George Washington Forum News and Events

GWF Events

Liberal Democracy and the Age of Revolution

23-24 October 2020

8:30 AM-5:30 PM | Baker Center, Multicultural Center Conference Room

Image of Plenary speakers: David Bell (Princeton), Patrick Griffin (Notre Dame), Janet Polasky (New Hampshire) and Helena Rosenblatt (CUNY-Graduate Center)

Plenary speakers: David Bell (Princeton), Patrick Griffin (Notre Dame), Janet Polasky (New Hampshire) and Helena Rosenblatt (CUNY-Graduate Center)

Benjamin Constant famously argued that the great achievement of what we now call the Age of Revolution was “representative government” and that “this form of government, the only one in the shelter of which we could find some freedom and peace today, was totally unknown to the free nations of antiquity.” It has been commonplace ever since to claim that many of the fundamental ideas and institutions that we associate with modern representative democracy emerged from the revolutionary upheavals of the later eighteenth century.

 

This conference and its subsequent volume aim to look afresh at the story of liberal democracy’s origins in the Age of Revolution spanning from the Seven Years’ War to the fall of Napoleon (c. 1760–1815). Did the ideas and institutions of liberal democracy actually emerge during the Age of Revolution? If so, how and why? Were they the product of long-term developments that came to fruition during the revolutionary era? Or were they generated by and amid the conflicts, debates, and upheavals of the period itself? Given that most of the era’s revolutions and uprisings were ultimately either contained or defeated, is it justified to contend that the Age of Revolution witnessed the birth of liberal-democratic ideas and institutions? If not, then what connection is there between the revolutionary turmoil of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and the eventual development of liberal democracy in the West and beyond over the next two centuries?

 

David Bell (Princeton), Patrick Griffin (Notre Dame), Janet Polasky (New Hampshire), and Helena Rosenblatt (CUNY-Graduate Center) will deliver plenary lectures. Paper proposals accepted through 15 February 2020.

Download Flyer

Can Speech Be Compelled? The First Amendment and Speech Rights (Constitution Day Lecture)

Monday, 16 September 2019

7:30 PM | Galbreath Chapel (College Green)

Image of William Messenger (National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation)

William Messenger (National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation)

William Messenger is a staff attorney at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. He graduated with a B.B.A. from OHIO in 1997 before earning his J.D. from George Washington University in 2001. He has litigated nearly 100 cases, including over a dozen at the Appellate-level, on behalf of NRWLD Foundation-aided employees and other individuals. His cases defend workers’ freedom from compulsory unionism and focus on the First Amendment and other constitutional rights. He has argued twice before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 2014, he successfully argued Harris v. Quinn, securing a ruling that requiring homecare providers to pay union fees violated the First Amendment. Four years later, he also briefed and successfully argued Janus v. AFSCME, in which the Supreme Court ruled that non-union government workers cannot be required to pay union fees as a condition of employment. This event receives support from the Jack Miller Center through a grant from the Thomas W. Smith Foundation.

Popular Sovereignty and Populism

15-16 March 2019

8:30 AM–5:30 PM | Baker University Center 240/242

Image of Keith Baker (Stanford), Mark Blitz (Claremont McKenna), Michael Braddick (Sheffield), and Catherine Zuckert (Notre Dame) will deliver plenary lectures

Keith Baker (Stanford), Mark Blitz (Claremont McKenna), Michael Braddick (Sheffield), and Catherine Zuckert (Notre Dame) will deliver plenary lectures

In his Considerations on Representative Government, political theorist John Stuart Mill argues that “the ideally best form of government is that in which the sovereignty, or supreme controlling power in the last resort, is vested in the entire aggregate of the community.” Currently, we live in a moment where some exercises of the people’s power result in what is often called democratic illiberalism. This conference and volume intend to illuminate the concept of popular sovereignty and its related expression, populism. We are especially interested in the crucial continuities and discontinuities in popular sovereignty that emerge when we study critical moments in political history. These include (but are not limited to) the theory and practice of popular sovereignty in the Italian Renaissance; seventeenth-century England; revolutionary and federal America; and revolutionary France.

Download Flyer

What Was Political Economy?

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

7:30 PM | Galbreath Chapel (College Green)

Image of Jason Peacey (University College, London)

Jason Peacey (University College, London)

Jason Peacey is Professor of Early Modern British History at University College, London. He received his PhD from Cambridge University and before coming to UCL, he was a research fellow at the History of Parliament Trust. His publications include Politicians and Pamphleteers: Propaganda during the English Civil Wars and Interregnum (2004) and Print and Public Politics in the English Revolution (2013), in addition to three edited books and dozens of articles and book chapters. He is currently working on print culture in seventeenth-century Europe. This event receives support from the Jack Miller Center through a grant from the Thomas W. Smith Foundation.

Download Flyer

Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

7:30 PM | Galbreath Chapel (College Green)

Image of Thomas C. Leonard (Princeton)

Thomas C. Leonard (Princeton)

Thomas C. Leonard is Research Scholar in the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University and Lecturer in the Department of Economics, which has twice awarded him the Richard D. Quandt Prize for outstanding teaching. His book, Illiberal Reformers: Race, Eugenics and American Economics in the Progressive Era (2016), won the 2017 Joseph J. Spengler Best Book Prize from the History of Economics Society. This event receives support from the Jack Miller Center through a grant from the Thomas W. Smith Foundation.

Download Flyer