Treason, Espionage, and Intrigue in the American Revolution: A Four-Part Course with Benjamin Rubin

Treason, Espionage, and Intrigue in the American Revolution: A Four-Part Course with Benjamin Rubin


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The stories of Benedict Arnold and Nathan Hale are familiar parts of the American founding narrative. But they are only part of the much richer story of the highly sophisticated structures both the British and American military machines used to try to get an edge in the conflict. Learn about how spies actually operated, the critical role they played in determining the outcome of the conflict, and the price they often paid for their work.

Led by an expert on Early American History, Ben Rubin, this four-part course will illuminate the exciting stories of spies, secret agents, and traitors during the American Revolutionary War. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased awareness of the complexities of the revolutionary conflict.

Lecture 1: Controlling Information Before the War

This lecture looks at the critical networks that American protest and activist groups had in place before the outbreak of actual hostilities. We’ll explore how these networks allowed them to respond to British activities, as well as learning about the British response to controlling such networks.

Lecture 2: Washington's Spies

One of George Washington's greatest contributions to the Revolution was his development of one of the first truly modern spy organizations, the Culper Ring, which operated in and around occupied New York City. Learn about how the system worked, what information it acquired, and the British attempts to control it. We’ll discuss household names like Nathan Hale, Hercules Mulligan, and John Graves Simcoe, as well as lesser-known, but equally important characters within the espionage war.

Lecture 3: The Traitor and the Spy

This lecture is dedicated to America's most famous espionage story, the plot to deliver West Point, and George Washington, which culminated in the treason of Benedict Arnold and the hanging of John Andre. Follow the twists and turns of this riveting story involving two of American history's most compelling and complicated characters.

Lecture 4: The War Between the Lines

For the final lecture, we will turn south and look at some of the more concealed, but equally compelling stories from the war's chaotic southern campaigns, including the infamous treason of Andrew Williamson, the partisan conflicts of Francis Marion, and the tragic story of Isaac Hayne.

Ben Rubin holds a bachelor's degree from Hanover College, a Master's from Western Carolina University, and is completing his Ph.D. at Drew University. He is also a graduate of the Cornell School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University. His work has been published in the Journal of Backcountry Studies and in Southern Campaigns of the American Revolution. In addition to academic experience, Ben worked as a docent at the Biltmore House in Asheville, and as a whitewater raft guide on the Nantahala River.

How does it work?

This is a four-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background in American history, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $140 for four lectures.

Is a recording available?

In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.

This course is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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