Part I: Image Control and Character Enhancement under Louis XIV

By Mikayla Knutson  French reverence of the monarch shifted dramatically between Louis XIV to Louis XVI as the pendulum shifted from extreme character enhancement to rampant character assassination.  Under Louis XIV (1643-1715), a comprehensive program glorified the Sun King and engineered his reputation and image to further his political power. This initiative channeled French elite …

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Webinar #3: Evil Queens and Wicked Empresses

If you missed the webinar on May 15, 2020, featuring Martijn Icks and Eric Shiraev discussing Dr. Icks's chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Character Assassination and Reputation Mangement, it's now available here on YouTube. Martijn Icks and Eric Shiraev delved into how women throughout history have become targets of character assassination. From Cleopatra to …

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The Amsterdam Colloquium: Some Thoughts

By Martijn Icks On June 21st, Edwina Hagen and I organized the colloquium “Character Assassination! Media and Mudslinging from Caligula to King Gorilla” in Amsterdam. We invited experts on various periods in Western history to discuss practices of character assassination from an historical perspective. Comparing various case studies, we hoped to shed light on some …

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Character Assassination: The Historical Perspective [Part 2]

By Martijn Icks In my previous blog, I argued for the importance of historical perspectives on character assassination. However, historical research also comes with its own challenges and limitations. Let’s have a look at some of these. Perhaps the most obvious challenge is the danger of anachronism: we should be very careful not to assume …

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The Ancient Roots of Character Assassination

By Martijn Icks When did character assassination originate? The question is impossible to answer. We can safely bet that the art of defamation is as old as human civilization itself, if not actually older. Even in prehistoric times, it’s all too easy to imagine some ambitious caveman spreading nasty tales about a rival for a …

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The Character of Thomas Jefferson: Then and Now [Part 2]

Today, the most notable character attacks of Thomas Jefferson derive from widely-circulated newspapers, campus protests, or national figureheads. But Jefferson’s character is also questioned in students' history texts. This has not always been so. In the mid-nineteenth century, instruction books devoted considerable space to Jefferson, casting him in a favorable light. Publications from 1835, 1842 …

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The Character of Thomas Jefferson: Then and Now [Part 1]

By Mikayla Knutson In recent years, research into Sally Hemings’ life highlighted the experiences of slaves at Monticello and prompted questions of Thomas Jefferson’s apparent hypocrisy: the Founding Father who penned that “all men are created equal” and hold “unalienable Rights” to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” was a slave master. As part of …

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