(This event took place on Wednesday, 18 January 2017.)
Through the story of a portrait of a woman in a silk dress, historian Zara Anishanslin explores and refines debates about the cultural history of the eighteenth-century British Atlantic world. While most scholarship on commodities focuses either on labor and production or on consumption and use, Anishanslin unifies both, examining the worlds of four identifiable people who produced, wore, and represented this object: a London weaver, one of early modern Britain’s few women silk designers, a Philadelphia merchant’s wife, and a New England painter.
Blending macro and micro history, she investigates a range of subjects including self-fashioning, identity, natural history, politics, and trade. Tracing these hidden histories shows how making, buying, and using goods in the British Atlantic created an object-based community and visual language of empire that tied its inhabitants together, while also allowing for different views of the Empire.
Zara Anishanslin is an Assistant Professor of History and Art History at the University of Delaware. She was a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the New-York Historical Society (2014-15) and a Patrick Henry Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of History at Johns Hopkins (2009-2010). Her first book, Portrait of a Woman in Silk: Hidden Histories of the British Atlantic World was released by Yale University Press in 2016.