail Whitney and Family: Eye-Witness to the Events of April 19th 1775

Gail C. Hamel (gailchamel@gmail.com), a.k.a Abigail Whitney is the proprietor of Abigail by Gail: A Colonial Experience and has been teaching colonial history to audiences for over twenty-five years. She developed a persona portraying Abigail Whitney as an extension her work as an Educator for the Concord Museum.

Abigail Whitney and her family witnessed British soldiers march by their home on the Bay Road in Concord, Massachusetts, in search of ammunition and supplies early in the morning on the 19th of April 1775.  Learn how the men, women, militia, and fife and drum of Concord and surrounding towns played a key role that infamous day. Abigail remained strong but worried as her husband was with fellow patriots at Concord’s North Bridge and one of her children went missing.  Learn how Abigail kept her children safe, why the soldiers searched her home, and what the outcome was for the family, the town of Concord, and the nation.

The British in West Africa During the Regency

Bliss Bennet (blissbennet@gmail.com and blissbennet.com) writes smart, edgy novels for readers who love history as much as they love romance. Her Regency-set historical romance series, “The Penningtons”, has been praised by the Historical Novel Society’s Indie Reviews as “well worth following”; her books have been described by USA Today as “savvy, sensual, and engrossing,” by Heroes and Heartbreakers as “captivating,” and by The Reading Wench as having “everything you want in a great historical romance.” Her latest book is “A Sinner without a Saint”.

When most people think about the British in Africa, it’s the Victorian or Edwardian period that comes to mind. But the English had a presence in Africa far earlier than Victorian’s reign. What were they doing in Africa during the Regency period? And how did the Africans they encountered respond to their presence? This presentation will focus largely on the British settlement “Province of Freedom,” which later became the British colony of Sierra Leone. The only British colony founded with an explicit anti-slavery mandate, Sierra Leone was initially settled by formerly enslaved American Africans who had fought on the British side during the American Revolution, men and women who had been re-settled in England and Nova Scotia but who were unhappy with the racism and prejudice with which they were treated by their fellow whites. Later, Sierra Leone served as a place to exile blacks expelled from Jamaica, as well as “Liberated Africans,” people rescued from slave ships interdicted by Royal British Navy after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807. But black Britons were never allowed full autonomy over Sierra Leone; white British administrators and missionaries sought to civilize “savage” Africans by schooling them in both Christianity and western ideals of cash commerce. Anti-slavery rhetoric lay the groundwork for later British imperialism in the “dark continent.”

Spreading the Love of History Through Games

Alan  Fishel (alan.fishel@arentfox.com; On Instagram: @learningplunge; on Twitter: @geoplunge) created the educational games GeoPlunge and HistoryPlunge. He is the founder and President of LearningPlunge, a nonprofit organization with a focus on increasing proficiency in U.S. history and geography through educational games and tournaments. Alan is also a lawyer at the firm of Arent Fox, where he leads the firm’s Communications & Technology group and its Technology Transactions group.

What started out as a hobby to create games 15 years ago has turned into a fun and engaging way to educate students about U.S. history and geography. When we took our first game GeoPlunge into a Washington, D.C. classroom 15 years ago, nobody in the entire 6th grade class had heard of the neighboring state of Maryland. This was not entirely surprising given the finding by the National Assessment of Educational Progress that only 27% of 8th graders are proficient in U.S. geography and even worse only 18% are proficient in U.S. history. Fast forward just a couple of months, and these same students were rattling off the states, capitals, rankings in terms of order they came into the Union, size, population and more. After seeing this play out, we collaborated with the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to use this same model to create a U.S. history game covering 1492 – present. Through a variety of race, strategy, and trivia games, students learn about the Presidents and what occurred during each administration, dates of important events, and over 4,000 facts about U.S. history. Join us as we discuss what we have learned about engaging students at all levels, from gifted to those performing below milestones in the classroom, through interactive games and a tournament structure and how using some of these strategies can help spread the love of U.S. history.

