The History Series at Salisbury House and Gardens

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2010-2011 History Series

in this series...


Adrienne Mayor


Virginia Scharff


Walter Borneman

The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy
Adrienne Mayor
Thursday, May 19, 2011

Machiavelli praised his military genius. European royalty sought out his secret elixir against poison. His life inspired Mozart's first opera, while for centuries poets and playwrights recited bloody, romantic tales of his victories, defeats, intrigues, concubines, and mysterious death. But until now no modern historian has recounted the full story of Mithradates, the ruthless king and visionary rebel who challenged the power of Rome in the first century BC. In this richly illustrated book--the first biography of Mithradates in fifty years--Adrienne Mayor combines a storyteller's gifts with the most recent archaeological and scientific discoveries to tell the tale of Mithradates as it has never been told before.

Currently a visiting scholar at Stanford University, Adrienne Mayor is a classical folklorist and historian of science and ancient war. Her research on pre-scientific myths and oral traditions has been featured on NPR and the BBC and in The New York Times and National Geographic; the History Channel's Ancient Monster Hunters is based on her book The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Mayor's 2003 book Greek Fire, Poison Arrows & Scorpion Bombs: Biological and Chemical Warfare in the Ancient World broke ground by revealing the ancient roots of biochemical warfare. Her newest book, The Poison King: The Life and Legend of Mithradates, Rome's Deadliest Enemy, is a finalist for a 2009 National Book Award in nonfiction.

A gifted storyteller, Mayor has been praised for her ability to craft stories that are as "juicy and entertaining" as they are scholarly and rigorous.

Virginia Scharff of the University of New Mexico
Virginia Scharff
April 28, 2011

Reception 6:45 pm
Lecture:  7:30 pm

Salisbury House & Gardens is pleased to announce Virginia Scharff of the University of New Mexico will serve as
the next History Series speaker on Thursday, April 28.  Her current book, The Women Jefferson Loved (2010) is the first major study of Thomas Jefferson's female kin and intimate companions.

In the book, Scharff puts Jefferson's free and slave families into the same story, and reveals how Jefferson's love
for women shaped his ideas, achievements, and legacies. For the first time, Scharff gives us a Jefferson who belongs to all of us. Her earlier scholarly publications include Twenty Thousand Roads: Women, Movement, and the West, and Taking the Wheel: Women and the Coming of the Motor Age.

Her academic honors include being named Beinecke Research Fellow in the Lamar Center for Frontiers and Borders at Yale University (2008-9), Women of the West Chair at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles, and a Fellow of the Society of American Historians. She was President of the Western History Association for 2008, and is considered one of the foremost historians of women in the American West.

Writing and editing history books has kept her pretty busy. Still, she is also the author (under the name Virginia Swift) of four mystery suspense novels set in the American West, featuring professor and country singer "Mustang Sally" Alder: Brown-Eyed Girl, Bad Company, Bye, Bye, Love, and Hello, Stranger.


Rival Rails: The Race to Build America’s Greatest Transcontinental Railroad
Walter Borneman
September 30, 2010

Reception 6:45 pm
Lecture:  7:30 pm

Salisbury House & Gardens is pleased to host Walter R. Borneman upon the release of his book, Rival Rails: The Race to Build America’s Greatest Transcontinental Railroad. Much has been written about America’s first transcontinental railroad, but dozens of railroads raced one another for the ultimate prize of a southern transcontinental route that was generally free of snow, shorter in distance, and gentler in gradients. From wagon ruts to a railroad empire, this is the story of the battles to control the heavily contested transportation corridors of the American Southwest and to build America’s greatest transcontinental route through them. When the dust finally settled, the southern route linking Los Angeles and Chicago had become the most significant of the nation’s transcontinental railroads.

Borneman is an award-winning author whose other books include Alaska: Saga of a Bold Land ; 1812: The War That Forged a Nation ; 14,000 Feet: A Celebration of Colorado’s Highest Mountains , The French and Indian War: Deciding the Fate of North America , and Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America.

Click here, Rival Rails, to see a brief video of Walter Borneman discussing Rival Rails.

Click here, Alaskan Railroads Interview, to read Walter Borneman’s thoughts on the history of railroads in America’s 49th state.

To learn more about Mr. Borneman, visit Walter Borneman’s Website.


Check back later to learn about additional speakers for the 2010-2011 History Series.


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