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Peter Mancall, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History and Anthropology, University of Southern California

Robert C. Ritchie, Former Director of Research at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens


This seminar will explore the initial creation of “America,” with a particular focus on the period from European contact (starting in 1492) through the establishment of permanent colonies in English North America (1620). We will draw extensively on Native American and European understandings of the early colonial period in territory stretching from Arctic Canada to Brazil, which will necessitate wrestling with both oral and written sources. We will also examine visual and material evidence relating to local and long-distance travel and trade, including the dangers migrants faced on the high seas and the woes that came to Natives who suffered from an invasion of European diseases as well as the threats to their communities and ways of life posed by land-hungry colonizers and soul-hungry priests. The seminar will include a visit to a colonial Spanish mission site as well as the chance to look at rare maps and other manuscript materials in the collections of the Huntington Library. “America,” the seminar will suggest, cannot be understand only as a physical place. Instead, we need to recognize it as the location for countless encounters, which together led to far-reaching changes in the lives of indigenous Americans as well as European and African travelers.


Readings are sent by the Institute to seminar participants. Please check back soon for a list of readings.

Travel & Accommodations

The University of Southern California is located in Los Angeles, California. The nearest airport is Los Angeles International Airport. For more information on the campus please click here.

Participants will be in on-campus dormitories in single rooms, but may share bathrooms and common space with other participants. Participants should plan to bring laptops as computer access on campus will be limited.


Meals will be provided by the Gilder Lehrman Institute for American History.

Travel Reimbursement

Participants are responsible for making their own travel arrangements to and from the seminar. Each seminar participant will receive reimbursement of travel expenses up to $400. Please read our complete travel reimbursement policy before applying.

Graduate Credit

The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is proud to announce its agreement with Adams State University to offer three hours of graduate credit in American history to participating seminar teachers. For more information click here.

Course Reviews from Summer 2013 Participants

“This seminar was organized perfectly. The group of teachers selected to participate were diverse and well balanced. The professors were exceptionally knowledgeable and accessible . . . The American Origins seminar at USC may have been one of the most effective and rewarding seminars I have ever participated in.”

“This was an amazing experience! Beyond my wildest dreams. The hands on field trips made everything come to life. The quality of the content, the passion and enthusiasm infused in the delivery, and mastery of the scholars presenting to us was simply inspiring. The coordinator's friendliness, support, and facilitation skills made everything seem just effortless. Finally, the overall content was totally engaging, on topic task, and to the point. Not a moment wasted. Masterful teaching! Many thanks. I have begun to lay out materials for the upcoming year and feel confident I can bring back this fire to all my grade level team district wide.”

“The seminar was the best educational conference I have ever attended. Everything was great. The professors were truly amazing with their depth of knowledge and obvious love of the subject matter. The master teacher was wonderful and helpful with everything. It was so refreshing to be with educational professionals that were so eager to learn and improve their own teaching. I was really interested in everyone’s experiences thus far with the Common Core. The lesson I created will start the core of my social studies unit and I am borrowing so many of the ideas my colleagues shared. This was truly an all around wonderful educational experience for me and energized me so that I can’t wait to start with my students this fall!”


Email the Teacher Seminars department or call 646-366-9666.

July 6th, 2014 5:00 PM   through   July 12th, 2014 9:00 AM
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Seminar Fee
Attending $50.00
Not Attending $0.00

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