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EXPERTISE
History - General
Travel & Destinations
PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH:
BIOGRAPHY
Dr Elizabeth Griffith is an independent historian with a particular interest in the intersection of economic and cultural history, who has taught at the University of Virginia, Georgetown University, the Smithsonian, and other venues. She was a business school dean at Georgetown University for six years, and worked earlier in her career at National Public Radio, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Phillips Collection, and Monticello. An engaging speaker for audiences of all ages, in both formal and informal settings, she crafts richly illustrated presentations that feature destination highlights in historical perspective. And she loves to make people laugh.


PRESENTATIONS
All talks are written to resonate with ports of call and popular excursions, and illustrated with high-quality (300+ dpi) images.

VENICE

1. HISTORY OF VENICE: FROM THE BYZANTINES TO NAPOLEON.
Trace the eleven-century arc of the Venetian Empire from frightened refugee beginnings to triumphal prime to decadent but stylish decline.

2. THE VENETIAN SEA EMPIRE: FROM THE CROATIAN COAST TO CRETE, CYPRUS, AND THE GREEK ISLANDS.
Learn how, for six centuries, Venetians kept their coastal and island empire with naval skill, governing efficiency, and political audacity.

3. EXTRAORDINARY VENETIANS: AUDACIOUS MERCHANTS, WILY DOGES, AND MORE.
Get to know the Venetians - from Marco Polo to Casanova, Vivaldi the composer to Veronica Franco the courtesan poet - who made Venice what it was.

4. THE VENETIAN ARSENAL: THE WORLD'S FIRST AND LONGEST-OPERATING FACTORY.
Discover how hundreds of Venetian shipbuilders worked in a single site, centuries before the industrial revolution.

5. THE LION OF ST MARK: MOSAIC, STONE, AND BATTLE PENNANTS FROM THE DALMATIAN COAST TO THE AEGEAN SEA.
Follow one of the most recognized icons in history, from 828, when the bones of St Mark arrived in Venice, to 1797, when Napoleon ordered all stone lions chiseled away. (Spoiler: for once, Napoleon didn't get his way.)

6. THE MYTH OF VENICE CARVED IN STONE: LIONS, ANGELS, SWORDS, BOOKS, SCALES, ARCHES AND MORE.
See how the language coded in stone throughout Venice - in churches, bridges, palaces, and public buildings - reminded Venetians and visitors of the virtues of the Serenissima: independence, justice, wisdom, wealth, and good governance.

7. BRITISH AND VENETIAN DEALINGS, FROM THE TUDORS TO THE RAJ.
Follow the interactions of the two great naval powers, from the wars of religion in the 16th century, through the Grand Tour in the 18th century, to the British use of Venice as a key link to India in the 19th century.

BARCELONA

1. CATALAN IS NOT SPANISH, AND OTHER FACTS OF BARCELONA.
Delve into Catalan history and culture, from its commonsense ethos to its fanciful architecture, its ancient pride to its scatalogical humor, and more.

2. EXTRAORDINARY CATALANS: NATION BUILDERS, MERCHANTS, VISIONARIES, AND ARTISTS.
Meet founding father, Wilfred the Hairy; military merchant, Ramon Muntaner; modernist architect Antoni Gaudí; surrealist Salvador Dalí; and more.

3. THE CATALAN ATLAS: MASTERPIECE OF BEAUTY, KEY TO THE WORLD.
Thrill to the illuminated detail of the most complete picture of medieval times, produced by Cresques Abraham, the brilliant Majorcan cartographer.

OTHER MEDITERRANEAN DESTINATIONS

1. CONTESTED COASTLINE: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE WESTERN ADRIATIC.
Explore the Croatian landfall from Romans to Hungarians, Venetians to Pirates, Ottomans to Communists to today.

2. PIRATES OF THE ADRIATIC: NARENTINES AND USKOKS, OSMIN AND ULCINJ.
Dig into the experience of Adriatic pirates, hidden in the planet's most indented stretch of coast.

3. ROSSELINI'S ROME: OPEN CITY, PAISAN, AND ESCAPE BY NIGHT.
Experience the humanity, hope, and tragedy of World War II Rome as envisioned by the neo-realist master.

4. A SHORT HISTORY OF THE ENGLISH IN ITALY: FROM TUDOR ADVENTURERS TO BLOOMSBURY AESTHETES.
Follow English merchants to Livorno, collectors to Florence, and eccentrics to Venice in this cultural history.

5. TOULON: WATER GATE TO FRANCE.
A superb natural anchorage of the Mediterranean, Toulon has sheltered, imprisoned, inspired, and been shaped by some of European history's most unforgettable characters: Barbarossa, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Jean Valjean, and the Venus de Milo.

