Virtual Lectures via Zoom Webinar

Fall Series  2021

Brian Carwana

Peter Vronsky

A Brief History of Espionage

Presented by Peter Vronsky
Tuesdays, October 12 to November 30, 2021
10:00 AM to 12:00 noon

To be offered as virtual lectures via Zoom Webinar

Registration will begin on Friday, May 21 and tickets will be on sale until Tuesday, October 5, 2021. After October 5, it will not be possible to register for this lecture series. Please note that you need buy only one ticket at $40 per household.

This series will look at the theory and practice of intelligence-gathering through human spies, signal and communication interception, satellite imagery and the arcane science of measurements and signature intelligence.

The history of espionage will be explored through case studies of espionage and its impact on domestic and foreign affairs.

This series will cover the dark arts of covert and clandestine operations in the form of election interference, regime changes and assassinations. We will look briefly at the pre-modern evolution of espionage but focus primarily on the 20th and 21st centuries and the founding and operations of the adversarial American, Russian and British intelligence agencies, with some secondary coverage of German, Canadian and Israeli intelligence history.

Provisional Lecture Schedule

12 October 2021      Spy vs. Spy Part 1 – The Art and Science of Espionage and Counter-Espionage

19 October 2021      Spy vs. Spy Part 2 – The Art and Science of Espionage and Counter-Espionage

26 October 2021     A Brief History of Spying in the Pre-Industrial World

2 November 2021   The British Intelligence Agencies MI5 and MI6 and the First World War

9 November 2021   The “Sword and Shield of the Revolution” Soviet Intelligence Agencies

16 November 2021 The American Intelligence Agencies

23 November 2021 World War II and the Cold War Espionage

30 November 2021 Espionage, Counter-Terrorism and Privacy in the World of Electronic Surveillance

With a PhD in the history of espionage in international relations, Peter Vronsky is a former journalist, filmmaker, author and investigative forensic historian. He lectures in the history of espionage and international relations at Ryerson University.

Vronsky worked on investigative television shows, including The Fifth Estate, W-5 and CNN’s Special Investigations Unit during the 1980s and 1990s. While working undercover in North America and overseas from South Africa to Russia, Vronsky witnessed major historical events. He was one of the few western journalists to be officially accredited by the KGB during the brief transitional period from Gorbachev’s Communist Russia to Yeltsin Russian Republic in the autumn of 1991 and the first western journalist to interview witnesses and KGB operatives spying on the accused assassin of President Kennedy, Lee Harvey Oswald, during his sojourn in the USSR from 1959 to 1962.

Olivier Courteaux

Laura Carlson

Women Who Helped to Shape the Modern World

Presented by Laura Carlson
Thursdays, October 14 to December 2, 2021
10:00 AM to 12:00 noon

To be offered as virtual lectures via Zoom Webinar

Registration will begin on Friday, May 21 and tickets will be on sale until Tuesday, October 5, 2021. After October 5, it will not be possible to register for this lecture series. Please note that you need buy only one ticket at $40 per household.

Discover eight women who shaped history, leaving powerful legacies that continue to affect our world. Shrewd politicians, insightful thinkers, advocates for change: these women navigated extraordinary circumstances to hold positions of authority and influence.

Eight complex and often controversial women from ancient Egypt to twentieth century America challenged conventions of a rightful woman’s place. In this series of lectures, we will uncover the true stories of these legendary eight women who helped build our modern world.

14 October 2021          Cleopatra (69–30 BCE)

The last ruler of the Macedonian dynasty of Egypt, Cleopatra has been defined by her role as femme fatale. But who was the woman behind the legend? Daughter and wife of Egyptian royalty, Cleopatra ruled Egypt as queen for more than two decades, an astute political actor who understood the changing political landscape of the ancient Mediterranean and the growing shadow of mighty Rome.

21 October 2021          Empress Wu Zetian (625–705 CE)

The only woman in 3,000 years of Chinese history to rule in her own right, Empress Wu Zetian has often been the subject of scandal and intrigue. Discover the details of her legacy, which teeters between accusations of murder and landmark technological innovation. Ruling for fifty years, Empress Wu presided over the Tang Dynasty, an era often remembered as a golden age of Chinese civilization.

28 October 2021          Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122-1204)

Duchess, queen, and regent: Eleanor of Aquitaine’s influence can be seen throughout most of the western medieval world. As ruler of Aquitaine, Eleanor controlled one of the most sought-after lands in medieval Europe. Her marriages, first to Louis VII of France and later to Henry II of England, shaped the futures of both countries for centuries and redefined the role of queen.

4 November 2021        Lucrezia Borgia (1480-1519)

A member of the infamous Borgia family, Lucrezia Borgia has often been considered a synonym for the excesses and evils of the Italian Renaissance. Daughter of notorious Pope Alexander VI, Lucrezia’s multiple marriages and torrid affairs have left a legacy of crime and corruption attached to her name.  Rather than a pawn to men’s political and personal whims, Lucrezia Borgia might have been a shrewder spider in the web of Italian politics than many have given her credit for.

11 November 2021      Christina of Sweden (1626-1689)

Remembered as one of the most learned women of the 17th century, Queen Christina’s rule over Sweden was as unexpected as it was short. During her brief reign, Christina transformed Sweden’s artistic and intellectual circles, attracting scholars, scientists and artists from around the world to Stockholm. Crowned sole queen and ruler, Christina enjoyed unusual political power as a woman in the 17th century, especially given her public refusal to ever marry.

18 November 2021      Catherine the Great (1729-1796)

Famed for both her political and her private life, Catherine the Great assumed the turbulent imperial throne of Russia with an aim to bring the country into full participation with the political and cultural life of Europe. Ambitious as she was charismatic, Catherine’s reign witnessed cataclysmic changes to all levels of Russian society. With a firm grip on the throne, Catherine navigated the perilous path of a woman in power in the 18th century. Over the course of her twenty-year reign, Catherine achieved feats unthinkable by her male predecessors.

25 November 2021 Harriet Tubman (c. 1820–1913)

Known as the “Moses of her people,” Harriet Tubman is one of the most beloved and respected abolitionists in the history of the United States. Born into slavery, Tubman found her own way to freedom before dedicating her life to leading more than 300 fugitive slaves to Canada via the Underground Railroad. Harriet Tubman’s life spans a time of pivotal change in the United States.  In this lecture, we will explore both the truth and the legends of Tubman’s long, full life.

2 December 2021         Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962)

In the concluding lecture of the series, we look at Eleanor Roosevelt, one of the most widely admired and powerful women of the twentieth century. A woman who reshaped America’s idea of a First Lady, Eleanor refused to adhere to society’s expectations of a politician’s wife. Eleanor was not defined by her marriage, building a legacy out of her advocacy for housing reform, child welfare and equal rights for women and minority communities.

Laura Carlson is a historian, writer and media producer. Holding a DPhil in history from Oxford University, she has taught history, classics and food studies at the University of Oxford, Queen’s University and Centennial College. As a producer, lecturer and writer, she has been featured on the CBC, CBS Sunday Morning and Atlas Obscura.

She has hosted several Hot Docs – Curious Minds series and has presented lectures for Thornhill Lifelong Learning and Toronto’s Arts & Letters Club. Laura is also host and producer of the award-winning culinary history podcast, The Feast. She has worked with national and international media organizations and charities, including Bloomberg News and Heritage Toronto.