A central element of the Second World War was the presence of dozen navies on six oceans and a number of seas, including the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Maritime historian Craig L. Symonds offers a summary and analysis of how that naval conflict determined both the trajectory and the outcome of the war.
In May, the Supreme Court struck down a 1992 federal law that effectively banned commercial sports betting in most states. Veteran sports attorney Phil Hochberg moderates a conversation that takes on the issues facing a brave new world where gambling is legal, taxed, and as convenient as a smartphone app.
Get an insider’s look at D.C. United’s new home—and the forecast for pro soccer in the nation’s capital—in an evening that includes a tour of Audi Field, a discussion featuring Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and team owner Jason Levien, and a chance to cheer the home team as they take on Toronto FC.
Are you someone who winces at the word irregardless? Do you find it hard to believe someone who tells you, “I was literally climbing the walls”? Do you wish everyone would use the Oxford comma in lists of three items? If so, this lively seminar on language is for you. (Hopefully, you’ll come.)
Have you ever wondered why most alien life depicted on Star Trek strongly resembles us Earthlings? Come explore the possibility of humanoid or other forms of life on other planets with Mohamed Noor, a professor of biology at Duke University—and lifelong Trekkie!
Learn about growing, roasting, brewing, and serving coffee, along with details about its production and a few coffee myths from the founders and editors of Sprudge, the premier website for coffee content.
In a fascinating look into our nation’s history and how we remember our fallen leaders, museum specialists from the American History Museum uncover some of the extraordinary mementos of presidential death that Americans have saved over the centuries.
In 1940, Winston Churchill famously ordered his Special Operations Executive (SOE) to “set Europe ablaze.” His top-secret army of mavericks soon began a program of supporting resistance deep behind enemy lines. Learn how they not only influenced the war, but SOE’s legacy also shaped the peace in surprising—and sometimes dramatic—ways.
As Halloween draws near, spend an evening with Christopher Skaife, the ravenmaster at one of the world's eeriest monuments. He’s responsible for the care of the Tower of London’s remarkable ravens, and he has some fascinating stories to share about one of the world’s most unusual jobs.
He was passionate about his beliefs, he treated his peers with respect, and they dubbed him "The Happy Warrior" for his tireless advocacy of liberal causes. Learn about the long career of Hubert Humphrey, one of the great post-war leaders who played a central role in some of the country's most divisive issues.
British cosmologist, astrophysicist, and Astronomer Royal Martin Rees believes that, too often, our approach to what lies ahead is constricted by short-term thinking, polarizing debates, alarmist rhetoric, and pessimism. Drawing from his new book On the Future: Prospects for Humanity, Rees discusses how we can use science to solve critical problems while avoiding its dystopian risk.
Food writers, cocktail fans, and musicians Andre Darlington and Tenaya Darlington teamed up to write Booze and Vinyl, showcasing iconic albums from the 1950s through 2000s, each matched with the perfect cocktails. If you’re feeling in the groove, join the Darlingtons at the Smithsonian Castle for a listening party—and learn how to mix a couple of perfect cocktails.
Between the world wars, no sport was more popular, or more dangerous, than airplane racing. Drawing on his new book, Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History, Keith O’Brien recounts how a cadre of those women banded together to break the original glass ceiling: the entrenched prejudice that conspired to keep them out of the sky.
Though it’s among the signatures on the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Rush’s name is one that doesn’t immediately come to mind as one of the most influential patriots of the Revolutionary era. Drawing from his new biography, Stephen Fried resurrects and celebrates the most significant Founding Father we’ve never heard of.
He has been criticized for restricting freedom in Russian and eradicating any real dissent and political opposition. But at home, Putin has exhibited remarkable staying power that few other democratically elected heads of state can rival. Historian George E. Munro, an expert in Russian history, explores various questions in an absorbing program that examines the case for Vladimir Putin as the leader of Russia.
From the earliest days of humanity, shared beliefs have shaped societies around the world. Neil MacGregor, former director of the British Museum, examines rituals, monuments, and artifacts as symbols of spiritual tenets.