6. THE CONTRIBUTION OF SPAIN TO THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
Explore the untold story of the Spanish aid to the American colonists in their fight against the British – and the special role played by Málaga.

7. THE MEDICI BANK: ITS RISE AND FALL.
Learn the origins of the Renaissance powerhouse as they lent and lost in Rome, Florence, Venice, Naples, Rome, Milan, Pisa, Geneva, Lyons, Avignon, Bruges, and London.

8. THREE RENAISSANCE WOMEN OF VENICE AND FLORENCE: IN THEIR OWN WORDS.
Get to know a nun, a courtesan, and a mother through their own letters, books, and testimony.


NORTHERN EUROPE

1. CROSSING THE CHANNEL IN 1066: HOW WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR GOT HIS ARMY TO ENGLAND.
Learn how the Norman invader got 7,000 men across the Channel, with their armor, weapons, horses and supplies, on upwards of 700 ships.

2. WHO STEALS MY PURSE: SHAKESPEARE’S CHARACTERIZATIONS OF MONEY, TRADE AND BUSINESS.
Hear the Bard in context of the economic tensions of his time, as we highlight the financial trajectory of his own life, and show how his characters – from Othello to Shylock to Falstaff – illustrate these dynamics.

3. THE CAMINO: PILGRIMAGE PATHS TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA.
Follow the network of paths that pilgrims from all over the world have been walking since the 9th century, beginning in Spain, France, Portugal and beyond, and ending in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

4. THE ART OF THE MIDNIGHT SUN: PAINTINGS, PRINTS, FILM, POETRY, AND MUSIC.
Revel in how the midnight sun has inspired artists to give us low blue light, dazzling midnight sunsets, and red circles that refuse to dip below the horizon… and show how the midnight sun makes us all just a little crazy.

5. THE HANSE: INVENTIVE MERCHANTS FROM BERGEN TO HAMBURG, LONDON TO NOVGOROD.
Admire the medieval merchants who knit together a trade network throughout the North and Baltic Seas from scores of cities and towns with different languages, laws, and currencies, providing their own protection and codes.

OTHER DESTINATIONS AND TOPICS

1. THE BRITISH AND THE DUTCH IN SOUTHERN AFRICA: TWO CENTURIES OF COLONIAL CONFLICT.
South Africa was midway between the Dutch West Indies in the Caribbean and East Indies in Asia – and between England and its Indian colonies by sea. Follow the conflict between the two superpowers, and how it left its mark on vibrant South Africa today.

2. THE LAND GOD MADE IN ANGER: NAMIBIA’S BREATHTAKING LANDSCAPE AND STORIED HISTORY.
Take in this land of startling natural beauty, from mountainous dunes to lunar landscapes to cheetahs in the wild. See the stunning visual reminders of its colonial history, from the mining town being reclaimed by the sand, to the traditional dress adopted by one tribe to mock its German colonizers.

3. THE STORIES BEHIND THE STILLS: THE MOVIE CASABLANCA AND THE HISTORY THAT INSPIRED IT.
Uncover the wartime stories of courage and survival, from all over Europe, depicted in one of the greatest movies ever made.

4. LITERARY IMPERIALISM: SOMERSET MAUGHAM IN ASIA
The master British storyteller Somerset Maugham traveled throughout Asia, collecting and the writing stories that made him one of the most prolific authors of his generation. Get a taste for the picture he paints of British colonial life – and his own eccentric one.

5. THE CHINESE TREASURE FLEETS OF ADMIRAL ZHENG HE
In the time of the European Renaissance, China launched voyages to Southeast Asia, South Asia, Western Asia, and East Africa, in ships that dwarfed those of the European powers. Had Zheng not been recalled for political reasons, the Chinese would likely have rounded the southern cape of Africa from the East half a century before Bartolomeu Dias did from the West.

6. THE BUENOS AIRES OF JORGE LUIS BORGES
Discover the writer who launched magical realism, Argentine Jorge Luis Borges. His short works deal with labyrinths, libraries, dreams – and his beloved country.
CRUISE HISTORY / EXPERIENCE
Backroads, June 2013. PowerPoint talk “The History of Southern Dalmatia” for all-ages trip to Croatia.
Smithsonian, June 2008. PowerPoint talk “The History of the Venetian Empire” for all-ages trip to the Greek islands.
Smithsonian Institution, March 2006. PowerPoint talk “Power Plays: Shakespeare’s Lessons on Leadership."Smithsonian Institution, August 2004. PowerPoint talk “The Venetian Arsenal” as part of series “Splendors of Venice.”