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Coming this Winter


For the past two years, the news media, having largely focused on the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, failed to emphasize enough the significance of a number of recent or ongoing conflicts. Let’s take an example: the short-lived, yet bloody conflict between the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh and Azerbaijan (South Caucasus), which took place in the fall of 2020. Following the ceasefire signed on November 10, 2020, the victory of Azerbaijan marked the return of a geopolitical dynamic inherited from the 19th century, with Turkey, Russia and Iran as major actors in the background. Just like many other conflicts in the Caucasus and beyond, some still ongoing, the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war illustrated the diplomatic and geopolitical effacement of Europe and the United States, paving the way for a broader shift in international relations. Each month, starting in February, I propose to discuss a recent or ongoing conflict (or tensions that could lead to a conflict), from the war in Ukraine, the failed revolution in Belarus and the migrant crisis its president orchestrated last summer, the campaigns of disinformation and their potential impact, the never-ending conflict in Syria, the foreign military intervention in Libya, the aftermath of the U.S. disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the tensions in the South China sea and much more…

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1. Tensions in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus: what is Vladimir Putin up to? (Olivier Courteaux Historian, via LIVE ZOOM)

Thirty years have passed since the end of the Cold War and tensions between Russia and the West have never been so high. Vladimir Putin, who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”, has adopted what is widely perceived in the West: forging military alliances and economic partnerships with Asia, while attempting to destabilize Ukraine and the Caucasus. Between 2014 and 2019, thousands have lost their lives in Ukraine. Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, triggering widespread condemnation in the West. Vladimir Putin, who once called the collapse of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”, has adopted a much different approach: forging military alliances and economic partnerships with Asia, while attempting to destabilize Ukraine and the Caucasus. A look at the current tensions over Ukraine, Russia’s increasingly tight relationship with Belarus and the nature of its involvement in the Nagorno-Karabagh “frozen” conflict in the Caucasus. What is Vladimir Putin up to? And what does he really want to achieve?

Monday 4 April 2022, at 1:00 PM ET (Register here)


Residence of the last three kings of France, Versailles was also the home of their spouses, daughters and… mistresses. Each of those women left her mark on Versailles. A 4 lecture series to discover or rediscover them and their often improbable yet always exceptional destinies…

The Women of Versailles

1.       The Versailles of Louis XIV (Olivier Courteaux Historian, via LIVE ZOOM)

Louis XIV created Versailles to showcase his power and keep a turbulent nobility close. Women, however, played a key role in transforming Versailles into a center of elegance and good manners. From the rather insignificant Queen Maria-Theresa to Mme de Maintenon, the secret wife, a look at the role of women at Versailles following Louis XIV’s decision to make it his official residence as well as the heart of his government.

Monday 17 January 2022, at 12 noon ET (Register here)

2.       The Queen and the Favourite (Olivier Courteaux Historian, via LIVE ZOOM)

Betrothed at the tender age of eleven, married at fifteen to a Polish princess eight years his elder, Louis XV began a string of tumultuous and well-known love affairs with three sisters before falling for the ambitious and soon to be famous Mme de Pompadour. A look at the rivalries between his queen, Marie Leszczynska, the mother of his many children (all but one daughters!) the guardian of Court tradition, and his favourite who became his friend and trusted political advisor, for better or for worse.

Monday 24 January 2022, at 12 noon ET (Register here)


3.       Mme du Barry (Olivier Courteaux Historian, via LIVE ZOOM)

A little less than four years following the death of Mme de Pompadour, the future Mme du Barry, a known high-class prostitute, was introduced to Louis XV. Her great beauty and her natural charm conquered an aging and increasingly depressive king. Thanks to her royal protector, she rose quickly to the apex of society. She even got presented at Court, despite the many oppositions, not least from the formidable daughters of the king; until she found her match: a young Austrian Archduchess named Marie-Antoinette…

Monday 31 January 2022, at 12 noon ET (Register here)


4.       Marie-Antoinette (Olivier Courteaux Historian, via LIVE ZOOM)

Married at fourteen to the heir to the French throne (Dauphin), Marie-Antoinette arrived at Versailles in 1770. Within the next nineteen years (fifteen as queen consort), in search of a more independent lifestyle, surrounded by friends of her choice, including the beautiful Duchess of Polignac, she transgressed many of the sacrosanct Court rules established by Louis XIV. Her private apartments and the Petit Trianon remain to this day “the most refined, the most fragile, and yet the most indestructible shrine of (an) essentially artificial blossoming” (Stefan Zweig). A look at the most famous of French queens and her female friends. 

Monday 7 February 2022, at 12 noon ET (Register here)

Fall 2023

  • Word Affairs in the 1970's

      (Living and Learning in Retirement)

Future Courses and Conferences

Winter 2022

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Since 2011, the term "Indo-Pacific", a geopolitical area that comprises 24 nations from the waters of the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and the seas connecting the two, is being used increasingly to describe a political and diplomatic confrontation aimed at gaining global influence. A look at the history of the region, its actors: China, India, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, the U.S., France... and why the Indo-Pacific region is fast becoming the latest geopolitical "hot" zone.​

On 27 September 52 BC, Vercingetorix was poised to defeat Caesar's mighty legions. Yet the exact opposite took place. How can we explain such a military disaster? In 1785, Marie Antoinette's reputation was forever tarnished by the scandalous "Affair of the Diamond Necklace." Was she really guilty? On 25 November 1809, the British ambassador to Vienna disappeared without a trace. What happened? On 29 May 1968, Charles de Gaulle, then president of France, disappeared. Why did he travel to Baden-Baden, Germany? The secrets surrounding those events were never completely solved. A closer look at eight mysterious episodes, some forgotten, but all still fascinating. ​

Want to escape the winter blahs? Join us on a tour of Paris with wondrous sights and a little history along the way.

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