Explore the lives and achievements of great leaders in history.

The world has seen many great leaders who strove hard to make the world a better place to live in. This series looks at the lives and achievements of some of the most important and influential leaders in history.

Tuesday 9 May

When the White House was Internationalist:  Woodrow Wilson and Eleanor Roosevelt

Under its new President, the US seems likely to move away from a commitment to promoting liberal democratic values internationally.  For most of the 20th century, the US justified its work in international institutions and its direct and indirect interventions in other countries by claiming that its aim was to spread democracy and human rights globally.  While this has sometimes been more rhetorical than actual, in some periods, internationalist idealism has clearly motivated American leaders.

This seminar focuses on two cases:  Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the US who led the movement to found the League of Nations, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1919, and Eleanor Roosevelt:  wife of the 32nd President, who actively supported human rights at home and abroad and, appointed as first Chair of the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1946, led the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 Associate Professor Katherine Smits
BJur, BA (Hons), MPhil, MA, PhD

Katherine Smits is Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Auckland. She researches and teaches in political theory, and has published widely on both historical and contemporary political thought and politics.  She focuses on liberalism and its relationship to identity politics, multiculturalism, indigeneity and nationalism in settler societies, particularly New Zealand and Australia. Her most recent book is Applying Political Theory (2016), which explores and analyses key current political issues and controversies from the critical perspectives of contemporary normative political philosophy.

Tuesday 16 May

Antony and Cleopatra: lust, leadership, and legacy

Most people know “Antony and Cleopatra” as a pair of tragic lovers, rather than as the major military and political leaders that they were. “Failures” in life, they became immortal in their deaths, thanks largely to their dramatic suicides in 31 BC. The story of these failed lovers has echoed in plays, television, and most famously the 1963 blockbuster film, Cleopatra. But what reality lies behind the myth of petulant Queen Cleopatra and the drunken drop-out Antony?

In this seminar, Dr Jeremy Armstrong and Dr Maxine Lewis will discuss the ancient sources for Antony and Cleopatra, from Egyptian monuments, to coins, to Roman poems. They will examine the historical figures as leaders and individuals, exploring both the reasons behind their enduring appeal and why they ultimately failed in their aims.

 Dr Maxine Lewis
BA (Hons), PhD

Dr Maxine Lewis researches Roman history, language, and literature. She specialises in gender and sexuality in antiquity, especially in the construction of “deviant” men and women in the ancient sources.

 Dr Jeremy Armstrong
BA (Hons), MLitt, PhD

Dr Jeremy Armstrong is a Roman historian and archaeologist. His main areas of interest are early Rome and the politics, the army, and military leaders of the Roman Republic.