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Richard Bell

Fee Range1: $ 4000 - $6000

American Historian, Authority on the Revolution and the Freedom Struggle


Founding FathersHistory




Richard Bell

American Historian, Authority on the Revolution and the Freedom Struggle

Richard Bell is Professor of History at the University of Maryland. British by birth and by sense of humor, he holds a BA from the University of Cambridge and a PhD from Harvard University. He is a historian of the early United States who has written on a variety of topics. His most recent book is Stolen: Five Free Boys Kidnapped into Slavery and their Astonishing Odyssey Home (2019). Bell has won more than a dozen teaching awards, including the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching, the highest honor for teaching faculty in the Maryland state system. He has held major research fellowships at Yale, Cambridge, and the Library of Congress and is the recipient of the National Endowment of the Humanities Public Scholar award. Bell serves as a Trustee of the Maryland Historical Society, as an elected member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and as a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He also lectures frequently for One Day University and for The Great Courses.


Two Harriets: Tubman and Beecher Stowe

“So you’re the little lady who started this great war!” President Abraham Lincoln said when he met Harriet Beecher Stowe. This “little lady” was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)a roller-coaster anti-slavery novel that had become a huge best-seller. Lincoln and many other people at the time believed that Stowe’s novel had actually caused the Civil War by intensifying sentiment against slavery in the North and by spurring an intense backlash of proslavery feeling in the southern states that soon seceded to form the Confederacy. But Lincoln might just have well have been talking to and about Harriet Tubman. Like Stowe, Tubman’s activism advanced the fight against slavery and edged this country closer to Civil War. As the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, Tubman worked to build an antislavery escape network that stretched from the bowels of the slave South all the way into British Canada.  

The Restless Genius of Benjamin Franklin

Franklin’s genius is a puzzle. Born the tenth son of a decidedly humble family of puritan candle-makers in Boston in 1706, Franklin’s rise to the front ranks of science, engineering, and invention was as unexpected as it was meteoric. In this talk, we examine many of Franklin’s ideas to make life simpler, cheaper, and easier. It turns out that those ideas encompassed not only natural science and engineering—the kite experiments and the bifocals—but also all sorts of public works, civic improvements, political trail-blazing, and fresh, new business ideas. His relentless drive to build a better world one small piece at a time even included innovations in medical device design, in music, in cookery, and in ventriloquism. Hardly the tortured genius, Franklin took a schoolchild’s pleasure in experimentation, even when things went wrong—which they did all the time! 


Untold Stories of the American Revolution

The American Revolution is this country’s founding moment. It marks the birth of a nation committed to the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But the full story of the American Revolution requires us to look beyond the lives of Washington, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson. This talk probes unexpected corners of this sprawling, eight-year war and expands its cast of characters to include the typhoid-ridden immigrant corset-maker who wrote the pamphlet that gave colonists the confidence to believe they could beat Britain; the widow who became the most important Native American leader during the war; the enslaved stable hand at Mount Vernon who ran off to join the war and who ended up on the other side of the world; and the Massachusetts woman who disguised herself as a man so that she could serve in Washington’s Army.


Hamilton: How the Musical Remixes American History

America has Hamilton-mania! Everyone’s talking about Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical. Its crafty lyrics, hip-hop tunes, and big, bold story have even rejuvenated interest in the real lives and true histories that Hamilton: the Musical puts center stage. In this talk we explore this musical phenomenon to reveal what its success tells us about the marriage of history and show-business. We’ll learn what this amazing musical gets right and gets wrong about Alexander Hamilton, the American Revolution, and the birth of the United Sates and about why all that matters. We will examine some of the choices Hamilton’s creators made to simplify, dramatize, and humanize the complicated events and stories on which the show is based. We will also talk about Hamilton’s cultural impact: what does its runaway success reveal about the stories we tell each other about who we are and about the nation we made?




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