Over the course of four missions, astronaut Scott Kelly has seen things that few humans have—and he has documented the startling vastness of space in photographs. Drawing on his new book Infinite Wonder, Kelly discusses the challenges of long-term flight, and reveals how seeing our planet from 250 miles above gave him a new appreciation of its beauty and its fragility. Ticket includes signed paperback copy of Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.
Was Thomas Jefferson an 18th-century version of a celebrity who cannily uses signature looks to shape his public image? Historian Gaye Wilson explores how the Jefferson “brand” was cultivated in clothing, portraits, and even architecture—and how it reflected his politics.
The influence of China and Japan on global history has been immense, and goes back further than many Americans may realize. To understand these nations in the context of the modern world, Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University, provides a comprehensive perspective on thousands of years of their pasts in an informative lecture series. This session focuses on modern Chinese history.
A sweet favorite that hasn’t changed in a century is being transformed into something more modern. Learn (and taste) how producers are creating new variations on an American classic—and why you might be topping your pancakes with a salted-caramel-infused maple syrup.
After almost a millennium of harmonious existence in Spain, what had been the most populous and prosperous Jewish community in Europe ceased to exist on the Iberian Peninsula by the end of the 15th century. Author Jeffrey Gorsky traces that history—which encompasses both power and the persecutions of the Inquisition—as well as the impact of this early racial and religious discrimination on later cultures.
With a nation of highly polarized voters heading to the polls on November 6, the 2018 midterms will help clarify what’s important to a restless electorate. Two days after the ballots are cast, White House and political analyst Ken Walsh brings together four leading political analysts to interpret what the victories and losses mean for the country.
If your idea of desert heaven is digging into a slice of cake from one of Milk Bar’s D.C. locations—or one you’ve made yourself—a sweet treat awaits. Spend an evening with the bakery’s founding chef Christina Tosi to learn about the sugar-fueled magic behind Milk Bar’s creations, and how home bakers can produce their own in the same delicious spirit.
Structural biologist Venki Ramakrishnan examines the role of the once-elusive molecule ribosome in human genetics, and how he and his colleagues became the first to map its structure—an achievement recognized with a 2009 Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Historian Richard Bell examines this musical phenomenon to reveal what its success tells us about the marriage of history and show business. He investigates what the show gets right—and wrong—about Alexander Hamilton, the American Revolution, and the birth of the United States, and why it all matters.
The best food in Cuba can be found in paladares, small private restaurants generally run out of family homes. Join chef and cookbook author Guillermo Pernot as he serves up a paladares-inspired meal at his D.C. eatery, Cuba Libre.
The popular PBS travel host knows all the most intriguing destinations for a memorable vacation in France—and what to do when you visit them. Share her insider’s tips for getting the most from the Champagne region, Northeastern France, Cote d’Azur, and Brittany.
Despite ongoing research, we still know little about asteroids—how they formed, what they're like, and to accurately predict when one of them might strike Earth with enough force to create widespread damage. Join Kelly Beatty, a veteran space journalist, to explore the science and science fiction of these rocky bodies.
Literary history—and that of the nation’s capital—is written in the words of Walt Whitman, Henry Adams, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and many other authors who called the city home. Writer and local historian Kim Roberts offers a lively cultural overview of D.C. through a literary lens.
Music recordings, film clips, and photographs highlight a discussion led by music specialist Fred Plotkin that celebrates the great Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), an American Renaissance Man: composer, conductor, concert pianist, Broadway tunesmith, educator, humanitarian, and so much more.
Belgium is a beer-lover’s paradise. A pair of top specialists in the country’s beer offer an overview of the country’s long tradition of brewing, insider’s tips on planning the ultimate beer trip, and a guide to experiencing the best in authentic Belgian brews if you can’t make it to Europe.
What makes you the way you are? And what makes each of us different from everyone else? Kevin J. Mitchell, a leading neuroscientist and popular science blogger, traces human diversity and individual differences to their deepest level: in the wiring of our brains.
Beneath its staid surface, Washington, D.C.’s musical heartbeat has been constant and influential. Musician and journalist Ken Avis surveys the artists who created the city’s musical heritage, in forms from the blues to jazz to punk and beyond.
