The Lincoln Bicentennial
Conference in Paris

By Steven Ekovitch / Created 2009-12-15

On October 17-18 The American University of Paris hosted the international conference “European Readings of Abraham Lincoln, His Times & Legacy.” The occasion was the Lincoln Bicentennial.  This was the first time ever that a conference on the sixteenth American president had been held in France, and only the second time in Europe. The first since the Lincoln presidency (1861-1865) was held only last July at Oxford University. Many of the same scholars who participated in the Oxford conference were on hand at AUP. There have been over 17,000 books on Lincoln written in English, whereas in French there have been only four, and two of them recently published. Both French authors participated in the conference.

The conference was organized principally by Professor Naomi Wulf of the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, and Professor John Dean of the Université Versailles-St-Quentin.  AUP President Celeste Schenck welcomed the participants; the president of the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Marie-Christine Lemardesley thanked the organizers and AUP. The papers delivered covered Lincoln’s personal biography, his political career, and his war-time presidency from a European perspective. Lincoln’s portrayal in European and American popular culture was also explored. Lincoln was presented in all of his complex dimensions – not only as an eminent political leader and one of the greatest of American presidents, but also as talented orator, author, poet, visionary, romantic and political philosopher. Lincoln is chiefly remembered as a skillful, pragmatic politician and strategist, whose political skills were ultimately employed in the service of the great moral crusade against slavery.

The October 17 plenary session was presented by Professor Richard Carwardine of St. Catherine College, Oxford with a paper entitled Abraham Lincoln: the Nationalist as Universalist.  Lincoln’s speeches were analyzed, as were his representations in national ceremonies, statuary and photographs. A plenary by Professor David Blight of Yale University, focusing on America’s Man for All Seasons: The Paradoxical Legacies of Abraham Lincoln, recalled that Lincoln was despised as well as loved. Panels covered Lincoln and the Euro-American tradition of free thought, and Lincoln in Europe. AUP’s Professor Steven Ekovich chaired the panel From the Civil War to World War II: Lincoln and War Seen from Europe.

Besides scholars from many French universities, those from the U.S. included: Brown University, Louisana State University, the University of Illinois, and Texas A&M University. European scholars came from Queen’s College, Belfast, Jena University, Germany, the University of Lancaster, and the University of Wolverhampton in the UK.

Steven Ekovich is Associate Professor of Political Science and History. He received his BA, MA, and PhD, from The University of California, Irvine.