Council Lecture Series

Organized by the OI Director and the Chair of the OI Council, the Council Lecture series reflects the Omohundro Institute’s ongoing commitment to excellence in early American scholarship. It is meant for both scholarly and non-scholarly audiences. No admission is charged and an informal reception follows the event. All speakers in the series have served on the Omohundro Institute Council—service for which we are enormously grateful.

The lectures are usually held on the first Saturday in May at 3:30 p.m. in Blow Hall 201 on the campus of William & Mary.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we cancelled the 2020, 2021, and 2022 Council Lectures.

We are excited to announce the return of the Council Lecture series in 2023.


Michael Witgen will join us on Saturday afternoon, May 6, 2023, on the campus of William & Mary. We will post details shortly.



Joyce E. Chaplin delivered “Climate in Words and Numbers: How Early Americans Recorded Weather in Almanacs.”

Professor Chaplin is the James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History at Harvard University. Her books include An Anxious Pursuit: Agricultural Innovation and Modernity in the Lower South, 1730-1815 (published by the Omohundro Institute with the University of North Carolina Press in 1993), Subject Matter: Technology, the Body, and Science on the Anglo-American Frontier, 1500-1676 (2001), and The First Scientific American: Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (2006). She is also the editor of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography: A Norton Critical Edition (2012). Her reviews and essays have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, and the Wall Street Journal. Professor Chaplin’s most recent book is the first history of around-the-world travel, Round about the Earth: Circumnavigation from Magellan to Orbit (2012).


Robert C. Ritchie delivered “When Did We Start Going to the Beach?: Some Thoughts on the History of Leisure in early America.”

Robert C. Ritchie specializes in Early American history. His focus has been on the seventeenth century but he also has a strong interest in early modern England. After a distinguished career at the University of California, San Diego which included stints as a professor in the History Department and as Associate Chancellor, he became the W.M. Keck Foundation Director of Research at The Huntington Library. He retired from that position in 2011 and is now Senior Research Associate there.


Peter C. Mancall, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities at the University of Southern California and the Linda and Harlan Martens Director of the Early Modern Studies Institute delivered “Art and Violence in Early North America.”


Mary Kelley, Ruth Bordin Collegiate Professor of History, American Culture, and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, and author, co-author, and editor of eight books including Learning to Stand and Speak, delivered “The Difference of Color.”


Mary Beth Norton, Mary Donlon Alger Professor of American History at Cornell University and the author or co-author of numerous books, including the popular textbook A People & A Nation, delivered “The Seventh Tea Ship; or, a Tale of Shipwrecked Sailors, Combative Communities, and a Fractured Family.”


Alan Taylor Thomas Jefferson Foundation Chair in the Corcoran Department of History at the University of Virginia, and the author of seven monographs, including the Pulitzer Prize winning William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early Republic and the National Book Award Finalist The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832, delivered “The West and the American Revolution: Causes and Consequences.”