Conferences and Symposia


September 21-24, 2017

Fire and Water: Entangled Histories of Empire and Science in the Early Modern Americas

As part of a four-year series on the four elements and the early environmental history of the Americas, the John Carter Brown Library is hosting a three-day conference entitled "Fire and Water: Entangled Histories of Empire and Science in the Early Modern Americas," to take place on the campus of Brown University. With generous support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Library will bring together historians, historians of science, art historians, literary scholars and others, at all levels of scholarly engagement for a three-day interrogation of the role of science in the Americas and, in particular, the ongoing dialogue between Iberian and northern European traditions. The symposium will assess the last two decades of historiography related to the history of science in the Iberian and Iberoamerican worlds and plan a bold agenda for the coming decade to consolidate the scholarly and intellectual progress made to date. The symposium will also interrogate how both fire and water – separately and together – function as material, immaterial, social, cultural, political, and symbolic forces, wielded and tamed by communities throughout the Americas. 


April 28, 2017 - 3:00pm
The Americas and the Generative Power of Fire

This special panel discussion is a featured event of the IBES two-week program, What Fire Does. This discussion will be chaired by Associate Professor of History and Director of John Carter Brown Library Neil Safier and will feature presentations by Andrew Scherer ("Ceremonies of Smoke and Flame among the Ancient Maya"), Matt Liebmann ("When the Little Firekeeper Ran Away: Pueblo People, Franciscan Missions, and Wildfires in 17th Century New Mexico"), Guilhem Olivier ("The New Fire Ceremony: Religion and Power in Ancient Central Mexico"), and Jake Frederick ("Fire in the JCB: Reading the Visual Record"). Following the panel discussion, Jake Frederick (Lawrence University) will present the exhibition The Americas on Fire, co-curated by Jake Frederick and Júnia Ferreira Furtado. A performance by Wendy Woodson (Amherst College) and reception will follow. The event is free and open to the public.



May 12-13, 2016
A Traveler's Air

Participants: Maan Al Sahoui (Brown University), Jean-Marc Besse (CNRS), Marie-Noëlle Bourguet (Paris VII), Daniel Carey (University of Galway), Joyce Chaplin (Harvard University), Harold Cook (Brown University), Reinaldo Funes (Universidad de la Habana/Yale University), Júnia Ferreira Furtado (Federal University of Minas Gerais, UFMG), Nancy Jacobs (Brown University), Domingo Ledezma (Wheaton College), Iris Montero Sobrevilla (Brown University), Irina Podgorny (CONICET, Argentina), VK Preston (Brown University/University of Toronto), Neil Safier (Brown University/JCB), Isabelle Surun (Nantes Institute for Advanced Studies)

March 4-5, 2016
Digital Futures for Indigenous Studies Roundtable

October 28, 2015

Roundtable. Commemorating the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act and the publication of Thomas R. Adams’ American Independence: The Growth of an Idea (1965). Participants: Marcela Echeverri, Philip Gould, Jack Greene, and Gordon Wood

September 11, 2015
America in a Global Context

Roundtable. Participants: Ben Breen (Society of Fellows, Columbia University), Lindsay Van Tine (University of Pennsylvania), Ayesha Ramachandran (Yale University), Roquinaldo Ferreira (Brown University). Joan-Pau Rubiés, moderator

May 1-3 2015
JCB Fellows' Reunion and Jamboree

The 72nd Annual Meeting of the Associates of the John Carter Brown Library and the second Fellows' Reunion and Jamboree for former fellows and friends of the Library was held.

April 3, 2015
Subterranean Worlds: Under the Earth in the Early Americas

Roundtable. Participants: Orlando Betancor, Barnard College, John Demos, Yale University, Allison Bigelow, University of Virginia, May Van Buren, Colorado State University, Kenneth Mills, University of Toronto




February 19-21, 2015
Merchants of the Printed Word: The Circulation and Commerce of Books in the Americas and Beyond

This symposium will bring together scholars whose research focuses on the circulation of print in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. The timing has been chosen to commemorate the 475th anniversary of the introduction of the printing press to America, and our hope is that the meeting will generate new insights into the collective history of the Americas as relate to the worlds of print. A keynote lecture by renowned historian Roger Chartier will open the conference on Thursday evening in the MacMillan Reading Room at the John Carter Brown Library.

