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YORKTOWN, Va., August 19, 2011 – Public lectures by historians Jon Kukla, Robert Selig and Edward Ayres at 7 p.m. Saturdays, September 10 and 24 and October 8, will illuminate exhibit and interpretive themes at the Yorktown Victory Center, a museum of the American Revolution.  The series leads up to the anniversary of the decisive American victory at Yorktown in 1781, observed with special programs the weekend of October 15-16 and on October 19, the date of the formal British surrender. 

The lectures will take place in the Yorktown Victory Center’s Richard S. Reynolds Foundation Theater.  Admission is free, and advance reservations are recommended by contacting rsvp@jyf.virginia.gov or (757) 253-5185.  The lectures are supported with a grant from Dominion Resources.

John Adams, Patrick Henry, and the Elusive Origins of the Revolution,” presented on September 10 by Jon Kukla, will explore John Adams’ efforts late in life to advance his contention that New England had led the way in the struggle for American independence.  Patrick Henry’s bold leadership against Great Britain made a strong impression on Adams when they met at the First Continental Congress in 1774, but Adams grew impatient with Virginia’s ascendancy during the Jeffersonian era and framed events in a manner that supported his views about New England’s pre-eminence.

Dr. Kukla’s recent books include “Mr. Jefferson’s Women” and “A Wilderness So Immense: The Louisiana Purchase and the Destiny of America.”  He received a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto and over three decades worked as director of historical research and publishing at the Library of Virginia, curator of collections and director of the Historic New Orleans Collection, and director of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation.      

In “From Saratoga to Senegal: How the Capture of General ‘Johnny’ Burgoyne Turned the American Revolution into a World War,” on September 24, Robert A. Selig will describe how the American victory at Saratoga, New York, in 1777 unleashed a flurry of diplomatic activities that turned a colonial rebellion into a worldwide conflict between Britain and its European rivals.  Fierce fighting in India, parts of Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean and even parts of Europe between 1778 and 1783 was a backdrop for an agenda in which colonies, rebellious or not, were but projections of European power around the globe, and the independence of some of Britain’s American colonies – assured at Yorktown exactly four years after Saratoga – became ever less important.

Dr. Selig, project historian for the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail, is a historical consultant who received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Würzburg in Germany.  A specialist on the role of French forces under the Comte de Rochambeau during the American Revolution, he has published numerous books and more than 100 articles in American and German scholarly and popular history magazines.

In “The French Alliance and the Road to Yorktown,” Edward Ayres will discuss on October 8 how French assistance enabled the United States to eventually win the War for Independence.  Even before openly declaring war against Great Britain, the French sent a significant quantity of weapons, gunpowder and uniforms to George Washington’s struggling Continental Army.  After the Treaty of Alliance of 1778, France began to send its own soldiers to fight alongside the Americans.  The decisive defeat of the British army at Yorktown in 1781 was achieved primarily because of the critical help of French sea power and land forces.

Historian at the Yorktown Victory Center since 1988, Mr. Ayres has been involved in the design and scripting of exhibit galleries and development of the museum’s re-created 1780s farm.  He has worked as a historian and interpretive programmer at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and Flowerdew Hundred and as project historian for archaeological surveys conducted by the College of William and Mary.  Mr. Ayres completed coursework toward a Ph.D. in Early American History at the University of Virginia.

The Yorktown Victory Center chronicles the American Revolution, from the beginnings of colonial unrest to the formation of the new nation with the adoption of the Constitution, through timeline, gallery exhibits and historical interpretation at re-creations of a Continental Army encampment and 1780s farm.  Located on Route 1020 in Yorktown, the museum is open daily year-round.  The Yorktown Victory Center is administered by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, a Virginia state agency.  For more information, visit hif.ciniva.net or call (888) 593-4682 toll-free or (757) 253-4838.