Inconvenient Founders: Thomas Young and the forgotten disrupters of the Revolution

Scott Nadler (senadler@nadlerstrategy.com; on Twitter @NadlerScott; and NadlerStrategy.com), Checkered 45-year career in politics, government, industry, consulting and academics. Fascination with the topic came from the disconnect between what university history taught about the Revolution and what hands-on experience in political organizing showed.

For all we study the “Founders”, we overlook the most interesting and maybe most important people: the disruptors, the organizers, the agitators who tore down British rule and created the openings for the Founders. By looking at one agitator in particular – Thomas Young, maybe the Zelig of the Revolution – we get a tour of the Revolution from the bottom up, a tale that connects up Ethan Allen, the Boston Massacre, the Tea Party, the Declaration of Independence – and ends in censure! Not your usual Founders…

Poplar Forest: The Retreat Home of Thomas Jefferson

Karen Warren, Shop Manager, Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest, Forest, Virginia (www.poplarforest.org)

Only one of two homes Thomas Jefferson designed for his personal use, Poplar Forest was the place where Jefferson “came to indulge in the life of the mind and renew his personal creativity.” Jefferson and his wife, Martha, inherited the Bedford County plantation from her father in 1773. In 1806 Jefferson traveled to Washington to supervise the laying of the foundation for the octagonal house. When his presidency ended in 1809, Jefferson visited the retreat three or four times a year- often coinciding his visits with the planting seasons, staying from two weeks to two months.

From 1828 to 1984, the house went through private hands, unrelated to Jefferson, who made changes to the house to accommodate their large families. In 1984, in order to rescue it from commercial buyers, a group of local citizens bought Poplar Forest and began to restore it to Jefferson’s original neoclassical design, complete with original octagonal privies! You’ll learn the history of Jefferson’s “favorite” possession and how it is interpreted today.

Genocide of Native Americans: Boarding schools and sterilizations

Samantha Garrity (svgarrity@gmail.com, On Twitter: @LadySamofDunans) is the Office Coordinator for the Center for Writing at the College of the Holy Cross. She is also a professional tutor at the Center for Writing.

This presentation will cover the topics of how white America actively worked to erase Native American peoples and their cultures through forced boarding schools and sterilization practices. These boarding schools, rampant with abuse, were in operation until the 1900s. Another form of genocide that the Native American people were subject to was forced and coerced sterilization. Forced sterilization procedures began in the United States in the late 1800s as the eugenics movement gained popularity. Both the boarding schools and the sterilizations practices were used in an attempt to end Native cultures and Native tribes in North America. In this presentation will learn about the frequently covered up or forgotten parts of dark American history.

“Dinner in Camelot”: The Night America’s Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House

Joseph A. Esposito (Josephesposito15@aol.com; on Facebook; on Twitter Historian, Educator, and Writer, “Dinner in Camelot: The Night America’s Greatest Scientists, Writers, and Scholars Partied at the Kennedy White House” (ForeEdge, 2018).

In April 1962, President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy hosted forty-nine Nobel Prize winners―along with many other prominent scientists, artists, and writers―at a famed White House dinner. Among the guests were J. Robert Oppenheimer, who was officially welcomed back to Washington after a stint in the political wilderness; Linus Pauling, who had picketed the White House that very afternoon; William and Rose Styron, who began a fifty-year friendship with the Kennedy family that night; James Baldwin, who would later discuss civil rights with Attorney General Robert Kennedy; Mary Welsh Hemingway, Ernest Hemingway’s widow, who sat next to the president and grilled him on Cuba policy; John Glenn, who had recently orbited the earth aboard Friendship 7; historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., who argued with Ava Pauling at dinner; and many others. Actor Fredric March gave a public recitation after the meal, including some unpublished work of Hemingway’s that later became part of Islands in the Stream. Held at the height of the Cold War, the dinner symbolizes a time when intellectuals were esteemed, divergent viewpoints could be respectfully discussed at the highest level, and the great minds of an age might all dine together in the rarefied glamour of “the people’s house.”

Five Main Themes in the Legacy of African Americans in Massachusetts

Rosalyn Elder (rosalynelder@gmail.com and africanamericanheritagemassachusetts.com) is a registered architect and urban designer with a passion for the arts, architecture and cities, and history.  Ms. Elder has written a tourist guide to African American sites in Massachusetts, Exploring the Legacy: People and Places of Significance.

