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Early American "terrorist" John the Painter topic of Lee Library lecture Oct. 13

Neil York, professor of history at Brigham Young University, will present a lecture titled “The Arsonist as Revolutionary: ‘John the Painter’ and the War of American Independence” at a House of Learning Lecture Thursday, Oct. 13, at 2 p.m. in the Harold B. Lee Library auditorium.

York will discuss his research and writings on James Aitken, also known as John the Painter, a revolutionary whose acts of setting fire to the Royal Navy’s shipyards in 1776 and 1777 were called “incendiary” by the British before the word “terrorist” was first uttered.

“John the Painter” is remembered more for his brief stint as a revolutionary than for his life as a thief and a highwayman. York’s work, “Burning the Dockyard: John the Painter and the American Revolution,” describes the life of the anti-hero in a pamphlet published by the Portsmouth, England City Council. An essay by York on the subject was also printed in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Neil York attended BYU and earned a doctoral degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara. A BYU professor since 1977, he has served twice as director of the American Studies program and was honored as a Karl G. Maeser professor of General Education from 2000-2002. He teaches courses on technology in society, U.S. constitutional history and revolutionary America.

His most recent books include “Turning the World Upside Down: The War of American and Independence and the Problem of Empire” and “Maxims for a Patriot: Josiah Quincy Junior and His Commonplace Book.”

All are invited to attend the House of Learning Lectures. For more information of lectures and events sponsored by the library, visit www.library.byu.edu/exhibits.

Writer: Michael Hooper

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