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January 31, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg and the Chautauqua Institution 'Turning Worlds Upside Down' with an exploration of liberty and democracy in revolutionary times

Colonial Williamsburg and the Chautauqua Institution present an exploration of revolutions past and present Feb. 21-22. “Turning Worlds Upside Down: Liberty and Democracy in Revolutionary Times” investigates how the desire for justice and human rights throughout history has motivated people who felt themselves oppressed to seek political change that promised a better future.

Presentations and historical reenactments look at how the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence were challenged as the American Revolution evolved into the War for Independence and how present day revolutions confront those same challenges. Distinguished historians and journalists examine the conflicts between revolutionary ideals and the day-to-day realities of self-governance in periods of social and political upheaval.

The two-day program opens at 5 p.m. Friday with a welcome from Colin G. Campbell, president and CEO of Colonial Williamsburg, quickly followed by “Every Great Revolution is a Civil War,” a lively presentation by David Armitage, Harvard University’s Lloyd C. Blankfein professor of history. An evening reception wraps up the day.

Saturday’s presentations begin with a panel discussion moderated by James Horn, Colonial Williamsburg’s vice president of research and historical interpretation and Abby and George O'Neill Director of the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library. “The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and the Chautauqua Institution: Forums for History, Citizenship and Democracy” includes opportunities for audience participation. Panelists are Colin G. Campbell; William E. (Bill) White, Ph.D., Colonial Williamsburg’s Royce R. & Kathryn M. Baker vice president of productions, publications and learning ventures; Thomas M. Becker, president of the Chautauqua Institution, and Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for education of the Chautauqua Institution.

Midmorning is punctuated with a dramatic presentation followed by a moderated discussion. “The ‘Hairbuyer,’ The Case against General Hamilton” broaches the issue of what is justice during active revolutionary hostilities. Henry Hamilton, British Governor General of Detroit, was captured and brought to Williamsburg in 1779 for alleged war crimes and held incommunicado for months but never formally charged. The discussion is moderated by Bill Weldon, Colonial Williamsburg’s creative director of Revolutionary City. Panelists are Patrick Griffin, Ph.D., Madden-Hennebry professor of history at the University of Notre Dame and R. Scott Stephenson, Ph.D., senior curator and director of collections and interpretation of The Museum of the American Revolution.

Midday features a luncheon and lecture in the Regency Room of the Williamsburg Inn. “Challenges of Revolution: Liberty and Democracy in the Middle East” is presented by award-winning journalist Robin Wright, joint fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Two dramatic presentations highlight the afternoon sessions.

• Performed by Colonial Williamsburg actor-interpreters, “Fightin’ Another Man's War” explores the ramifications of a 1781 Virginia law that allowed the state to use slaves as bounties to encourage the enlistment of white soldiers. Enslaved figures react to the law and what it means for a war fought for liberty. Annette Gordon-Reed, the Charles Warren professor of American legal history at Harvard Law School, conducts post-performance interviews with the cast to illuminate their portrayals and what the scene represents.
• “The Sacred Foundations of Liberty and Equality” is a conversation between Thomas Jefferson and the Marquis de Lafayette upon Lafayette’s return to Virginia in 1824. Portrayed by Colonial Williamsburg actors Bill Barker and Mark Schneider respectively, Jefferson and Lafayette reminisce about the American Revolution while Lafayette reasserts his renunciation of the excesses and horrors of the French Revolution.

The final session is “Emerging Citizenships,” a roundtable discussion moderated by James Horn and joined by Robin Wright, David Armitage, Tom Becker, Annette Gordon-Reed and William E. (Bill) White.

A final reception concludes “Turning Worlds Upside Down: Liberty and Democracy in Revolutionary Times.”

The registration fee for “Turning Worlds Upside Down: Liberty and Democracy in Revolutionary Times” is $175. Registration includes the opening reception, lunch, the closing reception, all presentations proposed in the agenda and a Colonial Williamsburg admission ticket valid through Feb. 23. More information is available by calling (855) 296-6627 or go to

Preregistration and payment in full are required. Payment can be made by check or charged to American Express, Discover, Visa or MasterCard. Online registration is available at and requires payment by credit card. Registration and payment may also be made by calling (800) 603-0948, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Registration and payment by check may be done by mailing a check (payable to The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation) to Deborah Chapman, Colonial Williamsburg, P.O. Box 1776, Williamsburg, VA 23187-1776.
The Chautauqua Institution is a not-for-profit, 750-acre community on Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state, where approximately 7,500 persons are in residence on any day during a nine-week season, and a total of over 100,000 attend scheduled public events. This summer, Chautauqua continues its partnership with Colonial Williamsburg for a week of lectures titled "Emerging Citizenship: The Egyptian Experience," July 14-18.
Speakers include Colonial Williamsburg's Colin G. Campbell, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Gordon Wood, scholar Dalia Mogahed, and Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. For more information please visit
The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation preserves, restores and operates Virginia’s 18th-century capital of Williamsburg, Va., as a 21st-century center for history and citizenship. Innovative and interactive experiences, such as the street theatre Revolutionary City? and the RevQuest: Save the Revolution! series of technology-assisted alternate reality games, highlight the relevance of the American Revolution to contemporary life and the importance of an informed, active citizenry. The Colonial Williamsburg experience includes more than 400 restored or reconstructed original buildings, renowned museums of decorative arts and folk art, extensive educational outreach programs for students and teachers, lodging, culinary options from historic taverns to casual or elegant dining, the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club featuring 45 holes designed by Robert Trent Jones and his son Rees Jones, a full-service spa and fitness center, pools, retail stores and gardens. Philanthropic support and revenue from admissions, products and hospitality operations sustain Colonial Williamsburg’s educational programs and preservation initiatives.

Media Contact:
Jim Bradley