In Massachusetts, African Americans contributed to every aspect of the legacy of this state, but unfortunately, that legacy has not been woven into the fabric of our history as it should be.  This session explores five themes that highlight the importance of that legacy: 

    1. A Defiance to Slavery; 
    2. A Persistent Struggle for Civil Rights Justice; 
    3. Exemplary Military Service; 
    4. A Fight for Equal Access to Education; and
    5. A Fight for Employment Fairness.

These themes illustrate how the vision, faith, and determination of this community contributed to the legacy of Massachusetts.

Raiders of New York: The British Wilderness Raids in Revolutionary New York

Marie Williams (mariedaniellewilliams1991@gmail.com and on Instagram: @mariedaniellewilliams) is a teacher and independent historian from Upstate New York. She is a member of the Saratoga Country History Roundtable, is a contributing writer for “The New York History Blog” and “The Adirondack Almanack”, and is the blogger behind “The Half-Pint Historian Blog“. She has a BA in adolescent education and an MA in American history.

After the American victory at Saratoga in the fall of 1777, the British refused to give up on conquering the middle colony. Several British officers were tasked with leading a series of raids in the frontier wilderness lands of Upstate New York, focusing on key areas such as the Hudson Valley and Mohawk Valley as well as small settlements in and around the Adirondack Mountain region. This presentation will cover the raids carried out by Sir Christopher Carleton, Edward and Ebenezer Jessup, Sir John Johnson, and Joseph Brant as well as cover the effects these raids had in the war and on society. Based on research present in the upcoming book by Marie Williams titled The Revolutionary Was in the Adirondacks: Raids in the Wilderness (The History Press, spring 2020).

Whales Tales: Matthew Fontaine Maury and the American Quest for the Northwest Passage

John Grady, (john@johngradynowandthen.com, johngradynowandthen.com, on Amazon) a managing editor of Navy Times for more than eight years and retired communications director of the Association of the United States Army after 17 years, is the author of Matthew Fontaine Maury: Father of Oceanography. It was nominated for the Library of Virginia’s 2016 non-fiction award. He also has contributed to Sea History, Naval History, the New York Times Disunion series, Civil War Monitor and was a blogger for the Navy’s Sesquicentennial of the Civil War site. He also has written for the Journal of the American Revolution. He continues writing on national security and defense. His later work has appeared on USNI.org, BreakingDefense, Government Executive, govexec.com, nextgov.com, among others.

From the end of the Mexican War until 1861, Lieutenant Matthew Fontaine Maury used his international reputation in maritime affairs as superintendent of the National Observatory to shepherd the Navy into a grand age of exploration. From his office in Washington, Maury headed up an effort to explore the Arctic and find the remains of the British explorers, led by Sir John Franklin, who had mysteriously disappeared while searching for the Northwest Passage.

Maury’s cohorts were also racing to find the Northwest Passage, before the British, and employed the observations and data of whalemen to do so. Under Maury’s leadership, a series of track charts, including The Whaling Chart, were created.

Maury came up against derision and contempt by many land-based scientists, including the Royal Navy and Sir John Barrow who led the way in slamming the door on the only mariners who routinely ventured into the waters. However, Maury also had wealthy and powerful friends, including members of the American Geographical and Statistical Society, who backed his efforts and ultimately provided him with the means to best the Royal Navy on the top of the world.

Seducing and killing Nazis: Women of the Dutch resistance

Samantha Garrity (svgarrity@gmail.com, On Twitter: @LadySamofDunans) is the Office Coordinator for the Center for Writing at the College of the Holy Cross. She is also a professional tutor at the Center for Writing.

Few have heard of Hannie Schaft, Truus Oversteegen, and Freddie Oversteegen. But what did these women have in common? They were assassins, Dutch resistance fighters during World War II that seduced and killed Nazis. Not only were they teens when they began liquidating Nazis, but history has nearly forgotten about these incredible resistance fighters. Come learn about their histories, lives, and resistance tactics as we remember these brave women.