The Americans and the Holocaust exhibition at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum raises many questions about the response of the international community and the U.S. to the rise of Nazism. Two experts from the museum explore the exhibition’s issues, and participants are invited to experience the exhibition after-hours.
Lose yourself in Prague, city of a hundred spires, as cultural historian Ursula Wolfman takes you on a virtual tour along its medieval cobblestone lanes and dark passageways, past its many churches and synagogues, into the heart of a city dominated by the magnificent Hradcany, the 1,100-year-old castle complex. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Bewildered by all those scientific myths, fallacies, and conspiracy theories masquerading as actual news? Steven Novella, producer and host of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and a posse of his fellow podcasters are ready to show you how the powers of logic, science, and skepticism can be your best weapons against superstition and pseudoscience.
Drawing on his new book, The Great War in America: World War I and Its Aftermath Garrett Peck chronicles the American experience during the war and connects it to the changes that rocked the country in its wake—including women’s suffrage, Prohibition, the Red Scare, and race riots.
The influence of China and Japan on global history has been immense, and goes back further than many Americans may realize. To understand these nations in the context of the modern world, Justin M. Jacobs, associate professor of history at American University, provides a comprehensive perspective on thousands of years of their pasts in an informative lecture series. This session focuses on the Japanese Empire.
There’s no mystery why the fame of Sherlock Holmes now stretches into a third century. Writer Daniel Stashower turns a magnifying glass on the legendary sleuth of Baker Street and his creator. He is joined by actor Scott Sedar who reads from some of Conan Doyle’s classic works. A reception follows the program.
As a Sun King and absolute monarch, Louis XIV was used to demanding and getting the very best in 17th-century France. With Versailles, he got that and more. Art historian Stefanie Walker provides a guide to the main features of the palace and gardens, which have inspired imitations the world over. (World Art History Certificate elective, 1/2 credit)
Want some great cocktail ideas for celebrating the holidays? How about with Champagne? Learn about the French 75, the Bellini, the Mimosa, and that venerable classic, the Champagne Cocktail, with author and mixologist Philip Greene in a sparkling and spirited evening of food, drink, and enlightening discussion.
Why would a group of young men from one of England’s elite universities betray their country for Russia? Using recently declassified British, American, and Soviet intelligence records, Historian and author Calder Walton examines the lives, motivations, damage, and legacy of the notorious Cold War operatives that came to be known as the Cambridge Five.
The Smithsonian often uses politics and religion to tell stories of American life and history. Curator Lisa Kathleen Graddy of the American History Museum and Brad Braxton of the African American History and Culture Museum reveal how their work shapes those narratives.
Who is Allah? The teachings and the temperament of the figure at the center of the world’s second-largest religion have drawn widely varying—and often controversial—interpretations over the centuries. Noted religious scholar Jack Miles investigates that question of identity by examining the nature of Allah as reflected in the Qur’an and in interactions with humanity.
Tudor and Renaissance scholar Carol Ann Lloyd Stanger provides a colorful glimpse into how members of the Tudor dynasty and their courtiers marked the festive season with midwinter merrymaking fit for a king (or queen). Afterward, enjoy a Tudor-inspired holiday “feast.”
In the realm of medical miracles, the artificial heart was one of the last century’s most notable—and controversial. Author Shelley McKellar discusses the successes and the shortcomings of this medical breakthrough.
From James Madison and the War of 1812 to recent times, a procession of American presidents took the nation into conflict and mobilized the country for victory. Author and presidential historian Michael Beschloss examines the chief executives who made the most difficult decisions that face any leader, and how the evolution of presidential powers in regard to war have shaped those actions.
Spend an afternoon with professional decorator and author Coleen Christian Burke as she covers the traditions of White House holiday decorating. She brings you behind the scenes as the seasonal transformation takes place, and shares how modern first ladies from Jacqueline Kennedy to Melania Trump have lent their distinctive styles and creativity to guiding the annual themes.
Paige Williams, a staff writer at the New Yorker, delves into the sometimes-perilous world of the illicit international fossil trade as she tells the story of an American dealer’s dangerous obsession with a rare dinosaur skeleton.