A synthesis of the symposium presentations may be found on the Merchants of the Printed Word blog.

October 12-14, 2014
The Earliest Americas: A New Initiative in Indigenous Studies

 The film "Oil & Water" was screened on Oct. 12. Ned Blackhawk, Yale University, spoke on October 13 on "The Rediscovery of America: American Indians and the Unmaking of U. S. History." Tuesday, October 14,   a roundtable on "Native Americana: A Roundtable on Indigenous History and Memory," brought together scholars.  

February 9-11, 2014
Early Oceanic Histories: A New Initiative in Environmental Studies

On February 9 the film, Leviathan, was screened with a Q & A by the director, Lucien Castaign-Taylor. On February 10, the Sonia Galletti Lecture was given by W. Jeffrey Bolster, and on February 11, a roundtable on Environmental History, titled "American Oecologies," brought together a number of notable scholars.

April 22, 2014-May 23, 2015
1764: Brown's Founding in a Global Context

The Department of History and the John Carter Brown Library present a lecture series in celebration of Brown University's 250th Anniversary. The seven lectures will cover globalization, the slave trade, education, natives and empires, religion, health and medicine, and politics and governance, and have been organized in coordination with the Departments of Education and Religious Studies, the Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, the School of Public Health, the Haffenreffer Museum of Anthropology, and the Watson Institute for International Studies.

December 5-6, 2013

Interconnected: Finding East Asia in Early America
The European discovery of the Americas took place within the context of trying to reach Asia, and as the continued exploration of the Americas was framed by maritime and commercial ambitions regarding Asia, much of the print literature of the early modern period concerning exploration and colonization of the Americas also concerns—or primarily concerns—Asia.  This symposium will re-examine prevailing historical narratives from a new perspective.

October 25-26, 2013

Beyond Sweetness
A conference—in conjunction with the Library’s Fall 2013 exhibition on sugar in the early modern period—on new histories of sugar in the early Atlantic world. Please go to the conference website for information. Videos of all the sessions may be seen on Brown University's YouTube channel.

September 26, 2013-April 24, 2014

JCB/Brown British Atlantic Seminar (JBBAS) A series of presentations and discussions to encourage dialogue across the Early Modern Britain and Colonial North America divide. Co-organized by the JCB and the departments of History and English and funded in part by the Humanities Initiative at Brown University. Please see series website for more information here.

September 13, 2013

German Science and the Creation of Knowledge in the Atlantic World
This symposium brings together leading scholars to discuss the history of science in early modern Central Europe and its connections to the Atlantic World. The German-speaking lands, divided by political and sectarian boundaries in the 16th and 17th centuries, were a scene of intellectual ferment and led to a reconception of the world.

Registration required for symposium,
Hosted by the John Carter Brown Library and generously supported by the Program in Science and Technology Studies, Brown University, and the German Consulate General Boston.

June 9, 2013

Public Symposium - 1763 and the Americas
Co-presented with the 1763 Peace of Paris Commemoration (based at the Old State House Museum, Boston) and supported in part by the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, this Providence-Boston program brought together leading scholars to consider new perspectives on the Seven Years' War,  the 1763 Treaty of Paris that concluded it, and more.

April 24-26, 2013

The Classical Tradition in the Atlantic World A symposium, co-sponsored by the JCB and the departments of Hispanic Studies and Classics at Brown University, on Classical education and learning in the Americas

February 14-April 18, 2013

JCB/Brown British Atlantic Seminar A pilot series of papers and discussions to encourage dialogue across the Early Modern Britain and Colonial North America divide.

June 7-10, 2012

JCB Fellows" 50th To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of the JCB’s Fellowship Program, the Library hosted a celebratory conference for June 7-10, 2012, on “The Use of Old Sources in New Ways.” The conference explored some of the “new ways” that scholars and educators are using and will use the “old sources” in the JCB. Go to the JCB Fellows' 50th Conference website for the program and photographs of the event.