Dr. Christina Vella, professor of history, is available for lectures at academic conferences, conventions, tour groups, and gatherings of people interested in Louisiana history and other topics. See below for a list of suggested lectures.
INDECENT SECRETS AND THE ITALY OF 1905 - The Murri murder, Europe's trial of the century, involving adultery, incest, and the polarization of Italian public opinion, is a riveting case that allows us to examine society in Venice and Bologna from the perspective of the aristocrats and starvelings who were involved in the conspiracy. Linda Murri, called "The Enchantress," incited four men desperately in love with her to dispose of her husband. Or she was the tragic victim of a hostile, frenzied press?
TRYING TO ARRIVE - The Italian immigrants of 1900. Why and how they left; how they lived in America; and why they stayed.
TOPICS IN LOUISIANA HISTORY
THE BARONESS PONTALBA'S SCANDAL - The Baroness Pontalba and her father, Almonester, made Jackson Square one of the loveliest architectural complexes in America. This is the true story of why and how the Baroness' father-in-law shot her four times and then killed himself.
FEVERS AND LEECHES - Diseases and treatments in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
THE CHARITY HOSPITAL OF LOUISIANA - Treatments, rules, menus, management of diseases in the colonies. Includes a discussion of the Lepers' Hospital and diseases of the New World.
THE CAPITAL OF MILDEW AND MALARIA - Hygiene and sanitation in New Orleans and typical cities of the New World in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, when people threw their garbage into the street to be "purified" by the air.
DOROTHY DIX: THE WORLD BROUGHT HER ITS SECRETS - Long before Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren, Dorothy Dix's advice column was carried all over the world. She served as a crime reporter for the Hearst newspapers, and became well known as an investigator of macabre murders, all the while maintaining an advice column that she began in the 1890s from her home in New Orleans and was syndicated world-wide until the 1950s.
SPANISH NEW ORLEANS: ITS CHARACTER AND ITS CHARACTERS - A discussion of Don Andres Almonester, a notary, builder, and magistrate, the sponsor of the Cabildo, Presbytere and St. Louis Cathedral, a man who might be called His Lordship the Unloved.
NEW ORLEANS IN 1850 - The courts, schools, textbooks and newspapers were in two languages. Wild dogs swept in packs across the business district, and the most popular entertainment for everyone--black, white, aristocrat and servant----was opera.
THE PLANTATION SYSTEM - Daily life on a Louisiana sugar plantation in 1850 for the slaves and the planter: house slaves, field workers, and overseers. Compares the slave system in Louisiana with the rest of the South.
AMERICANS IN THE CREOLE CITY - A brief social history of Louisiana as first a French, then a Spanish colony, before it became part of the United States. What did the Americans find when they poured into New Orleans in the nineteenth century?
THE PONTALBA BUILDINGS, INSIDE AND OUT - An architectural discussion of New Orleans' famous Jackson Square and how the "mail-order buildings" were raised.
THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER: WHAT IT HAS MEANT TO THE U.S. AND NEW ORLEANS
OPERA AND SOAP OPERA: JENNY LIND IN NEW ORLEANS - A discussion of music in New Orleans when it was the nation's center of opera.
YELLOW FEVER AND CHOLERA: THE TWIN KILLERS OF THE 19TH CENTURY - In the 1853 epidemics, even the gravediggers left New Orleans or died. Mule wagons collected the dead that had been put out for pickup, and then dumped them in shallow mass graves...
JOHN McDONOGH: LIAR AND PHILANTHROPIST - The life of the 19th century millionaire eccentric who bequeathed one of the nation's first public school systems to New Orleans, along with orphanages in Baltimore and a colony for his freed slaves in Africa.
THE QUADROON CONCUBINES OF NEW ORLEANS - And a discussion of free people of color in Louisiana and the South.
DEGAS AND NEW ORLEANS - Degas' notions of the city were far from what he found when he arrived during the last years of Reconstruction. The lecture also describes the dramatic stories of the people who served as models for "The Cotton Office in New Orleans" and a discussion of exactly what the people in the picture are doing. Illustrated with Degas' paintings originating in New Orleans.
HURRICANE KATRINA - The story of two survivors and a description of the city in the aftermath of the flood.
THE HISTORY OF STEAMBOATING - At a time when all the major thoroughfares were water, steamboats provided the most practical transportation and communication for much the country. From the shantyboats, bringing toothpullers, astrologers, letter-writers, and minstrels to isolated towns, to the paddle-wheeled floating palaces of the 1850s, with their gambling, lavish menus, and dangerous racing, the history of steamboats reflects the history of American settlement.
TOPICS IN FRENCH AND AMERICAN HISTORY
PARIS IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY - From the bohemians, water porters, and child prostitutes to the bourgeoisie and trend-setters: the sights, sounds, and smells of the world's most fabulous city.
DAILY LIFE IN FRANCE UNDER NAPOLEON III - What life was like in the world's most famous city, upstairs and downstairs in the mansions of the faubourgs.
INTIMACY AND MORE - Love and matrimony in the 19th century using the love and hate letters of five couples.
A SEPARATION OF BODY AND BELONGINGS - Domestic law and civil procedure in the 19th century in Louisiana and France (where divorce was not legal), using court trials as examples.
TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS IN THE 19TH CENTURY - Business practices, banking, and notable scams. Credit was available to everyone; banks opened at 8 and shops at 7…
THE HOTEL PONTALBA - A description of the mansion that is now the U.S., Embassy residence in Paris, and a discussion of life and social customs in Paris when the house was constructed in 1839. (Includes slides).
USING PRIMARY DOCUMENTS - A discussion of indentured servants using samples of real indenture contracts. How to find and interpret original documents in history.
WORLD WAR II
RESISTING HITLER - The occupation of Czechoslovakia from 1939 to 1945 created countless martyrs and a few heroes. How did people join a resistance movement? What did they do? Why? Was any of it effective against the German war machine? This is a detailed discussion of the resistance in occupied Europe, based on resistance memoirs.
THE TALLEYRAND RESIDENCE AND THE MARSHALL PLAN - The U.S. State Department has recently renovated the magnificent Talleyrand mansion on Place de la Concorde, site of the Marshall Plan headquarters. The lecture describes the mansion, originally built in the 1700s by one of Louis XV's ministers, and describes the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine was set up during the French Revolution. The talk focuses on the career of Talleyrand and on the Marshall Plan that was inaugurated after WWII.
THE MIDDLE EAST
UNVEILING ISTANBUL - A discussion of the Ottoman Empire, the revolution that banished the Sultan, and the modernization of a whole society during the drastic reforms of Kemal Ataturk.