2013-2014 History Series

in this series

Buddy Levy

Jeff Guinn

Heath Lee

Michael Neiberg

Evenings begin with a 6:45 Reception. Talks begin at 7:30 p.m. in the Salisbury House Common Room.

RIVER OF DARKNESS:  Francisco Orellana’s Historic Descent of the Amazon
Buddy Levy
Thursday, October 3rd

The History Series inaugural lecture will feature author, professor and television personality Buddy Levy who will discuss his latest nonfiction book, River of Darkness. Although this Spanish expedition accidentally ended up hurtling down the Amazon River, the trek was not propelled by a noble desire for exploration. Orellana’s journey instead was fueled by an intense and insatiable lust for gold.

Buddy’s Picks for further reading and research for topics related to River of Darkness:

Online Resources:


  • Albornoz. Miguel.  Hernando de Soto:  Knight of the Americas.  Translated from the Spanish by Bruce Boeglin.  New York and Toronto, 1986. 
  • Bernard, Brendan.   Pizarro, Orellana, and the Exploration of the Amazon.  New York, 1991. 
  • Wilde, Lyn Webster.  On the Trail of the Women Warriors:  The Amazons in Myth and History.  New York, 1999. 


  • Cleary, David.  “Towards and Environmental History of the Amazon:  From Prehistory to the Nineteenth Century.”  Latin American Research Review, vol. 36, no. 2 (2001), 65-96. 
  • Ferguson, Brian R.  “Blood of the Leviathan:  Western Contact and Warfare in Amazonia.”  American Ethnologist, vol 17, no. 2 (May, 1990):  237-57. 
  • Hardwick, Lorna.  “Ancient Amazons:  Heroes, Outsiders, or Women?”  Greece and Rome, vol. 37, no. 1 (April, 1990), 14-36. 

The Last Gunfight:  The Real Story of the Shootout at the OK Corral-And How it Changed the American West.    
Jeff Guinn   
Thursday, November 14th

On the afternoon of October 26, 1881, in a vacant lot in Tombstone, Arizona, a showdown between eight armed men erupted in a deadly shootout. This scenario has spawned countless cinematic interpretations. But what really happened that day? Author Jeff Guinn separates fact from fiction in The Last Gunfight Utilizing archival research and new material from private collections, Guinn deconstructs the myth of the OK Corral and finds that the truth is even more colorful than the fictional tale.

Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause
Heath Lee
Thursday, April 17th

Des Moines resident Heath Lee discusses her debut biography, about Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis, the youngest daughter of Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Known throughout the post-Civil War South as the “Daughter of the Confederacy,” the young woman fell in love with the Northern grandson of a famous abolitionist. Revelations in the press about this relationship brought North-South tensions to a head, and Winnie and her family were forced back into the national spotlight. Based upon years of research and interviews with descendants of the Davis family, Daughter of the Lost Cause is a real-life saga set in the last days of the Civil War and in the dawn of the New South.

Online Resources:

Dance of the Furies
Michael Neiberg
Thursday, May 1st

Michael Nieberg will close the 2013-2014 History Series with his lecture exploding myths about Europe and World War I. Neiberg’s book shows that ordinary Europeans, unlike their political and military leadership, neither wanted nor expected war during the summer of 1914. The author’s extensive research through letters, diaries and memoirs of these everyday citizens across Europe illustrates the shock and horror they experienced when the nightmare of war became a reality. It was only after the fighting and bloodshed began that national hatreds began truly emerge.