Dean of Faculty Peter Bonds attended the prestigious Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History teacher seminar at Oxford University, Oxford, UK. The seminar is just one of many the Institute offers history teachers across the country and around the world. The mission of these seminars is to connect classroom teachers to leading academic historians for an intensive one-week study of various topics in American history. More than 900 history teachers are participating in more than 30 different seminars this summer.
“I was honored that Gilder Lehrman selected me to attend a seminar in Oxford, England called, ‘The Age of Lincoln’ which dived into the life of the 16th president, and the country he led during its most difficult period,” says Mr. Bonds.
“While England might seem like a strange place to travel in order to study Abraham Lincoln and America’s Civil War, the seminar was taught by Dr. Richard Cardarwine, a British historian who is a world renowned expert on Lincoln and the United States in the mid 19th century,” he adds. Dr. Carwardine was the first British historian to win the prestigious Lincoln Prize, and he is the president emeritus of Corpus Christi College at Oxford. "Several of Britain’s leading scholars on 19th century America presented guest lectures to our class. Learning about my country’s Civil War from the point of view of these European historians was fascinating and new," explains Mr. Bonds.
Alongside twenty-nine other US history teachers from across the United States and across the world, Mr. Bonds spent five days digging into primary and secondary sources that, through close reading and discussion, helped him to better understand Lincoln as a leader and as a man, as well as the rationale behind so many of the monumental decisions he made as president. “I was thrilled to be exposed to so many new and interesting primary sources that I will easily be able to incorporate into my own teaching here at Blue Ridge,” says Mr. Bonds.
He concludes that the most rewarding part of the whole experience, however, was certainly all of the informal conversations shared with the other history teachers, and with the professor. “It was refreshing and inspiring to talk to people who are engaged in the same work as me, who experience similar challenges, and who have fantastic ideas to share. Getting to spend a week in the most famous college town in the world was not bad either!”