April 7: Sophia Rosenfeld on “’Take Your Choice!’: Historical Reflections on the Act of Voting.”

The secret ballot is now considered the gold standard for fair elections around the globe.  However, in the aftermath of the American and French Revolutions, voting in secrecy held little immediate mass appeal in the US or Europe, and the secret ballot was used in combination with a wide variety of voting techniques.  The history of the fraught introduction of the secret ballot on both sides of the Atlantic provides an opportunity to explore how conceptions of the business of choice-making have changed since the Age of Revolutions and also to reconsider how we vote today.

Sophia Rosenfeld, Professor of History at the University of Virginia, specializes in the intellectual and cultural history of the eighteenth-century Atlantic World, including France.  Her most recent book, Common Sense: A Political History (2011) won the 2012 Mark Lynton History Prize and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic Book Prize in 2011.  With the support of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and a forthcoming membership in the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton, she is currently writing a book about how choice-making came to be a proxy for freedom in the modern world.

The seminar is sponsored jointly by the National History Center of the American Historical Association and the Wilson Center. It meets weekly during the academic year. See www.nationalhistorycenter.org for the schedule, speakers, topics, and dates as well as webcasts and podcasts. The seminar thanks the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations for its support. Reservations requested because of limited seating: WHS@wilsoncenter.org 

This week’s seminar will be held in the 4th Floor Conference Room.

This session was filmed by C-SPAN.  It will air for the first time on American History TV on C-SPAN 3 on Sunday, May 11, at 4:30 p.m. ET.